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Laziness To Blame For Premier League Appointments

 • by Tom Bodell
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“I could win the league with Olympiakos,” Paul Merson sneers. “I’m not even joking; they’ve won it 107 times and it’s only been going 106 years.

“Why has is it always got to be a foreign manager? I’ve got nothing against foreign managers; when Klopp came in, Pep Guardiola. These are top-drawer managers. What has this geezer any different to Gary Rowlett [sic]?”

Those were the words of the former Arsenal and England forward turned Sky Sports pundit following Marco Silva’s appointment as Hull City manager.

“You know this is a good job as well, Hull are a good team, it’s a great stadium, some very good players you know and…

“…what does he know about Hull?” former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson interjects. “What does he know about the Premier League? What does he know?”

It turned out that whatever Silva lacked in knowledge about the Premier League he made up for in managerial ability, winning eight of 22 games at the helm and giving the Tigers more than a glimmer of hope when they had none.

Who’d have thought it? The 39-year-old arrived in England, after all, having won two titles and silverware at all three of his previous clubs.

Despite narrowly failing to prevent Hull dropping into the Championship, Silva’s reputation was hugely enhanced. Amid an arms race for his services which included Crystal Palace, Porto, Southampton and Watford he was appointed as the Hornets’ new head coach.

Above all, though, Silva left the punditocracy with egg on their faces. The 2016/17 campaign was a good one for foreign managers who deigned to test themselves in England.

In the Championship there was promotion for David Wagner, Jürgen Klopp’s former No.2 at Borussia Dortmund, with Huddersfield Town while Jaap Stam was beaten by the German in the play-off final as Reading boss.

But these cases are few and far between. The consensus is that a good English type or, failing that, someone known to an English audience is required to achieve anything on these shores.

To that end there is, broadly speaking, a staggering lack of imagination from clubs when it comes to appointing new managers. The cases of Wagner, Stam, Fulham boss Slaviša Jokanović and new Norwich City coach coach Daniel Farke point to a gradual shift. But it is slow and begrudging. And, tellingly, it is hard to see those men getting their break in the Premier League.

It’s why, when Crystal Palace and Alan Pardew parted company the Eagles plumped for Sam Allardyce: survival expert. The appointment worked as Palace stayed in the Premier League.

But it was never going to be a long-term solution and, while Allardyce’s decision to walk away at the end of the season could not have been pre-empted, his record indicated he was unlikely to take the Selhurst Park side to another level.


So why do Premier League clubs show such a lack of imagination when it comes to appointing new managers?

Part of it is the inherent lack of trust of anything different. It is the same when it comes to signing new players. It’s why Marcus Bent got a move every transfer window. Or Leroy Fer, the present day equivalent.

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Yet there is no excuse for it. The footballing world has never been more connected. With Prozone, WyScout and a plethora of other web-based scouting tools there are few, if any, secrets in world football.

But the old boys’ network remains. You can be certain that when the first Premier League manager suffers the sack next season the same names will be linked as ever: Alan Pardew, Steve McClaren, Martin O’Neill or Roberto Di Matteo.

For that reason it is a stretch to believe Premier League clubs are not aux fait with manager plying their trade outside of the UK. Perhaps it is more a case that they do not believe they have the requisite qualities to manage in England.

But that is plainly ridiculous given the managers of the top-flight’s biggest clubs are all foreign; Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino, José Mourinho, Arsène Wenger and Pep Guardiola.

And one of those, Pochettino, is arguably the poster boy for foreign coach done good at a smaller club following his short but successful stint at Southampton after replacing the popular but out of his depth Nigel Adkins.

Equally, it is naïve to think that any foreign coach worth his salt isn’t across the Premier League.

The suggestion they do not know the division simply does not hold water. In the same way supporters, decision-makers, players and pundits all have access to information which means they can know everything there is to know about any candidate with minimal research, the Premier League is a globally-accessible entity. We are not talking about the Moldovan third division.

There are appointments bucking that trend. Having stuck with the quintessentially British in Pardew and Allardyce – and prior to that, Neil Warnock – the Eagles went for former Ajax and Internazionale boss Frank de Boer this summer.

Southampton, meanwhile, have made a habit of appointing coaches from Europe with Pochettino the first in a line which reads Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and now Mauricio Pellegrino.

But these are still exceptions. Prior to Silva Hull promoted caretaker boss Mike Phelan following a good start. It was an anomaly and a disaster too. Phelan was removed from his post and Hull, bottom of the pile with nothing to lose, appointed Silva as a wildcard selection.

But it should not have been a last roll of the dice. In what other business would an appointment with the importance and power of a football manager be made after such a lousy recruitment process? If a FTSE100 business appointed a CEO from such narrow parameters serious questions would be asked.

So, in the face of overwhelming evidence to suggest there is no justifiable reason, is the excuse a combination of sheer laziness and stupidity?

For as long as well-respected pundits like ‘Merse’ and ‘Thommo’ continue to peddle their ill-conceived beliefs that will be the case.

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