Over the past week or two, the old boys’ club that is the Premier League managerial merry-go-round has reached new and impressive levels of insularity. Dancefloor-dominating silver fox and occasional football coach, Alan Pardew, bagged a job with the Baggies, while wine and gravy connoisseur Sam Allardyce returned to management with Everton.
Along with the likes of Davey ‘Enthusiasm’ Moyes, Tony ‘Tiki Taka’ Pulis and Roy ‘Nice’ Hodgson, they comprise what is now probably best denoted as a Mini-League of Extra Ornery Gentlemen. Namely, the constant rotation of middle-aged and elderly British coaches among England’s most inexorably mediocre clubs.
— The Football Pools (@footballpools) November 28, 2017
There’s no real point in going into the whole ‘British managers don’t get opportunities’ debate. At this stage, only the Ukippiest observers still believe this is actually the case – and anyway, the five men listed above are walking, talking proof that such a notion is utterly misguided. What’s rather more interesting to look at is why only SOME British managers are getting these opportunities.
When you think of Allardyce, Pardew and co, you think of one thing: stability.
Whether or not it’s correct to believe that each of these men always bring this to the table with their various clubs, it’s fair to say that the phrase generally associated with managers of their ilk is: Safe Pair of Hands.
But, at best, they are consolidators. You turn to them to rescue you from the drop after an ill-begotten managerial experiment with a 24-year-old Peruvian Football Manager expert. Or you bring them in after promotion in order to become an ‘established Premier League side’.
What you don’t do is hire them to develop a progressive, holistic strategy at your club. All the Powerpoint presentations in the world won’t make these men football intellectuals.
They don’t have time for your ‘philosophies’ or your ‘blueprints’. They are builders, not architects – skilled workers, masterful at their trade, but lacking the technical attributes to envision and create something bigger.
For middleweights like Crystal Palace, West Brom et al, this is usually acceptable.
There’s no need for the temperamental genius who spends entire weeks locked in a basement screaming about KPIs and Integrated Fantasista Generation Programmes. And so when push comes to shove, they inevitably turn to Big Sam & Co.
Which, of course, is entirely understandable. In the English top tier, there’s little room for ‘blue-sky thinking’ when you have four points from 10 games and a centre-forward who just won’t stop eating KFC.
But it doesn’t allow for much imagination when it comes to appointing head coaches, and it’s hard to see that situation changing while the league is so cut-throat. Consequently, below the elite – who choose their managers from the planet’s best, not the country’s best – there’s little scope for punting on someone like 42-year-old Graham Potter, who is currently doing so well in Sweden.
Ironically, the ultra-competitive nature of the Premier League provides a perfect employment market for firefighters like Allardyce. When you can’t afford to lose, you hire people who understand that the easiest way to avoid doing so is to shut up shop.