Alex Massie

The Decline and Fall of English Football Managers

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Sir Bobby Robson's death yesterday left one wondering just what has happened to English football management. Or, to be more precise, what has happened to English football managers? Of the top ten sides in last year's Premiership just two - Fulham and Tottenham - were led by Englishmen and in the last 25 years Howard Kendall (Everton) and Howard Wilkinson (Leeds) have been the only Englishmen to helm Championship winning sides. What happened?

True, Alex Ferguson has had a lot to do with this, while Arsene Wenger's residency at Arsenal has prevented another of the top jobs from coming open. Equally, Chelsea's desire for superstars with a europe-wide reputation doubtless precludes any Englishman from taking command at Stamford Bridge for the forseeable future while it's by no means obvious that even if Rafa Benitez were to leave Liverpool that he'd be replaced by an English manager. Indeed, would an Englishman get the job at any of the Big Four were a vacancy to arise?

So that explains some of it, but it still seems rather rum. Perhaps James Hamilton or Chris Dillow can explain?

As for Robson, the tributes paid to him are justified. If one were to undertake the admittedly pointless exercise of ranking English managers of the post-war era, my suspicion would be that he could slot in as high as four, behind Brian Clough, Bob Paisley and Alf Ramsay but ahead of Stan Cullis, Bob Jackson, Don Revie, Howard Kendall and Bill Nicholson.

Doubtless I've forgotten someone else*, but one can't help feeling that this list, for all its glory, is a little thinner than might be expected from 60 years of football history in the country that started it all in the first place. Why should that be?

*Or, of course, got it all wrong anyway.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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