Despite his stay at Manchester United ending ten months into a six-year contract in April 2014, David Moyes still had enough stock to bounce back later in the year.
Taking a risk that not many British managers – or players – are prepared to take all that often, Moyes packed his suitcase and headed abroad in search of work after his tenure at Old Trafford.
Make no mistake, failing at United wasn’t a true reflection of Moyes, especially considering the job he had done at Everton to earn that chance in the first place. And while we’ve all been reminded of just how solid a coach he is in recent times with his heroics at West Ham, it hasn’t been easy for the talented Scot.
His Spanish adventure with Real Sociedad last little over a year, being sacked in November 2015 after a poor start to his first full season in charge had failed to pick up. It was a brave but risky move to make for Moyes, who had to adapt to an entirely different culture. From the language and media, right down to the general pattern of football and training methods used in Spain, it was going to take time to adapt if Moyes was ever going to find success.
In an interview with Jake Humphreys on the High Performance Podcast, Moyes offered fascinating insight into his decision to head to Spain, touching on the rather obvious lack of Brits making moves abroad.
“I think I had quite a few offers to go and part of what I mentioned with being part of the LMA [League Managers Assocation]: one of the reasons why I was part of the board was because I felt that there’s no British managers getting opportunities to work in England.
“If you look at our league, even in our lower leagues now. So, the chance to work in Spain or Italy or Germany, the big leagues, there was no British managers,” Moyes explained.
He added: “Gary Neville had gone to Valencia, but if you look back over the years: Howard Kendall, Sir Bobby, Terry Venables and there’s others, but not many of them had been getting jobs in those sorts of countries.
“So, I got offered a job in Spain, which I have to say was a brilliant job and a great experience, and when you talk about culture and learning and stuff like that, it was a brilliant experience to understand Spanish players and how they react.”
Since joining West Ham on a permanent basis after a successful first spell in 2017/18, his work has been nothing short of tremendous. But thinking to his time in Sociedad has had us at GIVEMESPORT scratching our heads.
Who are the British managers to have ventured beyond the isles, and how have they done in taking the plunge? Aside from the big names of yesteryear, we don’t give it too much thought in the modern era, but you’d be surprised to know it still very much happens.
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the following list, highlighting 13 Brits abroad on managerial duty.
1. Gary Neville
Moyes touched on it during his podcast, but it’s a pretty hard one to forget for fans of English football. While Neville has found his stride as a pundit and commentator for Sky, his one venture into management was a serious miss. He took charge of Valencia CF in December 2015 with brother Phil as assistant, but was gone by the following March having won just three of his 16 league games as manager.
2. Sir Bobby Robson
After a storied career as a player that ended in Vancouver in 1967, Robson’s first steps into management were in Canada with the club he retired at as a player-manager. After a failed stint with Fulham in the late 1960s, he found real success with Ipswich over a 13-year stay, notably winning the UEFA Cup and FA Cup. Robson’s managerial career then went far and wide, winning silverware with PSV and Porto, rubbing shoulders for the first time with a young Jose Mourinho in Portugal, who he then brought with him to Barcelona as his assistant manager in 1996. A true sporting legend.
3. John Toshack
Toshack was already a legend in football for his exploits as a player at Liverpool throughout the 1970s. For a man that played for just three clubs professionally, though, his managerial CV is a real shock. Beginning at Swansea initially as a player-manager in 1978, he went full-time with the role in 1983, only lasting a year before heading off to Sporting. That was it, then. Toshack went around the world, managing in Spain, France, Turkey, at clubs as storied as Real Madrid, to clubs as unknown as Iranian side Tractor Sazi, who he managed in 2018.
4. Steve Coppell
When a knee injury ended what had so far been a glistening career with Manchester United and England for Coppell aged just 28, the right winger swiftly turned to management. Retiring in 1983, Coppell was in the hot seat at Crystal Palace by 1984 – the first of four spells. Famous for his exploits with Reading, where he won Manager of the Year in 2007 for guiding them to an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League, he ventured to India to manage Kerala Blasters in 2016 and hasn’t managed England since, taking another two jobs in India after the first.
