A COLLECTIVE SIGH was let out when Alan Pardew was appointed manager of West Brom in January, as yet another struggling English team in the Premier League had made another uninspiring appointment. It is no surprise, then, that 3 months later Pardew has been sacked with only one league win to his name, leaving the Baggies 10 points adrift of safety.
West Brom are not alone, however, as established middle aged journeyman coaches are littered throughout the wasteland of struggling Premier League sides: David Moyes, Mark Hughes, Paul Lambert, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson – with an average age of 57.8 – represent the glass ceiling for successful young managers looking to climb the ladder in England.
When Marco Silva was appointed Hull City manager last season, Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundits Phil Thompson and Paul Merson bemoaned another “foreign manager” gaining a Premier League job at the cost of young English managers, the example given by Merson was Gary Rowett. Contrary to this belief, it is not foreign managers causing the underdevelopment of English coaches but instead these old, boring British managers that keep on getting hired no matter the circumstances or results of their previous job.
It is telling that the two youngest English managers in the Premier League, Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe, have both gained their opportunity in the English top flight through promotion from the Championship with their current clubs, rather than being appointed into such a position. This is the manifestation that the financial juggernaut of the Premier League has become. With sides so scared of relegation that they recycle the same managers every season as it seems most teams are stuck in the same Groundhog Day scenario whereby they appoint an experienced British manager, a “safe pair of hands”, to save them from relegation every season.
What model, then, should the Premier League be looking towards for inspiration? In the last few years a hotbed of young coaches has emerged in Germany. Known as ‘Laptop coaches’ headed by Jürgen Klopp and followed by Thomas Tuchel, formerly of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Julian Nagelsmann of Hoffenheim and Domenico Tedesco of Schalke. This new wave of coaches in Germany has brought a breath of fresh air into the Bundesliga outside of Bayern Munich. By giving young coaches opportunities, these clubs have also seen a significant improvement in their results.
Nagelsmann and Tedesco, who have a combined age of 62, which is less than that of Sam Allardyce (63), have both done wonders at their respective clubs. Nagelsmann took over from 60-year old Hubb Stevens in 2015, saved the club from relegation, and finished inside the Champions league places in his first full season in charge. Meanwhile, Schalke under Tedesco currently sit second in the table – eight places better off than they were last year.
This should be a lesson to English clubs that coaches like Pardew, Hughes and Lambert should no longer be recycled. These same recycled managers breed the same results everywhere they go. Clubs are only looking forward to the next two or three months rather than the next two or three years and this short-termism is detrimental not only to young managers but also to the English game.