THE BLOG

Zizou, Diego and the Hope for English Gaffers

24/05/2016 17:00

On May 28 2016, Zinedine Zidane will stand on the San Siro touchline next to Diego Simeone as the two Madrid sides repeat the 2014 Champions League final, which Real won after extra-time. Both men starred in the first World Cup I remembered watching, Zizou scoring twice in the final, Simeone falling like an angry swan when David Beckham tapped his leg. Zizou himself would be involved in a sending-off in the 2006 final, after Marco Materazzi called him 'Zazou' from the Lion King one too many times. And then said something about Zidane's sister or mother.

How funny that the managers of the two teams contesting the 2016 Champions League final echo something about those of 2012 and 2014. All are former international footballers.

Roberto Di Matteo, Jupp Heynckes, Carlo Ancelotti and Luis Enrique have all guided teams to the European Cup, as it used to be known, having played for their countries: Italy, West Germany, Italy and Spain. What a shame there is no Englishmen among them yet, and that the four English teams in the 2016/7 Champions League will be led by an Italian, a Frenchman, an Argentinean and an Olympian (well, the Spaniard Guardiola is as superhuman as Lionel Messi!).

If any English coach does win the top prize, he will be the fifth, and the first in Generation Live on Sky Sports to do so. Jock Stein, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson were Scottish winners, but between Busby and Fergie were four Englishmen. Tony Barton was the Surrey-born coach who led Aston Villa to the European Cup in the famous season of 1982. Brian Clough won it for Nottingham Forest in consecutive years. Bob Paisley led Liverpool to glory in the two seasons before Clough and the one after (1977, 1978, 1981), while Joe Fagan was manager for the 1984 victory. Both men helped Liverpool do what Bill Shankly could not, though Shanks laid the foundations for the 'bastion of invincibility' that followed him.

Then came the Heysel disaster and English clubs were barred from competing in the European Cup and the other two trophies (UEFA Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup, now combined as the Europa League) until 1990.

English players were becoming coaches, when they weren't opening pubs or sliding back into trade and industry. Trevor Brooking became a coach and was then involved with the English FA; Terry Venables and Bobby Robson played for England in the black-and-white era, before managing them in the colour era. Venables led Barcelona to the 1986 European Cup final, where they lost on penalties to (quiz fans shout it out...) Steaua Bucharest.

Another national team manager, Glenn Hoddle, has spent the years since being fired from the England manager's job developing his soccer schools and being a shrewd pundit. Kevin Keegan, the last of the great romantics pre-Generation LoSS, has kept on trying at club management after leading England at Euro 2000, helping Fulham and Manchester City climb up to where they belong.

The 2016/7 season will see at least four English coaches, possibly five if Hull City come back into the division on the same day as the Champions League Final. Steve Bruce would join Sean Dyche (Burnley), Sam Allardyce (Sunderland), Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) and Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace). Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes represent Wales but, oddly for a nation of great gaffers, Norwich's relegation under Alex Neil deprives the top tier of any Scottish managers. Watford and Manchester United have hired non-English managers. As I write Everton are searching for their new gaffer, and I hope someone takes a chance on Karl Robinson, the Scouser who led Milton Keynes Dons to the Championship, helped by Dele Alli, only to be relegated in twenty-third place in the 2015/6 season.

Brendan Rodgers was given the job at Glasgow Celtic, who will enter Champions League qualifying for 2016/7. Paul Lambert is also free, after leaving Blackburn Rovers, while Aston Villa are also looking for a new manager. As I write, Derby and Rotherham will also be putting out advertisements, unless their caretakers (Wassall and Warnock respectively) stay on. Charlton Athletic and Leeds United both advertise their Head Coach role on a monthly basis, due to their amazing owners who should really step up and do what the late Ron Noades did at Crystal Palace in 1998, taking over team selection briefly before the club where sold on.

All we are saying, to paraphrase John Lennon, is 'give English a chance'!

As for the other gaffers twiddling their thumbs, Nigel Pearson has taken a year off, and Tim Sherwood and Ian Holloway have done well as pundits. Nigel Adkins has left Sheffield United, but has the Southampton successes of recent seasons on his CV; Paul Clement was not given time at Derby County, nor was Kevin Nolan at Leyton Orient. Steve McClaren lasted until March 2016 at Newcastle, but who would want him after three failures in a row (Nottingham Forest and Derby)?

Garry Monk and Chris Powell are both respected in the game and should find themselves in work soon after a season away. Would they look abroad, as those managers chronicled in Rory Smith's new book Mister have done for several decades?

Will we see Zidane and Simeone in the Premier League, or are they so treasured at the Madrid clubs that they are the ones who will one day choose to leave? The Damoclean sword of the sack race is only three consecutive bad performances away. Who on earth would be a manager?

Apart from those who can lead their team to trophies, adulation and eternal glory.

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