5. Terry Venables
A solid start to his managerial career with Crystal Palace from 1976-80 saw Venables take them up to the First Division and settle the club. He left for QPR in 1980 – then in the Second Division – and took them back to the top flight, while also achieving European football before leaving for Barcelona in 1984. Nicknamed ‘El Tel’ as a result, Venables’ anglicised, 4-4-2 Barcelona were a hit for the most part as he won La Liga in his first season in charge. Aside from a year’s spell as Australia manager in the late 1990s, that was his only venture into management away from Britain.
6. Warren Joyce
Probably known best for his lengthy spell as reserves/under-21 manager at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, Joyce struggled to translate the success he had there into first-team management. Before that, though, he spent two years in charge of United’s Belgian feeder club, Royal Antwerp. After an unsuccessful spell with Wigan, Joyce headed down under to take over at Melbourne City in 2016, but was back in England in Salford by 2019.
7. Roy Hodgson
Hard to believe for younger football fans, but once upon a time, Hodgson was one of Europe’s top coaches. Speaking five different languages, he started in Sweden with Halmstads BK in 1976 and was a hit in the Allsvenskan, heralded as a major factor in the development of Swedish football for his efforts in the 1970s and 80s. He took charge of Inter Milan in 1995 and took them back to European football after previous disappointment, before returning as caretaker in 1999. He’s also managed in Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Cultured man, is Roy.
8. Graham Potter
Another Brit who had major success in Scandanavia, Potter secured a job in the fourth-tier of Swedish football in 2011 to take charge of Ostersund FK on the recommendation of a friend. By 2015, he had them in the Swedish top-flight for the first time ever and had won the Swedish Cup by 2017, all on a shoestring budget while instilling an incredibly progressive passing identity. It was enough for Swansea to bring him back to Britain in 2018, where he has remained since.
9. Phil Brown
Best remembered for delivering a damning half-time team talk to Hull City on the pitch in front of fans om Boxing Day in 2008, Brown left Hull in 2011, trickling through the Football League with Preston, Southend and Swindon. After being sacked by the latter in 2018, Brown packed his bags for India, taking the reigns at Pune City in December of that year and staying on as they became Hyderabad FC the following year. He returned to Southend in 2021.
10. Nigel Pearson
Just the one venture abroad for Pearson, who has enjoyed a largely successful career as a respected manager around England’s top two divisions. After a five-month spell with Derby came to a strange end in 2016, Pearson headed to Belgian second-tier outfit OH Leuven in 2017, where he stuck around for just under two years before getting the sack.
11. Alan Pardew
In an over 20-year long managerial career spent solely within the British Isles, Pardew decided he wanted a complete change of scene in December 2019 and took over at ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands, winning just one game out of eight before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season and derailed his tenure, leaving in April. Things got even weirder after that when he was announced as a football advisor to Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia in late 2020, which turned into the manager’s job in 2022.
12. Graeme Souness
For younger fans of the game, Souness probably appears as nothing more than a perennially angry pundit on Sky Sports, but he was actually really, really good. Captaining Liverpool to mounds of success throughout the 1980s, Souness stepped into management with Rangers in 1986, before taking over at Liverpool for the first chunk of the 90s. A years service in Turkey with Galatasaray came from 1995 to 1996, before spells in Italy with Torino and Portugal with Benfica.
13. Steve McClaren
Not only has McClaren managed abroad, he’s been more successful than he has in England. After a rather disastrous spell as England manager from 2006 to 2008, McClaren headed to Holland and took over at FC Twente, taking charge for the 2008/09 season. He would be the man to deliver them a first Eredivisie title in their history in 2009/10, making him the first Englishman to win a top-flight title in Europe since Sir Bobby Robson did so with Porto in 1996. He went on to manage VfL Wolfsburg, Twente again, and Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.