by Stuart Moriarty-Patten

If newspaper reports are to be believed then it appears that Alan Shearer has tossed his hat into the arena for the job of next Blackburn Rover’s manager.  If Blackburn are serious about regaining their status as a half-decent top-flight club will Shearer be the solution though?  At first glance the signs are hardly encouraging.  His only previous stint as a manager was, to put it kindly, unremarkable, taking only five points from eight games as he stepped in as a caretaker at a Newcastle team that was in crisis, and ultimately got relegated.  Neither does the quality of his punditry on the BBC inspire much confidence in his ability as an analyst and tactical wizard.  The main thing against him though would appear to be simply the fact that he is English.

The records of English managers in the recent history of the game is remarkable for the sheer lack of anybody actually winning anything, and the record of a successful player being a successful manager is even poorer.  Only nine players have ever won the English title as a player and manager, and the two most recent of them were both Scottish, George Graham at Arsenal, and Kenny Dalglish with Liverpool and Blackburn.  Also a Scottish double winner was Dave Mackay with Spurs as a player and Derby as manager.  For successful English players turned managers you have to go back to Howard Kendall at Everton, who won titles as Everton manager in the 1980s and as a player in 1970.  Before him was Bill Nicholson at Spurs, as a player in 1951 and as manager in 1961; Alf Ramsey, Spurs in 1951 and Ipswich in 1962; Bob Paisley who won a league title as a player at Anfield in 1947 followed by great success as a manager there in the 1970s and 80s: Joe Mercer won titles with Everton and Arsenal as a player before managing Man City to a title in 1968; and Ted Drake who won titles as a player at Arsenal in the 1930s before going on to manage Chelsea to the title in 1955.

Whenever the England manager job becomes available the paucity of the candidates reflects the records of any English manager at the highest levels in the modern game.  In fact when Roy Hodgson led England into the Euros this summer he became the only Englishman to have managed an international team in the finals of a tournament since Keegan in 2000.  Before Hodgson’s appointment as the England manager Steve McClaren was briefly mentioned as a possible, although highly unlikely, candidate for the England job for a second time.  Despite the gales of laughter that ensued it has to be noted that he is the only English manager, apart from Harry Redknapp, to have a won a trophy in the past decade having took Middlesborough to a League Cup victory in 2004.  McClaren and Hodgson are in fact the only English managers still working to have reached a European final, both having taken Middlesborough and Fulham respectively to UEFA Cup/Europa League finals.  The honour of the only English manager to win a European trophy in the last two decades goes to the sadly deceased Sir Bobby Robson who won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona in 1997. Robson also is one of only three English managers to have ever managed in the Champions league, which he did with Porto and Newcastle; the others being Harry Redknapp with Spurs, and Ray Harford, also sadly now deceased, at Blackburn.

The FA Cup presents the same dismal picture of success for English managers with Redknapp being the last English manager to win the cup with Portsmouth in 2008, and Joe Royle being the only other Englishman to achieve the feat as manager in the last twenty years with Everton in 1995.  No English manager has ever won the Premier League, with Howard Wilkinson at Leeds in 1992 being the last to win the title of English champions when it was still the First Division.  Even having moderate success in the Premier League seems beyond the capability of any English manager.  Since 1998 only Redknapp and Bobby Robson have ever guided a team into the top four.

This lack of ability of English managers is reflected by the choices of manager by those running the top football clubs.   At the time of writing only four managers in the Premier League are English, and three of those came up last season, Adkins within Southampton, McDermott at Reading, and Allardyce at West Ham, and any one of them could be considered at risk of losing their job at sometime during this season.  Only Pardew at Newcastle can be considered safe having recently signed a 5-year contract at Newcastle.

The days when people like Don Revie and Brian Clough learnt on the job are far behind us.  The sport has greatly changed and now potential managers have to obtain their coaching qualifications to work in the game, and with the opening of the St George’s Academy, the FA is hoping to breed a new generation of English managers.  However, the lack of home grown managers in the top division is not replicated amongst Europe’s other top leagues, and is perhaps, not just a matter of the skills of the managers, but, in part, a reflection of the globalised nature of the Premier League.  It is a global league that in reality just happens to have its home in England, and the same problem of lack of experienced English players bedevils the England national team on the playing front. If the top clubs no longer have faith in the abilities of English managers, or the desire to work with them, then any up and coming new manager is going to be restricted in their chance to gain experience, so perhaps, in the wider interests of the English game, we should all support Alan Shearer’s interest in the Blackburn job.   Without English managers being given the chance to prove themselves its difficult to see how we are going to produce our own “special one” any time soon.