This summer we will see another Scotsman managing an English Premier League club. Norwich City’s promotion means that Paul Lambert will take the Scottish managerial tally in the Premiership to seven. Football in Scotland is often looked down upon due to the inevitability of the season’s outcome. It is a dead cert that either Celtic or Rangers will win the title and this is a leading criticism of the SPL. Hearts finished second behind Celtic in 2005-2006 season, the only time the Old Firm clubs have been split up since the league’s birth in 1998. Although the football might be far from thrilling and the Celtic or Rangers conundrum at the beginning of every season has got a little weary, the fact that Scotland has consistently bred top class coaches cannot be ignored.
No disrespect to Steve Kean but he hasn’t really proven himself yet. He did, however, successfully steer Blackburn away from relegation last season and if they start next season well then we could indeed be talking of him in the same light as his fellow countrymen. But at the moment we are here to talk about Ferguson, Dalglish, Moyes, Coyle, McLeish and Lambert. Lets start with Bolton manager Owen Coyle. He arrived in the Premiership two seasons ago with Burnley and two seasons before that they enjoyed an enthralling league cup run under his management. They were 4-1 down heading into a semi-final second leg against Spurs. They won the game 3-0, forcing extra time and a last minute Roman Pavlyuchenko goal sent them crashing out in heart breaking fashion. Their home record was solid in the Premier League and Coyle has added some free-flowing, passing football to a Bolton side that are now far easier on the eye than that of the days of Big Sam Allardyce. At 45, he is still young in managerial terms and could be seen at a bigger club in the near future. Whatever happens he will stay managing at a decent level.
Next, Everton manager David Moyes. Moyes is entering his tenth full season in charge at Goodison Park. He, other than Ferguson and Wenger, is the Premiership’s longest serving manager by nearly five years and he is the fourth longest serving manager in the whole of the football league. He’s a curious case. Everton have been loyal to him as he has to them but now questions are starting to be asked about the progression of the club. The league positions have been consistent and Europa League football is what Everton fans have come to expect. A good run in Europe or a domestic cup trophy could see David Moyes leave Everton as breaking into the top four is an achievement that can only be regarded as a distant memory now. The spending power of the big clubs is too great for a repeat of the 2004-2005 season.
Alex McLeish has won the SPL with Rangers, and despite getting relegated in the same season, the Carling Cup with Birmingham. With top players like Ashley Young and Stewart Downing leaving, he is now faced with an interesting challenge at Aston Villa. As a player he was part of the title winning Aberdeen side of 1980s, managed by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson.
Paul Lambert’s advantage over Coyle, Moyes and McLeish might not only be down to the fact that he is slightly younger at 41 but also because he has top level experience as a player and not only in Britain. While it would be new territory for the others to go overseas, Lambert, a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund, might find himself with more options once his time at Norwich is up. With what he has achieved with them over the last couple of years, however, there is no reason why a big club wouldn’t want him here. Many names are mentioned when talking about who might replace Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford when he eventually does retire. While David Moyes is one of those names, there is a sense that, despite him not being at all too old, his time may have come and gone for this post. Paul Lambert might be a good tip. He’s a thoughtful, quiet man with a keen eye for detail. He gives nothing away to the media, using short and to the point answers to every question. And tactically he is not afraid to be bold, making three changes at once if need be. Whether he carries this bravery into the Premiership or not is yet to be seen but he has an air about him that makes me think he is going to be special. The position is still likely to go to a foreign manager though, with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola the leading candidates.
The managerial records of Kenny Dalglish and Sir Alex Ferguson speak for themselves and they are the reasons that the above-mentioned are around today. These two are their role models. And before them there was Jock Stein, Matt Busby and Bill Shankley. These are the real greats. In what is a very competitive world, Scotland has a remarkable presence in the Premier League currently. Harry Redknapp is the only Englishman that has a real chance of getting the England job. Fans of the national team would love to be able to choose from the array of decent managers spoken about here. Alan Pardew hasn’t got the steel or the personality to make you think he’s good. Even if he is actually quite good you can’t help but feel nothing towards him. There’s Sam Allardyce. He’d put himself forward but now Coyle has shown Bolton fans the light, not even they would want to see him as England coach. Chris Hughton was the last manager that gave a bit of youth and positivity to the English manager cause in the Premier League. Then he was sacked. Before that it was perhaps Paul Ince but he just wasn’t very good. Hughton is the only one that comes to mind that deserved more of a chance. The point is, generally speaking, if you’re good enough you will get a chance. Scottish managers are good enough. Pearce, McLaren, Ince, Pardew. The list of ineffective, relatively clueless English managers goes on. Coyle, Lambert and Moyes are names to be more excited by and less tarnished.
So we are supplied with ample Scottish talent, past, present and future. The impact on the English game is there for all to see. One last toast doesn’t go to a manager but to a scheme. The SFA run coaching scheme, Largs, based in Ayrshire on the West coast of Scotland, has also impacted heavily on English and European football. At the age of 17, Chelsea’s new boss Andre Villas-Boas gained his C Licence coaching badge there. Jose Mourinho got his A-Licence certificate in 2000 there. Eusebio, Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello and Carlos Queiroz have all spent time there. So, although Scottish football itself might often disappoint we must be grateful for what the country has done for football on a wider, international scale. And its impact on the Premier League is as important now as ever and will be for many years to come. Thank you Scotland.