Is it too much of a gamble to hire an outsider rather than someone familiar with British football? Or do foreign coaches have just as much chance of success?
To try and answer this, we’ve judged the tenure of every foreign manager in Scottish league football history.
Note: this does not include managers from the Ireland. “Foreign” though they may be, in the present day they’re regarded in the same manner by the media and football public as someone from England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Maybe not as accepted as a Scotsman, unless you’re Ian Cathro, but not the same levels of distrust reserved for someone from further afield.
It also doesn’t include those who were in charge on a caretaker or interim basis.
Erik Sørensen (Morton, 1974 to 1975)
As a player, Sørensen was the first of what would become a Danish invasion at Cappielow. The goalkeeper played with real distinction, earning a move to Rangers, and his performance encouraged to the club to recruit Kai Johansen and John Madsen among others. His spell as manager, however, did not precede a similar influx of foreign coaches, as he was out of the club within a year. His time in charge coincided with the last season of the old First Division as league reconstruction saw a cull of eight teams from the bloated top flight. Morton were one of those to depart, but it was no hard luck story, as they finished second bottom of the 18-team table.
It would be another 19 years before a manager from outwith the British Isles took charge of a Scottish club. However, within another four years it would be very much en vogue. Four alone were hired in 1998, while 2012 would be the first year in 16 where a foreign manager wasn’t recruited to lead one of our clubs. Only Ronny Deila and Mixu Paatelainen have been appointed since 2012, a statistic which laughs in the face of claims that “Scottish managers aren’t getting a chance” in light of Rangers’ interest in Caixinha.
THE BEST OF THE LOT
Wim Jansen (Celtic, July 1997 to May 1998)
The Dutchman has the best legacy of any manager on this list. In part because he achieved one of the most memorable feats in the club’s history, but also because his tenure remains pure. At the pinnacle he walked away and unlike his countryman who arrived at Rangers later in the summer of 1998, memories of his time in Glasgow couldn’t be sullied by poor form which may have followed. Then again, there’s few greater achievements in the eyes of Celtic fans than stopping Rangers reaching nine in a row, and he was the man who brought Henrik Larsson to Parkhead. So he may have held on to his status, regardless.
Dick Advocaat (Rangers, June 1998 to December 2001); Mixu Paatelainen (Cowdenbeath, 2005 to 2006); Mixu Paatelainen (Kilmarnock, June 2010 to March 2011); Paulo Sergio (Hearts, August 2011 to June 2012)
Sure, Advocaat had a lot of money to play with and he was bettered by Martin O’Neill in the one-and-a-half seasons the Old Firm rivals went head-to-head, but he still won a treble in his first season and a double in his second. That’s success in anyone’s book.
Paatelainen won promotion with Cowdenbeath before his dismal spell at Hibs. Many observers scoffed when Kilmarnock hired him to take over from Jimmy Calderwood at Rugby Park, but it was Mixu who would have the last laugh. The Finn turned the relegation candidates into a top six side that defeated opponents with exciting, attacking football. He left in March when the Finnish national team job was offered to him.
Sergio was originally going to be placed in the next section on account of the fairly poor league form across his tenure (Hearts finished fifth with the third highest budget). However, he masterminded a 100 per cent record against Hibs, defeated both Celtic and Rangers, and of course the famous Scottish Cup run. And he did so without the ability to sign any of his own players, outside of Craig Beattie.
THE HISTORIC LEGACIES (AMID MEDIOCRE TENURES)
Ivan Golac (Dundee United, August 1993 to March 1995); Valdas Ivanauskas (Hearts, March 2006 to March 2007)
Golac won Dundee United the first Scottish Cup in their history, but his bungling of the 1994-95 season would see the team, outsiders for the title at the beginning of the campaign, relegated from the top division.
Ivanauskas won a Scottish Cup but could not replicate the work of George Burley and get Hearts seriously contending for a title. He also had the distinction of (basically) being sacked twice, having been brought back following an extended leave for “health reasons” following a six-game slide without a victory under the stewardship of Eduard Malofeev. The latter does not appear on this list because he doesn’t count as a permanent manager. If he did he’d be alongside Claude Anelka at the bottom of this article.
Sergei Baltacha (Inverness CT, May 1994 to May 1995); Antonio Calderon (Raith Rovers, July 2002 to July 2004); Csaba Laszlo (Hearts, July 2008 to January 2010)
Baltacha led the newly formed Inverness Caledonian Thistle during their maiden season in the Scottish league.
Calderon achieved promotion with Raith before narrowly avoiding relegation back to the third tier.
And Laszlo brought Hearts from eighth back into third place, though this was still on an inflated budget and the team struggled in the second season before his sacking.
