The excitement which has surrounded the managerial merry-go-round of Villa and Liverpool has been a source of entertainment and excitement for 24 hour news outlets and social media sites. This summer the managerial merry-go-round is in overdrive and clubs know that success, relative to the side, is dependent on the man in charge. With the appeal of a young up and coming manager taking clubs' fancy, names like Rogers, Lambert and Martinez have become highly sought after people.
It is not just in England that the young manager has become a sought after commodity. In Italy Inter Milan have confirmed Andrea Stramaccioni as their permanent head coach and Antonio Conte, at 42 has just taken Juve to the top of Serie A undefeated. Dortmund have won the Bundesliga for the second year running with their hugely impressive manager Jurgen Klopp. With Roma trying to emulate a Barcelona style they brought in Barca B coach Luis Enrqiue, although that project ultimately failed, similar to that of Villas-Boas at Chelsea, the truth is, clubs around Europe, and top ones at that, are seeking a new generation of young coaches to take their sides forwards.
There is no doubt that the rise of the young manager has come from the astronomical rise of Jose Mourinho this past decade and the truly amazing job that Pep Guardiola has done at Barcelona. Liverpool and Villa both sought to bring in a fresh, young, dynamic and progressive coach in order to take the sides forward, relative to their ambitions. Both sides under achieved this past season and both owners realised that the previous managers were not providing the necessary skills on and off the pitch suitable for the modern game.
Was Rogers the the best man for the job? When I hear people like Stan Collymore ranting about how Liverpool should be approaching the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho and Klopp, then it just highlighted the lack of realism about who Liverpool are now. None of these managers would be enticed by the current standing of Liverpool in terms of position and the quality of players and FSG were right to approach the managers of the ilk of Martinez, Rogers and Villas Boas.
Rogers was the best of these options for many reasons; he is assertive & strong willed; the pressure of this job will be massive and I believe he can deal with that better than Martinez and Villas-Boas would have. Secondly, he has shown how effective he can communicate his ideas and thoughts of how to play the game. This Liverpool side is not that bad in all respects, they have played well this past season at times, yet had a manager who said simply to “go out and play” instead of a man like Rogers who knows what he wants and how to implement it.
Finally what makes Rogers such a good acquisition is that he has learnt first hand from one of the best in the game.The best man manager in the game today is Jose Mourinho, a man who is able to get the best from the players he works with, Rogers worked under him for four years at Chelsea and it is clear he learnt a great deal from the Special One. All in all the owners have found their perfect candidate; a man who plays with a style they want to see and is the young and media friendly manager that FSG wish to have in order to make their “brand” appealing.
Young and ambitious
Paul Lambert, who has been confirmed as the new manager of Aston Villa. In my opinion he has the ability to get the best from his players and his rapid rise to the top league has alerted many to his managerial abilities. More pragmatic and reserved than Rogers, it is understandable why he didn’t attract FSG for their need for marketing value. However, as a coach, I believe he would have been great for Liverpool. As it is, one clubs loss is another’s gain and Aston Villa appear to be the beneficiaries of Lambert’s expertise.
The man who has seemingly missed out from the managerial shakup is Roberto Martinez; a man who appeared favourite for both jobs at Anfield and Villa, yet who is now seemingly staying put. It seemed very likely that Wigan were going down to this past season and if not for a remarkable finish with wins against sides like Liverpool, Arsenal, United and Newcastle, then relegation was beckoning. This remarkable turnaround in fortunes made Martinez a popular figure, yet he must have felt he was fortunate to survive this season.
Right now he is regarded as part of this new generation of up and coming young managers, yet I worry for him though that he has missed his chance to further his ambition. Every club is effectively a stepping stone upwards and he should have taken his chance. No matter the loyalty he has to his players and importantly to his ideology, Wigan will always be at this area of the table and each season he will be fighting to retain his talented players.
When looking at these three managers we are seeing the new generation come into their own. Rogers and Lambert did a truly amazing job with their resources and apparent lack of quality in their sides, yet they both realise that although Swansea and Norwich have given them the opportunity to get to where they are, they must selfishly move on to bigger clubs where these managers can fulfil their ambitions. Unfortunately this is what managers careers are about, the ambitious ones, those who want to be successful will keep on moving up. Martinez may have missed his chance, I cannot see WBA being appealing to him and Chelsea would not consider someone like him. He may find that when his stock was highest he failed to take advantage of it.
Where is England's next generation?
It is refreshing to see a new generation of young, ambitious coaches coming through and moving onto big jobs, owners are seeing the value and taking risks in bringing in coaches who understand the modern game. Yet there is an issue which is not being addressed, the same problem which continues to be affecting the English game; Rogers is Northern Irish, Lambert is Scottish and Martinez Spanish. Where are the up and coming English mangers who are looking to move up to the top levels of the English game? Is it not amazing to you that no Englishman has won the Premier League, that no Englishman since Keith Burkinshaw in 1984 has won the Uefa Cup and importantly no Englishmen since Joe Fagan in 1984 has won the European Cup? The last European trophy won by an Englishman was the Cup Winners Cup in 1997 by Bobby Robson for Barcelona. What has happened to the state of English managers?
The greatest era for English managers in world football must have been from the late 70’s to early 80’s when an Englishman won the European Cup every year from 77 to 82. What an achievement. So what happened? Why have English managers become obsolete in the upper echelons of the game? It is a question which I do not believe has been given enough serious consideration and which especially has not been given the concern it warrants. For me, too many potentially good managers go into the role too early after playing and realise after that the pressures and importantly expertise required to manage at the top levels is seriously lacking in these individuals.
