Where is the successful English manager?

The Premier League is considered the largest and most competitive league in the world. A capital-intensive competition with huge transfer amounts. But there is still a lack of successful English managers.

In fact, since the name change to Premier League in 1992, no English manager has managed to lift the trophy. How can the biggest, most competitive, what some consider the best and most expensive league in the world not produce successful national managers?

The numbers

And it goes beyond that. English teams have not been doing badly in recent years in the Champions League, for example, but the last English trainer who was allowed to hold up the cup with the big ears dates back to 1984. Then known as the European Cup I, Joe Fagan won the cup with Liverpool.

In this season’s Premier League, we find only five English managers, which amounts to 25%. By way of comparison: in none of the other top 10 European leagues is the percentage below fifty percent.

Competition Number of clubs National trainers percentage
Premier League 20 5 25%
First Class A 18 10 56%
Scottish Championship 12 7 58%
League 1 20 13 65%
Bundesliga 18 12 67%
LaLiga 20 14 70%
O. Bundesliga 12 9 75%
Premier League 18 15 83%
Series A 20 18 90%
League Portugal 18 17 94%
Table 1: Percentage of National Trainers in Top 10 Leagues

With the appointment of Graham Potter at Chelsea, there is now an Englishman at the helm of a so-called top six club in the Premier League. The other English trainers in the Premier League are currently Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa), Gary O’Neil (Bournemouth), Frank Lampard (Everton) and Eddie Howe (Newcastle United).

The appointment of Potter also meant that Chelsea, active in the Champions League, is experiencing a unique experience: Potter is the only English coach to play this season at a club that plays European football. Of all 96 (!) teams that play in one of the three European tournaments, the 47-year-old head coach is the only one with the English nationality. And that for a country that claims to be the inventor of football.

Made with Flourish

And that brings us directly to one of the causes of the problem: the English manager does not get enough opportunities at an English top club. Because so much money is involved in the Premier League, the top clubs (certainly) choose a big name from international football and not an English head coach who still has to grow.

Since 2000, only seven English trainers have been at the helm of one of the six top clubs for a fixed period. The most recent example: Lampard. In the summer of 2019, he was appointed to Chelsea, which had a transfer ban at the time. He received praise for using youth players, but in January 2021 (after a season and a half) he was still put aside due to disappointing results. Interesting detail: his German successor Thomas Tüchel won the Champions League with the same Chelsea later that season.

The other English were also not very successful. Roy Hodgson (Liverpool) was sacked for twelfth in the table, Tim Sherwood (Tottenham) took over when they were seventh, finished sixth and was sacked after all and under Glenn Hoddle Tottenham failed to even reach European football early this century. Kevin Keegan and Stuart Pearce ran Manchester City before the big money was pumped into Manchester’s blue side.

The only English manager to have achieved any degree of success at a top six club was Harry Redknapp. He succeeded Spaniard Juande Ramos in 2008 when Tottenham were in last place in the Premier League. He managed to get them to eighth place.

If the choice is not for English trainers but for foreign trainers, the quality of the English trainers will not just increase. After all: experiences at a top club are good for a trainer’s international reputation, especially if that is accompanied by European competitions.

Foreign options

For many foreign trainers, managing in the Premier League is their dream job. For many English trainers it will be exactly the same. And there also lies a problem: the ambition of English trainers.

English trainers, take for example Neil Warnock or Sam Allardyce, prefer to stay in England. They choose the safe option; then just a club in the Championship or low in the Premier League. And that while many clubs in the European top competitions are keen to appoint a manager with years of Premier League experience.

It doesn’t make you any worse as a trainer. Just look at Sir Bobby Robson, who was very successful with PSV, and Steve McClaren, who won the Eredivisie with FC Twente. But on the other end of the spectrum is Gary Neville. He was appointed at Valencia in December 2015, but was able to pack up again a few months later, after winning just three of 16 league games.

And such examples as Neville’s scare off the English trainers. Which is further reinforced by the English media. The English media are accused of only paying attention to the Premier League clubs and at most to the top clubs such as FC Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

If the media is just covering Premier League football and labeling it as ‘the best league in the world’ then the supporters will go along with it. And future trainers and players will also get this. Add to that a language barrier abroad and there is no reason for an English manager to work abroad if he can also choose a club in the Championship.

Incidentally, the first catching up has already been done. Young players are increasingly opting for a route abroad. For example, the Bundesliga is very popular with English talents, with Jadon Sancho as an excellent example. Why couldn’t English trainers go this route?

One of the English trainers who did start his career abroad is Potter. For years he sat on the bench at the Swedish Östersunds and no one in England knew his name. Until Östersunds outclassed Arsenal in the Europa League. Because it’s that simple in England: only when you play against an English club will you be named in the media. It was the same with Potter: he gained a name in England as an Arsenal killer and was immediately in the interest of English clubs. Via Swansea City he ended up at Brighton & Hove Albion.


It is hoped for the English trainers’ guild that Potter will get the time at Chelsea to implement his footballing ideas. Who knows, he may become the crown prince of the new English trainers’ guild. A trainers’ guild where not all trainers are waiting for a dime-in-a-dozen job to become available at a Championship club, but dare to take the initiative to work abroad. Because even though they have the best competition in the world, they are still a long way behind with their own successful trainers.

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