Coaching on the Continent

With West Brom’s appointment of Pepe Mel as their new manager, it is yet another opportunity squandered for a young English manager to take the helm of a top club. Last week, Jose Mourinho urged young British coaches to follow the footsteps of former Wally with a Brolly, Steve McClaren, and ply their trade abroad.

Coaching on the Continent

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January 10th, 2014

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I was extremely pleased when Tottenham Hotspur gave Tim Sherwood the chance to show us what he’s made of, and he’s already steadied the sinking Spurs ship. It’s not often that young British managers get the opportunity to manage a top club when they’re largely unproven. The former Spurs midfielder has secured seven points from nine in his first three league games, and despite being knocked out of the FA Cup by North London rivals Arsenal, they have looked a much more solid unit.

This week, however, saw the appointment of former Real Betis manager Pepe Mel as West Brom manager, and I see this as disappointing news. I’ve got nothing against Mel; quite the opposite in fact. The Spaniard has an impressive record. He led Betis back to La Liga by winning the Segunda Division, and then guided them to an impressive 6th place finish and a Europa League spot in their first season back in the top flight. Mel was sacked in December 2013 after gaining only 10 points in 15 games. However my sympathy is with him – his squad was pulled apart after other clubs looked to cash in on the Betis players who had been so successful the year before.

My issue is the fact that I saw West Brom as an ideal club for a young manager to go in and do a great job, much like Steve Clarke when he took over The Hawthorns’ hot seat. He was his own worst enemy, as he couldn’t replicate their impressive form from the 2012/13 season and has paid the price.

Jose Mourinho last week said that young British coaches should follow Steve McClaren’s footsteps in finding work abroad, and I tend to agree with him. I’m not advocating that they do it under the same circumstances as McClaren. He was forced abroad as nobody would take him in this country due to his failures as England manager, and that game against Croatia.

But if none of the top clubs in this country are hiring, what’s stopping both English managers and players moving abroad? A lot of it could be language barriers, and you don’t want to end up doing what our pal Steve did when managing FC Twente. But then again, foreign managers come to England and learn the language easy enough, and so surely we should be able to do the same?

Certainly McClaren’s successes at FC Twente prove that our coaches are more than capable of adapting to foreign leagues. He won the Eredivisie in his second season. Despite rather unsuccessful stints in Germany and at Nottingham Forest, he is now masterminding Derby’s rise through the Championship. The Rams lie in 4th place, three points off the automatic promotion spots.

Going abroad can give young coaches a taste of different cultures and styles of football. Mourinho says about McClaren: “To go abroad is a fantastic experience and sometimes it looks like English players and managers don’t like to go abroad. He had that experience, for sure it was a great one as it was completely different cultures to England in terms of football.” With the number of different nationalities in English football, it would be no bad thing to go and work in some of the countries they come from and get a taste for their culture and way of thinking.

Ultimately I think the benefits of working abroad in some of the world’s top leagues far outweighs trying to establish yourself in Leagues 1 & 2 and the Championship. I don’t think the importance of experiencing the different styles of football can be stressed enough, especially when there are calls for our managers to play a more technical, stylish and attacking brand of football. If those managers then come back into English football, not only will they be more tactically astute, but they may well find it easier to attract the top foreign players clubs so desire.

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