Pundits who enter the world of management but fail deserve respect for their efforts

  • Rob Swan

When the news broke that Thierry Henry had been suspended – and then sacked – as AS Monaco’s head coach on Thursday evening, the first reaction from a significant number football fans on social media was to point their fingers at the Frenchman and laugh at his failure.

He became the latest ex-pundit to lose his maiden job as a manager after just a few months in the hot-seat at the Stade Louis II.

Of his 20 matches in charge of Monaco, Henry won five, drew four and lost 11. His players scored 15 goals but conceded 36, leaving his team with a goal difference of minus 21 under his stewardship.

Just three months after taking his first job as a head coach, Henry’s reputation could now be irreparably tarnished.

Convincing another club to appoint him will be much tougher now – and that’s even if he wants to continue in coaching. He’s discovered first-hand that football management is an unforgiving dog-eat-dog business and his fingers have been burned in the process.

Why would he want to risk putting himself through it all again?

This is essentially how Gary Neville felt after his ill-fated spell with Valencia during the 2015-16 campaign.

Like Henry, Neville was mercilessly mocked by football fans after losing his first job in management.

In fact, and this may well be a slight cause for concern for Henry, the mocking hasn’t really stopped since.

There were some people who genuinely felt that Neville was no longer in a position to work as a pundit after failing with Valencia in La Liga – despite the fact he was, and still is, clearly the best in the business – but at least he was prepared to leave the cosy, safe environment of the Sky Sports studio and properly challenge himself.

It was an opportunity that he understandably felt he couldn’t turn down.

Sadly, Neville’s failed spell at Valencia has been used as a stick to beat him with time and again, which is completely unfair.

And partly because of the backlash, British coaching has potentially lost one of its most intelligent thinkers for good.

“I could look at it as a stain that will last forever but I don’t think you can brand someone a failure for the rest of their life,” Neville, who has admitted that he’s unlikely to return to management, said in an interview with The Times in October 2017.

Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer and a former England captain, is another pundit deterred from ever trying his hand at management again after failing to keep his beloved Newcastle United in the Premier League during the final weeks of the 2008-09 season.

A man of his vast experience obviously has so much to offer from a coaching perspective – but he’s talking about the game on TV every weekend instead.

You can’t blame him for not wanting to give management another crack considering the undignified mocking he was subjected to following Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship, just as you can’t blame someone like Jamie Carragher for playing it safe and opting to stick with punditry,

Carragher is acutely aware that football has a nasty habit of chewing up and spitting out inexperienced coaches – like Neville, Henry and Shearer – within a matter of months.

Is it worth the hassle?

But those brave enough to give it a go should be applauded for trying, not ridiculed for failing.

Shearer, Neville and Henry probably all harbour regrets about the jobs they accepted. None of them were straightforward and would have seriously tested even the most experienced managers at the time.

The likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard appear to have chosen their first jobs in management more wisely, perhaps having learnt from the past mistakes of Shearer, Neville and co.

But if they also end up failing they should be encouraged to keep going, work hard to get another opportunity and become a better coach as a result of their first experience as a head coach.

We seem to live in an age where we can’t wait to see people fail, but this isn’t healthy.

So next time you hear a pundit-turned-coach has been sacked, maybe think twice before hitting the ‘send’ button on that derogatory tweet.

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