Following Huddersfield Town’s hiring of a German manager, Sam Allardyce revealed the short-sighted Brexit mentality ingrained in British football with his latest rant about foreign managers.
In case you haven’t heard — and I’m sorry to be the one to inform you — Sam Allardyce is at it again. What is ‘it’, you ask?
“It is bewildering,” the ex-England boss informed us earlier this week, “the amount of top quality coaches and managers in this country who are sat without a job…” How top quality can they truly be if they can’t get a job in football? I wonder.
“…or not even getting an interview at an Oldham or a lot of the Championship clubs…” Yes, Oldham Athletic, who were recently linked with hiring Paul Scholes, who, when I last checked, was an Englishman with zero experience in senior management.
“…who are now going for a foreign coach.” Ah, there it is.
These most recent comments from the Biggest of Samuels are a familiar refrain from the Proper Football Men of dear old Britannia, that of the invading foreigner coming to take their jobs away. But he didn’t stop there, going on to make a number of “extremely worrying” claims about the “development of young coaches and young managers” not backed up by evidence.
“The FA spend any amounts of millions to qualify us but we then don’t get a say in where we get our jobs from. There are 72 managers in the Football League and 72 first team coaches and I bet the percentage is running at 35 per cent or 40 percent who are run by a foreign coach.”
I did the math, you’ll be thrilled to know, on all 92 teams including those in the Premier League, not just the Football League, and Allardyce’s guesstimate does not stand up to scrutiny. Of the 92 managers currently in charge, 71 are British or Irish, while the remaining 22 can be classed as foreign nationals. That means only 23%, not even a quarter, of those running senior squads are from outside Great Britain or Ireland.
"It's bewildering the amount of top quality managers from this country who can't get a job or interview."
"I'll have to start looking abroad the way it's going now."
Sam Allardyce gives his thoughts on the lack of English managers in work. pic.twitter.com/1x5nlWGUFo
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) January 22, 2019
So we know this figure is complete fiction, but go on, say the line, Sam:
“The Premier League is an international league played in England.”
Allardyce offered this thinly veiled code for “the foreigners have taken over” before surmising that one of the reasons behind this is the lack of British-born club owners.
“I think David Sullivan, Mike Ashley and the guy from Huddersfield, three owners,” he says, forgetting not only Dean Hoyle’s name but the other five clubs in the top flight either owned or part-owned by British people.
“So it is becoming ever so more difficult to choose your career as an Englishman in your own country.”
One might conclude that Allardyce is a bit sore about being overlooked for the Huddersfield Town job, which was given to Jan Siewert from Germany, but I’m afraid it’s a much wider and more problematic issue than that.
When this sort of opinion is given air time in any other context, the person is often rightly mocked for being closed-minded and xenophobic. Contrastingly, football personalities are given plenty of platforms on national television and radio to spout such nonsense. That’s not to say your run-of-the-mill xenophobe, such as Katie Hopkins, has lacked for platforms to spread her bile, but she has been lambasted to the point where she is no longer a regular face on our screens, her Twitter babbling aside.
Admittedly, Allardyce has not said or done anything quite as heinous as Hopkins, but it’s fascinating to see the ease with which this line of thinking gets a platform. On this occasion the former Everton manager was speaking on TalkSport, but he has expressed similar sentiments on Sky Sports News and Bein Sports. When someone like Ryan Giggs says there are too many foreign managers in British football, it turns up on the BBC Sport website unchallenged.
The same goes for Allardyce’s recent TalkSport interview, which was framed as a point of concern about the future of British coaching. This is the same radio station that gave Dave Kitson a platform to blame Raheem Sterling for bringing racist abuse on himself, which in turn led to Tyrone Mings refusing to be interviewed by them.
These statements and points of view are put in the context of the decline of British football, its inability to develop world class players or managers anymore, and its depreciation in the standing of the world game. In reality it should be called out for it really is.
And that reality is that Big Sam could not give a toss about the supposed lack of opportunities for young British managers. When he says these things, he cares only about his own agenda. He sees foreign managers as the biggest obstacle to him getting work in the Premier League, blaming ‘them’ rather than update his stodgy, malignant tactics and style of play to make himself a more attractive proposition for prospective clubs.
Here’s the rub, something Big Sam is either unable or unwilling to recognise: he is part of the problem.
7 of last 13 PL managerial appointments have been Brits aged 50-70. Moyes and Allardyce next. There's your barrier to young British coaches.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) November 5, 2017
Last year journalist Daniel Storey made the compelling argument that it is in fact the likes of Allardyce, David Moyes, Alan Pardew, et al, who are the biggest impediments to young British coaches getting their opportunity at the highest levels. “This is as much a question of young vs old as British vs foreign, or perhaps even football Establishment vs football proletariat,” Storey wrote last August.
Furthermore, my inclination has always been that owners of clubs, particularly in the Football League, are wary more than anything to hire foreign managers, not because they hate foreigners, but because they yearn for someone who “knows the league” and won’t need time to adapt to the abrasive, nontechnical nature of lower league football in England.
As this report by Sean Ingle of the Guardian in 2017 revealed, that wariness is not founded in fact: “The average league points per game for overseas managers in the Premier League is 1.66 – while for their British and Irish equivalents it is only 1.29. The difference equates to a staggering 14 points over a 38-game season.”
If this is anything to go by, it shows that the quality of homegrown coaches simply isn’t up to scratch. This unfortunate reality gets to the heart of British football’s Brexit mentality: convenient excuses (foreigners taking our jobs) and overly simplistic solutions (limiting the number of immigrants/leaving the EU) are offered up in place of resolutions that could improve the state of the British game. Football is a microcosm of society in this sense.
“I’ll have to start looking abroad the way it’s going now,” Allardyce finished by saying, the irony of that statement being once Brexit finally happens, it will become that much harder to do so.