IN THE online edition of an English newspaper yesterday, a certain glee seemed to be taken over the perceived demise of the Scottish manager. The sacking of Paul Lambert by Aston Villa on Wednesday night, it informed us, leaves the English top flight without a permanent manager born north of the border for the first time since 1984.
Moreover, the piece pointed out, this development comes only four years on from seven of the teams in the set-up being helmed by men from within the environs of Glasgow. The conclusion to be drawn was that, in the post-Alex Ferguson era, Scottish managers have lost their lustre through failing to move with the times, and adapt to modern methods.
To that contention Peter Grant has one riposte – how many English managers have won their country’s Premier League since its inception almost 23 years ago?
The answer to that question is, of course, none. With Ferguson hoovering up 13 titles before his retirement in the summer of 2013, English honours have been thinly rationed elsewhere. But Grant, as assistant to Alex McLeish at Birmingham City, played his part in one of the last English cup successes that was tartan stamped – the Midlands club lifting the League Cup in 2011.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
The pair then joined Aston Villa that summer for a season that began with seven Scottish managers dotted across a top flight that had five Englishmen in charge of clubs. There are now eight native managers in the world’s richest football league but that doesn’t mean it is only Grant’s fellow countrymen that have been supplanted by a growing overseas influence.
“Considering we are a country of five million and England a nation with 55 million we still do pretty well if you look across the entire senior set-up in England,” he said.
“I was out of work for a period and watched many games all across England and all across the leagues and I can assure you there are many fantastic Scottish managers and coaches across the country.
“Managers of all nationalities struggle to get to bed down at clubs, as Sir Alex did, because football has changed. There are more media outlets, more opinion formers and more clamour for a constant churn in managerial personnel. Few people could be sure of who was where and how long they had been in charge looking at the top tiers in England.
“I can say this categorically, though, and that is that there are Scottish managers who could be successful in English Premier League clubs standing on their heads. I would maintain we still work harder than any managers because we always feel we have to prove ourselves with our background. Talk of being outdated is just bulls**t.
“David Moyes was considered the hottest managerial property in England until two years ago because of his great work with Everton over a decade.
“Then it didn’t work out at Manchester United and some immediately decided he was an also-ran. Yet he was ahead of his time in his use of detailed analysis of players’ performances. You then look at someone like Malky Mackay who was a Premier League manager and then he wasn’t because of circumstances that had nothing to do with the job he was doing on the pitch. Scottish managers are team builders, as guys like John Hughes and Derek McInnes have shown in Scotland with barely two ha’pennies to rub together. It can take two or three years to build a team. In England now, you can be lucky to get two or three months.”
Grant, in something of a footballing take on that famous line in Sunset Boulevard, is convinced that Scotland continues to produce big trackside talent and that it is just the opportunities for that talent to show itself that have become smaller.
“I have heard it all about the bloody Largs mafia, but I have first-hand experience of that set-up, first-hand experience of watching Scottish coaches earn those licences and apply them, and first-hand experience of seeing some of the so-called football ‘gurus’ at work down south. And I can tell you the gurus couldn’t hold a candle to the many terrific Scottish coaches working away out of the limelight down south.”
AND THEN THERE WAS NONE...
As recently as 2011 there were seven Scots managing in the English Premier League. Following the sacking of Paul Lambert by Aston Villa there is now none.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Retired in 2013 after 27 trophy-laden years in charge of Manchester United.
Sacked by Liverpool in May 2012 despite leading club to two cup finals.
Left Everton in 2013 to replace Fergie at Old Trafford but failed to last the season. Now with Real Sociedad.
Former Scotland manager was sacked by Aston Villa in May 2012.
Guided Norwich into top flight. Left to succeed McLeish at Villa but sacked on Wednesday.
Turbulent spell in charge of Blackburn Rovers came to an end in September 2012.
Sacked by Bolton in September 2012 following relegation and a stuttering start in the Championship.