Where have all the English managers gone?

Thirst for big names

Ryan Giggs isn’t short of cheerleaders for any top-flight job going – up to and including Manchester United – yet Gary Rowett is rarely in the running

Does it help, FFT wonders, that the vast majority of German clubs are primarily fan-owned? Or that Spanish clubs elect their presidents, who are usually Spanish? “It could be that,” muses Wormuth, “but Hoffenheim’s owner, Dietmar Hopp, was responsible for bringing in Nagelsmann, while Mainz now have a Swiss coach in the form of Martin Schmidt, so it doesn’t necessarily follow suit.

“Academies from under-15s upwards require the Pro Licence, so young players who are struggling with injuries at 25 or so can start preparing for a life after football. It’s a springboard.”

Dyche is testament to that, having begun his coaching career with Watford’s academy before working his way up to the Hornets’ hot seat, and then moving to Burnley. “My pathway is, on paper, a good way into it,” he says. “It’s tough if you do it via the lower leagues, as if you’re not winning then the development soon stops – fans at every level want to win. But that pathway isn’t always there, because of the clamour for jobs at all levels.”

Sean Dyche

Dyche's first managerial job came at Watford in 2011

There’s also a clamour for managers who had a famous playing career in England. Ryan Giggs isn’t short of cheerleaders for any top-flight job going – up to and including Manchester United – yet Gary Rowett, who performed minor miracles at Burton and cash-strapped Birmingham, is rarely in the running. It seems impossible that Hoffenheim’s Nagelsmann could’ve been given an equivalent Premier League job, having never made it as a player.

A change of perception, then, is needed. The FA’s coach education programme should provide exactly that. Germany has more than 1,500 coaches with the UEFA Pro Licence – football’s most advanced qualification – around 500 of whom are currently in jobs. Spain has more than 2,000. England, from a decade less and having started from scratch – Germany and Spain automatically upgraded their already-qualified coaches – has 203, at an individual cost of £8,000.

“I’m really confident about the future of English coaching,” says Jamie Robinson, the FA’s head of elite delivery and lead UEFA Pro Licence instructor. “We wanted to research models from around the world, plus other sports and even higher education, to work out how we can stretch, challenge and support UEFA Pro Licence candidates.

St George's Park

According to the FA, "St. George's Park will be an inspirational centre for coach education"

“We see this as a leadership award. We want technical directors, academy managers, because it’s just as important to have a coach who's as fantastic at developing five- to 11-year-olds as it is to get a top manager. We want a conveyor belt of talent coming through. The reality at the moment is underwhelming, but that's only because the Premier League is the best in the world and home to the top managerial talent.”

Educating England


  • Harry Redknapp, Tottenham 2010/11: His Bale-fuelled side beat both Milan and Inter to make the last eight, but a 4-0 loss at the Bernabeu brought a humbling end
  • Gary Neville, Valencia 2015/16: Sky Sports’ poster boy lost his only Champions League match, against Lyon, before getting the sack four months later

Carragher's in the FA’s corner, telling FFT: “Some players complain that it’s too difficult, but if you want to be a manager, that’s what you have to do. In any other employment, you need that apprenticeship.”

Dyche agrees. “There’s a depth to those courses,” the Clarets boss explains, “because you speak to different managers and get new ideas. I am not saying you can make someone a great coach just by getting them on courses, because a hands-on job is different, but having more education before you get there can only help. My football education has cost £25,000-£30,000. That could be applied to a Master’s degree. Most people would agree that someone with that degree is pretty bright. 
So with that, plus 25 years as a player, it’s fair to say you’re educated.”

The FA don’t stop once a graduate has received their certificate. “We want to establish a culture of lifelong learning,” says Robinson, whose team of 26 coaches helps alumni across England’s top four divisions to implement new strategies. “We have to make our coaches equipped for the realities of modern football. This is a unique programme in world football: club coaches getting help after qualifying to continue learning.”


The FA are hopeful that their new initiatives will bear fruit in years to come

And it’s not just the FA. The League Managers Association offers its ‘Institute of Leadership and High Performance’ for already-qualified coaches to continue their education, through a series of vocational workshops and diplomas from the University of Liverpool.

“Coach education in England is great,” says Wormuth. “They’ve taken the best models to go their own way, as every country is different, and I’m 100 per cent sure that if the plan continues, English coaches will come to the fore in the future. It’s vital you don’t lose faith.”

With hundreds more expected to qualify over the next five years, will there come a time when English coaches go abroad in search of work? “I think they should,” says Carragher, despite his Sky Sports colleague Gary Neville struggling in a brief stint in charge of Valencia. “Why not? However well or badly it goes, it’s experience on the CV.

“With Gary, the language was a problem – not necessarily before a game, but at half-time, when you have to react. He normally thinks long and hard about things, but with Valencia he decided to go there in a couple of days. He regrets that, but it’s part of the learning curve.”

Exports required

If the national team wins a World Cup or a European Championship, a lot of countries and clubs around the world will want English coaches

- Frank Wurmoth

Right now, though, there’s scepticism that foreign clubs would be interested. One Football League manager tells FFT that a parallel of Bob Bradley’s move from Ligue 2 to the Premier League – a top-flight club abroad appointing an English lower-league boss – is “laughable”.

Germany has a similar problem, in fact. “A big advantage is that you speak English – effectively the world’s language,” Wormuth says. “We need to educate with the language more and hope Jurgen Klopp and David Wagner at Huddersfield open the door to Europe’s top leagues.

“Going abroad depends on the quality of the national team. If the national team wins a World Cup or a European Championship, a lot of countries and clubs around the world will want English coaches. We saw this in Germany. That’s how you get noticed.” In the short term, then, glory in Russia in 2018 would lift English coaching stock.

“After the Sam incident, why wouldn’t you at least look at Gareth Southgate?” Dyche asked prior to the ex-Middlesbrough boss's appointment. “He's been around the FA for some time, knows the system and is very articulate. People need opportunities. English or foreign, every manager has to win games. You can moan about not getting a chance, but when you do, grip it and be successful.”


Another World Cup triumph would boost English coaching

Will things get better?

Crucially, however, plans are in place for English coaches to succeed beyond Russia and into a better, brighter coaching future.

“We want our education to embody English football,” says Robinson of the FA. “We have coaches who do the courses and come back to help educate the next generation. There’s no better confirmation than that.

“But we have to stick to our principles. With the flexibility to equip coaches for the modern game, understanding what Pep Guardiola is doing at Manchester City and learning from the very best while they are here, we’ll be on course to be leading the game again in 10 years.”

What now? A long-overdue revival for English coaching, that’s what.

Additional reporting: Nick Moore

This feature first appeared in the December 2016 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe!

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