The fallen stock of British coaches

The stock of British coaches have fallen over the last few years and John Duerden tries to understand why..

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The arrival of Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United has put the number of British coaches in the English Premier League at a lowly five.

Southeast Asia loves the Premier League. You can see more live games on television in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur than London, Birmingham and Southampton. The newspapers are full of the latest reports and gossip.

But when it comes to coaches, British names are not discussed with excitement and opportunities in the region are limited.

Mike Mulvey is at Terengganu in Malaysia and seems to be helping the Turtles come out of their tactical shell  but while he was born in England, the former Brisbane Roar manager and Manchester United trainee had his coaching education in Australia.

Steve Darby is the godfather of British coaches in Asia but is still waiting to be paid for a stint in Kelantan in 2014 and is now in Laos.

The reputations of tacticians from the old country has suffered over the years. Partly this is due to the relative failures of the national team at major tournaments.

The English national team was hugely popular in Asia in the first half of the first decade of the 21st century but turgid exits at 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, and equally uninspiring showings (and non-showings) at the European Championships, have left the Three Lions looking more mangy than proud.

And then there is the long ball reputation. Over the years, route one has been perceived to be the British brand.

Rightly or wrongly, football from the old country has long been stereotyped as aggressive, physical, direct without much in the way of panache or tactical sophistication.

Contrast this with Spain. The 2010 World Cup saw La Furia Roja triumphant but it was more than that.

The tiki-taka was widely admired and CEOs, club owners and national associations around Asia talked of appointing Spanish coaches or at least adopting some of the sexy Spanish style.

Trends in football come and go – Spain failed at the 2014 World Cup –but the long ball perception hangs in the air longer than, well, a long ball.

And this feeds down. The nationalities in demand around Asia these days are mostly Spanish, German, Brazilian, Argentinian, Serbian and a few others.

That's not a problem – this is the world game after all – but there is a new generation of British coaches bubbling under the surface and fighting against the stereotypes.

They have shown that there is more to British coaching than telling players to 'get stuck in and launch it long'.

Last week, Johor Darul Ta'zim, gunning for a third Malaysian Super League title and a second successive AFC Cup, travelled to India to take on Bengaluru, a club that had their first professional season in 2013-14.  

The owners brought in young English coach Ashley Westwood. Still only 39, the former Manchester United trainee and Blackburn Rovers assistant manager took the team to the title in their first-ever season in existence.

That was some achievement. In the second season, the championship was denied in the last few minutes of the last game of the season against Mohun Bagan, one of the oldest clubs in the world.

Bengaluru lost 1-0 to the big-spending Malaysians but gave as good as they got.

It was striking how well-organised the hosts were. Starting with five across the back with the wide men getting forward whenever possible, the Blues kept out their illustrious opponents with ease.

It took a disputed free-kick and a moment of sublime skill from the sublime Safiq Rahim to give JDT a 1-0 win.

At some point, Westwood is going to want a bigger challenge than what the I-League currently offers and while there may be less coaching stability and control in Southeast Asia than in South Asia, moving to the right club in the right country would be a step in the right direction and who knows how far he can go?

And then there is the second AW -- Alex Weaver.  Another young Englishman headed to Singapore in 2013 and a short-lived and tough spell with Hougang United. He was out of the door after just six games but was soon in charge of Warriors FC.

In  2014, his first full season as a head coach, he overcame the challenge of DPMM, the big-spending Brunei club led by former English Premier League boss Steve Kean to win the S-League title. It was another fine achievement and deserving of more credit than it received.

There's also Simon McMenemy in the Philippines where he is still a hero after leading the Azkals on that famous run to the semi-finals of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup and  an unforgettable 2-0 win over Vietnam in Hanoi.

And don't forget Gary White who took Guam from near the bottom of FIFA's rankings to the mid-100s in what was one of the biggest football stories of 2015. White has every coaching licence you can think of and a few more besides.

That is not to say there are not some old dinosaurs still roaming around but there is a growing number of young British velociraptors -- flexible, aggressive, open-minded and desperate for success.  Clubs in the ASEAN region could do a lot worse than give them a chance even if clubs at home will not.