Saturday, June 19, 2021
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Scottish football managers on the wane?

David Moyes at Real SociedadPaul Lambert’s recent removal from his post as Aston Villa Manager has led to the usual debate about whether that was a fair decision, but also arising from this has been another, wider question. As far as the English Premier League is concerned, where have all the Scottish managers gone?



You only need to go back to 2011, a time when, incredibly, there were no fewer than seven Scots managing in the self-styled best league in world football. At the time, we north of the border took some solace in that.


The fact being that for all few Scottish players were plying their trade in the higher echelons of the top tier, and our own domestic game was continuing to decline in terms of quality, finances and interest, at least we were able to boast a healthy list of managers. Which, on the face of it, suggested that we could still disproportionately influence the shape of the game at the highest level.


Sure, they weren’t all on a par with the Busbys, Steins and Shankleys, but they were flying the flag, and we were grateful for small mercies in these testing times for Scottish football.


So what happened to the magnificent seven? Well, as we all know Sir Alex Ferguson (the one whose name can be mentioned alongside the aforementioned legends without a second thought) finally retired following a hugely successful 27 years at Manchester United. We’d been anticipating that departure for the best part of a decade, so it was hardly a surprise when Fergie elected to spend more time with his horses and wine collection.


David Moyes left a secure post at Everton to succeed Fergie at Old Trafford, and lasted less than one season before turning up in La Liga with Real Sociedad. It remains to be seen whether Moyes’ reputation, steadily built during a decade of relatively steady form at Everton, has suffered irreversible damage following his nightmarish time in Manchester. He at least cuts a more swarthy dash these days.


Kenny Dalglish, in his second spell in charge at Anfield, led Liverpool to two cup finals, but he too was axed. Dalglish’s unerring ability to upset people (Celtic fans will cringe at the memory of his time working alongside John Barnes in the dugout), toe-curlingly evidenced during the Luis Suárez racism affair, was to the fore in his ultimate demise, despite enjoying legendary status among the Liverpool faithful.


Owen Coyle was once rated one of the managerial stars of the future, but his box-office rating fell dramatically when he was shown the door at Bolton after the club was relegated from the Premier League, and then made a poor start to life in the Championship. Back in the day, Coyle was such a hot ticket that he once scoffed at the very notion of managing Celtic when the hoops were seeking a manager a few years ago. You suspect he would bite your hand off for a shot at it now.


Alex McLeish was another with a decent managerial pedigree with Rangers then Birmingham City, who he led to an unlikely League Cup success. However, like Lambert he was shown the door at Villa Park, and is currently plying his trade in the relative backwater that is Belgian league football. Big Eck is therefore currently doing a Moyes, but without the tan.


And then there was Steve Kean at Blackburn Rovers, a man who did his level best but wore a haunted look for the most part under trying circumstances, before the inevitable axe was swung and he was put out of his misery.


Ferguson and Dalglish will be content to enjoy football from afar from here on, but the others mentioned above will presumably retain a desire to prove themselves at the highest level, even if their personal finances are no doubt ship shape.


However, each may have a question mark over their head in light of having being sacked from a high-profile post. Will they return to the limelight, or will they a) scratch around the Championship and less glamourous European clubs, b) go back to a club in Scotland and pretend that they always wanted to give something back to the land of their birth at some stage, or c) join the seemingly burgeoning punditry scene?


Mind you, other managers seem to be able to land another post in the top flight even if they have failed elsewhere. The managerial merry-go-round has certainly embraced the likes of Sam Allardyce, Tony Pullis, Mark Hughes, Alan Pardew and Steve Bruce, whose reputations and perceived ability have not been diminished when it comes to the challenge of securing alternative employment among the glitterati.


Whatever the case, however, it’s difficult to envisage such a healthy contingent of Scots patrolling dugouts in the Premier League in the foreseeable future. For all its glamour and ever-increasing riches, the Premier League is a brutal business, with managers given little time to deliver success, or at least survival among the big boys.


Perhaps it’ll take another Ferguson-style impact in England before chairmen turn to Scotland for their next managerial appointment. Or, at the very least, a rise in the perceived status of the game in Scotland (some thing wee Gordon Strachan is trying his level best to deliver).



Just don’t expect there to be 7 Scots out of 20 managers in the Premier League at one time any time soon.

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