Foreign Legion: 6 British football managers who smashed it on the continent

Hard to believe now, tbh.



We’re always being told how much better foreign coaches are than their British counterparts.

Men like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have raised the bar when it comes to collecting silverware, with all avenues now seemingly blocked for a decent home-grown talent who’ve done the hard yards, only to see the Premier League heavyweights opt for another expensive import.

Reputations are also not enhanced when the tables are turned and our boys head overseas and make total fools of themselves (Messrs Neville and Moyes please take note).

But it wasn’t always like this; there have been, on occasions, scenarios where British managerial talent was in-vogue as you’ll see below as we now take a look at six of the best coaching exports to leave these shores.


“Big Mal” was considered a bit of a joke character by the early 80s with his coaching career seemingly over after a disastrous return to Manchester City, the club were he’d shot to stardom alongside Joe Mercer in the late 60’s.

Obviously no-one had told Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, who decided to take a punt on the man who was best remembered for hopping into the Crystal Palace team bath with soft-porn star Fiona Richmond.

Allison arrived in the Portuguese capital in 1981 and immediately got his old mojo working again, delivering the club’s first ever domestic double at the end of his first season in charge.

A couple of months later however, Allison’s reputation as bit of a party animal resurfaced on a pre-season tour in which his players were accused of being drunk and out of control while “off duty” which angered club President João Rocha so much, he sacked him there and then.

Sporting never coughed up on the remainder of Allison’s contract, but he had the last laugh as it took the capital club another 17 years to win the league title.



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The man who turned Crystal Palace into one of the most fashionable clubs of the late 70’s early 80’s arrived at Barcelona in 1984 on the recommendation of the then England boss Bobby Robson.

Nicknamed “El Tel” by the media, Venables endeared himself to the Catalan fans immediately after speaking in the local lingo at his on-pitch unveiling at the Camp Nou.

Within a year he’d won the Blaugrana its first league title for 11 years and the following season came within a penalty shoot-out of delivering Barca’s first ever European Cup.

Venables headed back home that summer to strengthen his team and returned to the Camp Nou armed with Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes; the former going on to become a roaring success, the latter preceding his fellow countryman Gareth Bale by 30 years in his failure to learn any Spanish at all.

Venables parted company with the Catalan giants in September 1987.



By the mid-80’s British football’s reputation off the field was in tatters, but its managers were still in high-demand. Former Liverpool legend and Welsh international John Toshack was one such man after guiding Swansea City from Division Four to Division One of the old Football League in consecutive seasons.

Despite once posing as Batman to Kevin Keegan’s Robin in an Anfield photo-shoot and publishing poetry that would embarrass the bargain bucket section of your local charity shop, “Tosh” was a bit of a culture-vulture at heart.

In 1985, he decided to continue his coaching career at Basque club Real Sociedad.

After winning the Copa del Rey during a four-year spell, eyebrows were raised in 1989 when Real Madrid decided he was the man to continue a run which had seen them win the Spanish league title four years in succession.

Toshack duly delivered title number five after his first season at the helm, but was sacked after just 11 games of the following campaign.



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After declaring that he would step down as England boss at the end of Italia 90, Bobby Robson had already told close friends that his managerial future lay on the continent and he headed to Holland to take charge of PSV Eindhoven.

Taking over from Gus Hiddink, who’d reportedly let the players get away with murder (not literally), Robson found a dressing-room culture that had an overwhelming “can’t do” attitude about it, so he set about turning his undisciplined rabble into world beaters.

Back to back Eredivisie titles followed before Sir Bobby moved on to Portuguese side FC Porto, where he was paired up with a young Jose Mourinho.

The new dream-team delivered consecutive league championships and a domestic cup before they were on their way to the Camp Nou and Barcelona. Robson never won a La Liga gong whilst at Barca, but he did unleash Ronaldo (the fat Brazilian one, not the sulking Portuguese one) onto the European stage during his 12-month tenure.


Before his arrival at Blackburn Rovers in 1997, nobody apart from Bristol City fans had ever heard of highly respected British coach Roy Hodgson, despite an eclectic CV that had seen him spend his formative coaching years in Scandinavia before being appointed Inter Milan boss in 1995.

Roy had delivered seven Swedish league titles between Halmstads BK and Malmo respectively and he came within a whisker of bringing UEFA Cup glory to the Italian giants.

It would have been better for all concerned had Hodgson won some silverware with the Nerazzurri and not decided to part-company with Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos, with the former Real Madrid legend stating later in his career that he couldn’t stand the sight of the man from Croydon, who tried converting him into a left-winger (Harry Kane on corners anyone?).



The “Wally with the Brolly” became the King of FC Twente after guiding the Dutch side to their first ever Eredivisie title in 2010; thus becoming the first British manager to win a domestic league crown abroad since Sir Bobby Robson with FC Porto in 1996.

His start was less than impressive however, after McClaren gave a bizarre interview upon his arrival in Holland which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the BBC comedy show “Allo Allo”.

Things could only get better and fortunately for Steve, they did, because two years later and with a league title under his belt, the man who was lambasted by the English media following a disastrous spell in charge of the national side was now in high-demand.

He was to be less fortunate when his European tour took him to Wolfsburg in 2011.

His ‘pidgin’ German left fans of Die Wolfe less than impressed – he was sacked after just one season in the Bundesliga.

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