Opinion

Published on March 22nd, 2018 | by Harry Dunning

Hughes appointment highlights a tired trend in English game

The recent appointment of Mark Hughes at Southampton outlines a greater problem within English football.

With few options for clubs to turn to mid-season, where are all the young British managers ready to step into the frame?

The Bundesliga has recently seen a shift from the old guard to the new – young managers under the age of 40, sometimes promoted from running youth sides, are being ushered through the door and making their mark in the league.

And as other European nations are still seeing an increases in their numbers of top-qualified coaches, it is now all the more important that both the FA and Premier League clubs begin cultivating a managerial revolution of their own.

Jobs for the old boys

So far, it appears that the only real managerial opportunities offered within the English game are for those who have had expansive playing careers.

Although if you do have those aforementioned playing credentials, it can seemingly be fairly easy to drag yourself out of managerial obscurity.

‘Whether it be Mark Hughes, Roy Hodgson, Alan Pardew or Sam Allardyce, the same merry-go-round of managers appears to be prevailing in the Premier League’

Phil Neville, with a pretty dismal record as a coach, was appointed England Women’s manager this year after reportedly not even applying for the job.

Then soon after came the appointment of his former team-mate, Ryan Giggs, as Wales national team manager. A poor playing record for his country, and a lack of managerial experience, meant that questions were raised.

Only time will tell as to whether their transition to the sidelines is a success or not, but it continues the trend of only employing familiar faces.

Hughes, on the other hand, is in the old guard of familiar Premier League faces. Undoubtedly, the former Man Utd, Barcelona, Chelsea and Saints striker has had varying success over the years and on occasions put together some excellent sides.

But if you considering he guided Stoke into the relegation places before being sacked earlier this season, was he really the best option Southampton had at their disposal?

Whether it be Hughes, Roy Hodgson, Alan Pardew or Sam Allardyce; the same merry-go-round of managers appears to be prevailing in the Premier League, and you feel it is beginning to become stale.

A German coaching renaissance

One young outlier in the Premier League would be Eddie Howe at Bournemouth; who was forced into early retirement due to injury, affording him a quick route into management.

Current Hoffenheim manager, Julian Nagelsman, similarly had his career cut short by injury. This immediately led him into coaching both Augsburg and Hoffenheim’s youth sides from 2008 to 2011.

A rapid rise within the infrastructure at Hoffenheim led him to be appointed assistant in 2012 and eventually manager in 2013, as then boss Huub Stevens suffered with health issues.

Still only 30, Nagelsmann has now reportedly been earmarked as the next Bayern Munich manager after almost guiding Hoffenheim to the Champions League group stage this season for the first time in the club’s history.

Nagelsmann has quickly been earmarked as the future of German Coaching. @achtzehn99en

Nagelsmann is now offering a fresh and exciting face to German football, to go along with coaches such as David Wagner (Huddersfield), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) and Daniel Farke (Norwich) that have since departed Germany for the shores of England.

The Hoffenheim boss, unlike Howe at Bournemouth, is not the single example of this kind of internal promotion within the Bundesliga.

Domenico Tedesco, 32 (Schalke) and Hannes Wolf, 36 (Stuttgart) have all been similarly gifted the opportunity to coach early on at the highest level – both so far having great success and neither household names in German football.

Norwich City and Huddersfield Town so far have been the only clubs to make this move so far in England – both poaching their current managers from Borussia Dortmund, neither previously having top flight managerial experience.

Though Norwich currently sit in an underwhelming 13th in the Championship, it undoubtedly has been a gamble that has more than paid off for The Terriers.

After getting them promoted to the English top flight last season for the first time in more than 50 years, they currently sit 15th in the Premier League and strong survival prospects.

Whether clubs decide to begin promoting coaches internally in the Premier League remains to be seen. But with many experienced Premier League coaches staring down relegation this season, it may soon be the key to injecting fresh ideas into the first team.

Disparity in numbers

At a grass roots level, the coaching statistics suggest a lack of young coaches coming through – Matt Scott reported in the Guardian in 2010 that there were only 2,769 UEFA A, B and Pro Licence English coaches.

‘In Germany, it costs just £800 to take your UEFA A licence badge, whereas in England the same badge would set you back £2,965’

Spain on the other hand had 23,995, Italy 29,420 and Germany 34,790 top qualified coaches. After an official report was published back in 2007 that said coaching was the ‘golden thread’ to international success, it seems odd that English football still is yet to fully tackle this issue 11 years on.

The crux of the problem has always appeared to be funding – reported in 2016 that it still could set you back £4,000 in England and £5,000 in Scotland to gain all the badges required for an UEFA A licence – their seems to be little progress in terms of accessibility.

Just one example of the large disparity in pricing is in Germany; where it costs just £800 to take your UEFA A licence badge, whereas in England the same badge would set you back an extortionate £2,965.

It seems no surprise then that young coaches may be deterred from this career path, given that its a self-funded venture.

So far the FA has only reshaped the Level 1 and 2 badges to incorporate ‘fun’ back into it; along with releasing half of their coaching tutors after an internal review.

All these reactions however seem to be somewhat missing the point – young people who aspire to be coaches are not simply bored by the courses or are badly tutored – it’s the fact those in power have made these qualifications un-achievable to a large proportion of the population.

With all the money now in the English game, the thought of an in-accessible system to learn your coaching stripes should be ludicrous in this country. Yet, in 2018 it sadly is the reality.

As the revolving door of ex-player-turned-manager continues to spin and the FA continue to make no real effort to aid young coaches, British football is at risk of stagnating.

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