In England there is a blasé attitude to coaching which usually corresponds to the belief that the better a player you are, the harder you worked and the stronger you tackled, means the better manager you’ll be. This ridiculous misconception of what is required for top level management has been the reason Paul Ince, Tony Adams, Alan Shearer and Gareth Southgate have failed in management. They were fast tracked too quickly without the required knowledge or understanding of the job. They believe that just because they played for England they can command the respect immediately. In the lower leagues this may be so, yet they found that in the Premier League, players expect more and they were found lacking. Yet it is not all their fault; the chairmen of the clubs should have known better and the PFA should have done more to help them in their transition from player to manager.
Yet, perhaps the truth is, they are just not good enough. Mourinho is clearly a natural, so too Guardiola, they show what is needed in the new generation of coaches. Shankley, Paisley, Clough, Saachi and Ferguson had it too, the ability to motivate and communicate with their players. Rogers, Lambert and Martinez all have this ability, they communicate well with their players and the media too. Do we have enough of these types of coaches who have the potential to be top managers? Where are the English Klopp’s, Conte’s or Stramaccioni’s?
Failure to communicate
The problem is, many English players want to manage but not coach, e.g. Paul Ince and Alan Shearer, however the modern game requires coaches. The biggest issue though for me is that English coaches struggle to communicate well enough, and with the influx of foreign players the ability to talk multiple languages is not just desirable but essential. Martinez speaks Spanish, as too does Rogers as well as Italian and Lambert speaks German from his Dortmund days. All three have learnt about different cultures, have developed an understanding and appreciation for the modern game and all its requirements.
How many English coaches can say they speak anything but English? No wonder they struggle in the world of modern football. Yet what do they do about it? Seek to develop these skills or complain about the lack of opportunities and opt for the comfortable world of media. It is a crying shame to see the Premier League contain only four English managers this past season. We are the only top nation where there are more foreign managers coaching our clubs than home grown managers.
A very short shortlist
The list appears quite short in terms of who we actually have who have who has potential to be a top manager. Steve McLaren is one of the best coaches to come out of England yet he is derided for his performance for the poision chalice which is the England manager’s job. He had potential to be one of the best yet last season he could not even get the job at Villa and ultimately failed with Forest. Quite amazing. Yet he is furthering himself with his development by being willing to go aboard and find work, how many others are willing to do that? Very few by the looks of it. He is the only English manager coaching in one of Europe's top leagues.
Who else is there? Perhaps Paul Clements is one to keep an eye on, currently with Ancelotti at PSG, I am sure the experience will be great for him and do not be surprised to see him back in England in the coming years, yet the question is, will any team want him? Sammy Lee tried his hand at management and ultimately failed, as too did Phil Brown, whose career has been on a decline for several years. This a major worry, these men are given opportunities yet clearly are not good enough for the role. What about Gary Neville, a man who seems to be doing things the right way by furthering his development, yet does he want to manage or would he prefer the comforts of bing England coach and his work in the media? Where are the English managers with ambition? If they can't get work in England, why don't they try their hand abroad?
What needs to be done?
A managers role is not easy, it requires many skills and much talent, yet above all it requires experience, not always positive ones, even the best suffer setbacks, and yet it is how you react to those which matter most. For an up and coming English coach seeking to be a manager there are many lessons to learn from the Jose’s, Rogers and Lambert's; there is a difference between being a player and manager; some were good players, others didn't play to a high level. Manager and player are two different roles, Sacchi was never a player, yet his quote about the jockey being a horse is something we have not learnt from in England.
We are now seeing more managers now who haven't played becoming highly sought after; Rogers, Mourinho, Stramaccioni with Inter, Villas-Boas with Porto, these men have shown that playing is not important. In England we need to change our mentality if we wish to develop world class coaches and managers. Coaching is a vocation yet is not regarded high enough in England, the belief of "I played the game, so I know how to coach" is too common in this country. We need to give more coaches opportunities regardless of if they played or not. There is an art, a talent to being a successful manager, one we do not consider high enough in this country.
The time you put into the profession of being a coach is what matters; how many are willing to learn from others, go through an apprenticeship, work for qualifications and develop their communication skills and inter personal skills and which ones are willing to go abroad to learn new styles and languages. If we are to see an Englishman lift the Premier League or even the Champions League, then English coaches must be willing to be creative and work hard to achieve their goals. In the coming decade will the next generation of up and coming managers contain English men, will we see an Englishman lift one of the top trophies in world football?
When will a side with the potential to win the league next hire a manager who is English? Redknapp is the closest man to the top yet I cannot see Spurs challenging for the top prize and perhaps he should invest more into the Europa League this next season and aim to accomplish something at White Hart Lane instead of the apparent top four success. Who will replace Ferguson and Wenger, not an Englishmen I guarantee. Chelsea will not bring in an Englishman and Man City will look for a Jose than any English coach. So is there another problem to consider, that an English manager will never get the chance to manage a side which has the potential to win things? Perhaps the FA should be concerned by this, the England manager’s shortlist was far too short and lacked a world class manager, these are issues which need to be addressed sooner than later if we are serious about being regarded as a world class nation.
My worry is, that as always with this country, will we sit back and wait or can we look to do something about this serious issue affecting the future of the English game?