by Chris Dunlavy
EDDIE Howe, Sean Dyche, Chris Hughton, Gary Rowett. Four names with two things in common. One, they are all exceptionally qualified English managers, who have consistently worked wonders on modest means.
Two, they’ve got about as much chance of managing a top club as Arsene Wenger has of fronting a Specsavers campaign.
Why? Because they’re English. And everybody – from the pundits on the sofas to the lads in the Lamb & Lion – buy into the delusion that a homegrown manager is some kind of knuckle-dragging neanderthal unfit to lace the boots of his enlightened Continental counterpart.
Listening to 606 on my drive home from Hillsborough last weekend, an enraged Evertonian called to demand the head of Roberto Martinez.
Prompted to name a replacement, his list was depressing.
Jose Mourinho, Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pellegrino. No mention of Howe. No trace of Dyche.
It’s as if anyone with aspirations to join the elite must, by default, seek their manager in some far flung corner of the globe. But why? What’s wrong with the men under their noses?
Howe’s Bournemouth play some of the best football in the top flight. They get results. More to the point, they learn and adapt.
From the foot of League Two to the cusp of Premier League safety, the 38-year-old has improved his players and overcome the challenges posed by superior opponents. Isn’t that the essence of coaching?
Dyche took a side tipped for relegation from the Championship, won promotion, spent about 20p and nearly kept them up. Rowett led Burton to the brink of League One then turned a leaky laughing stock of a Birmingham City side into promotion contenders.
Hughton’s solitary failure at Norwich is far outweighed by his achievements with Newcastle, Birmingham and Brighton. At 57, the former Spurs full-back is at the peak of his powers.
Attractive CVs, but not to the big boys.
When Swansea sacked Garry Monk, they chose Francesco Guidolin. Chelsea plumped for Antonio Conte, Aston Villa for Remi Garde. What a joke.
Critics of English coaching point to the stats.
No Premier League titles, one European trophy in 32 years, the fourth worst win rate (31.7 per cent) of all the nationalities to manage in the top-flight since 1992.
Yet those numbers are misleading. On the one hand, they discount ‘British’ managers, with Scots Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish hardly exotic foreigners.
On the other, they fail to illustrate that English managers are victims of a dispiriting chicken and egg scenario.
Namely, that an ingrained distrust ensures home-grown coaches are forced to ply their trade at the unglamourous end of the division, precluding success and a shot at honours.
Any failure is met with accusations of tactical naivety or a lack of sophistication. Second chances rarely come. We talk about the ‘experience’ of foreign managers while denying our own the chance to gain any.
Other major nations don’t fall into this trap. Conte is a perfect case in point. Prior to joining Juventus in 2011, the 46-year-old’s stellar record in Serie B was marred by a dismal spell with top flight Atalanta.
Here, that might have been curtains, as has proved the case with Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins.
Yet, two years later, Conte was managing Juventus and showing what he – or indeed anybody – could do with a pile of cash and the pulling power of prestige.
Are you seriously telling me Howe wouldn’t improve Chelsea’s players? That Dyche wouldn’t spend Man United’s millions more effectively than Louis Van Gaal? That Conte’s experience is somehow more valuable?
Rubbish. Were either of them managing in Spain or Italy, they’d be fast-tracked to the top, not forced to stare hopelessly at a glass ceiling.
Ignoring their talent is a senseless disgrace. But sadly, short of donning a black wig and doing an impression of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, it’s difficult to see things changing any time soon.