Chris Powell has been sacked as Charlton manager and replaced with Belgian Josè Riga, reigniting the debate on the structure of English football clubs.
QPR midfielder and unabashed loud-mouth Joey Barton has one again taken to Twitter to lament the treatment of such a promising young English manager who won the Addicks promotion from League One. Currently, however, they are bottom of the Championship, and the club’s Belgian owner Roland Duchatelet has sought the help of his compatriot Riga, the former technical director of AC Milan’s academy.
The problem is neither Powell nor Riga’s nationality, but goes much deeper into the heart of the way the game is run in England. Evidence that foreign managers can succeed is not hard to come by: Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez, and once upon a time, Arsene Wenger. These are all men who have adapted superbly to the Premier League. At the time, Pochettino’s arrival brought outrage at the sacking of Nigel Adkins, but the Argentine is now lauded as one of the best coaches in Europe.
For many managers, however, particularly up-and-coming ones, the way clubs are run in this country, is a major setback and one that is often difficult to overcome. One of the key issues appears to be the appointment of technical directors.
Harry Redknapp has publicly stated he will never work alongside one, and they usually lead to questions about political undercurrents, especially at clubs like Spurs, who appear to have entered into a relentless cycle of appointing foreign managers, firing them, appointing English ones and then deciding English people don’t make good football managers.
Tim Sherwood’s reign at Tottenham has been rife with such suggestions; that he replaced Andre Villas-Boas because the club needed an English boss, and now after sliding away from the top four, Sherwood must deal with the paradoxical assumption that he needs to be replaced in the summer with Louis Van Gaal.
Redknapp replacing Juande Ramos at Tottenham was another matter entirely. The problem with Ramos was that he couldn’t speak English, and this lack of communication with the players left Spurs bottom of the table with two points from eight games. The problem with AVB was that he wasn’t very good. The nationality of the England manager, is an altogether different and more relevant issue.
Both Sherwood and Villas-Boas have had to contend with the presence of Franco Baldini conducting appalling transfers; in any other organisation, such a monumental failure as Baldini’s summer project of replacing Gareth Bale would result in dismissal.
Of Baldini’s extensive shopping list – Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, to name but a few – not one started Spurs’ crucial match against Chelsea. Sherwood may have been trying to prove a point with his team selection, but if anything can be learned from his sombre post-match interview, it is that he is deeply unhappy at chairman Daniel Levy’s failure to distance himself from Van Gaal.
Too often the blame is laid firmly at the manager’s doorstep, while the technical director (a system which works perfectly well on the continent, but is not suited to the Premier League) goes unquestioned.
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