Ronny Deila (Celtic, June 2014 to May 2016); Jozef Venglos (Celtic, July 1998 to June 1999); Ivano Bonetti (Dundee, July 2000 to July 2002); Márcio Máximo (Livingston, June 2003 to October 2003); Mixu Paatelainen (Hibs, January 2008 to May 2009); Roberto Landi (Livingston, June 2008 to December 2008)
Deila won two titles but with no Rangers in the top flight it was the least that was expected of him. One cup victory from a possible four and two failed attempts at the Champions League constitutes a fairly poor record overall. Sixteen years prior, Venglos failed to build on Jansen’s success, as Rangers would eventually run away with the title, and had the ignominy of being replaced by John Barnes.
At Livingston, Maximo left after only four months after a disagreement with the board, while Italian coach Landi failed to make a positive impact in the first half of the club’s 2008/09 campaign.
Ivano Bonetti got Dundee into the top six, but when you consider the resources at his disposal it should be viewed as a failure. When you’re overspending to the extent that the club crashes into administration, you want more than a few nice goals from Fabian Caballero and Claudio Caniggia.
Paatelainen at Hibs wasn’t particularly bad. They just weren’t any good either. He was known to occasionally field teams without any natural midfielders.
And while Aberdeen reached two cup finals and registered a fourth place finish under Skovdahl, they did finish rock bottom in one season and were heading back in that direction when he left.
Harri Kampman (Motherwell, February 1998 to October 1998); Colin Miller (Hamilton, September 1998 to April 1999); Franck Sauzee (Hibs, December 2001 to February 2002); Paul Le Guen (Rangers, June 2006 to January 2007); Anatoly Korobochka (Hearts, March 2007 to January 2008); Mixu Paatelainen (Dundee United, October 2015 to May 2016)
There has never been a more memorable example of a manager failing to match the hype surrounding his announcement than Paul Le Guen and his brief tenure as Rangers manager. Hailed as a coup; remembered as a failure. The Frenchman was out the door within 12 months amid poor form and an unhappy dressing room.
Kampman won only six of his 22 games in charge of Motherwell, Korobochka was basically a puppet controlled by Vladimir Romanov, and Mixu Paatelainen failed, in spectacular fashion, to improve Dundee United’s fortunes last season.
Franck Sauzee will forever be remembered as a Hibs legend for his playing days, which is just as well as he was only able to defeat Stranraer in a Scottish Cup replay during his time as boss, while Canadian Colin Miller was responsible for Hamilton Accies dropping out of the second tier.
As a quick aside, we should note those who had experience of Scottish football before being hired. From those who succeeded: Mixu Paatelainen (2), Sergei Baltacha and Antonio Calderon. And from those who failed: Mixu Paatelainen (2), Franck Sauzee and Colin Miller. So, as you were.
THE... WAIT, WHO?
John Murphy (Livingston, June 2009 to July 2009)
The American was installed as new boss by Angelo Massone before the Italian owner was ousted from Livingston. At which point the new board felt they needed someone with a little more Scottish football experience and promptly hired Gary Bollan. Any time the name Massone is brought up, it’s worth remembering that he waived sell-on clauses in the deals which saw Robert Snodgrass and Graham Dorrans move to England, costing the club millions, while he also gave Murray Davidson and Dave Mackay to St Johnstone for a paltry five-figure fee. He’s in contention for being the worst owner Scottish football has ever seen.
THE MY GOD, WHY?
Claude Anelka (Raith Rovers, July 2004 to September 2004)
If you’ve never heard of the tale of Claude Anelka then you’e been doing yourself a disservice these past 13 years. The brother of Nicholas Anelka, Claude was a DJ and football agent who wanted to have a go in running a football team. Unfortunately for Raith Rovers, he saw Kirkcaldy as the ideal destination for this experiment. Initially there to be director of football, he decided to hire himself as manager after Antonio Calderon, having presumably spent five minutes in his company, saw the writing on the wall and promptly bolted. Anelka filled the squad with players from the seventh and eighth tiers of French football and oversaw zero victories in 12 games before deciding, rightly, he wasn’t cut out for this managerial lark. Rovers were relegated the end of the season and spent a few years in the third tier.
There are eight managers who deserve pass marks there, maybe ten if you’re feeling generous. That’s not a great ratio from 25 appointments. However, there are two things to consider: it’s not a great sample size, and it’s not too far away from rate of success among all managers in football nowadays.
If we take the last manager from every SPFL club to complete a full tenure as manager, only 20, give it or take a couple each way, could be considered a success. And all of them were either Scottish, Northern Irish or English.
It’s a gamble to bring in a foreign coach, but there are no safe bets in football management. Just look south of the border. The two Manchester clubs were supposed to be fighting it out for the title with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in charge. Instead, there’s a chance neither will finish in the top four. And while those two are both foreign managers, do we really think City or United have fared any better if they’d hired Alan Pardew?