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Opinion: Gary Neville sacking could set English coaches back years

Perhaps it was the wrong decision for Gary Neville to take on the task of leading a team like Valencia as his first foray into managing on his own. Then again, perhaps Valencia erred in trusting the fate of their team to Neville in the first place. Whatever the case may be, both sides have left with plenty of egg of their faces after the marriage ended in disaster. But while Valencia have the infrastructure in place to make a comeback to the top ranks of Spanish football somewhat quickly, Neville may have a much harder time – and his poor spell in Spain could reflect poorly on his fellow English managers.

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a club owner trying to find the best manager possible regardless of his nation of origin. In fact, any owner who doesn’t put winning ahead of nationalism is doing himself and his club a great disservice. But the potential problem for English coaches is that the fewer top-level managers there are, the fewer may be brought in over the next few years, even as assistants in high-level capacities.

Among the top five European leagues: BPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A – there are only three English managers (plus two from Scotland and two from Wales). All are in England now that Neville has been sacked. Meanwhile, the four other leagues are managed almost exclusively by their countrymen – about 85% of the managers were born in the respective countries in which they are working.

In those four leagues, there is a grand total of 16 foreign-born managers. But the Premier League now has over a dozen on its own. With so many owners traveling across the English Channel to find their next manager as opposed to going down the street to find one, English coaches are not developing at the highest levels of football.

This in turn could cause the very growth of English coaching at the top level to level stutter, leaving behind a rather unimpressive list of “top” managers for years to come: Brendan Rodgers? David Moyes? Tim Sherwood? Are any of them going to get a call from a top club in the next two years, or are they all going to find themselves in the Championship or a BPL cellar-dweller? Probably the latter assuming they don’t all go into punditry.

Then we need to look at the English football legends and what the prospects for them might be:

What happens when Ryan Giggs is ready to carve his own path and go solo? What happens if Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard decide they want to take off the jerseys and wear a suit on the sidelines? Will prospective clubs at home and abroad remember how badly Gary Neville flopped despite sharing the pitch with them for years?

Perhaps not. None of those other four are Gary Neville and all of them will conceivably get chances if they work hard enough.

This has all been speculation of course, and it only takes one really good manager to change the fortunes for his countrymen, but with the way things are going for English coaches right now, the Gary Neville sacking could delay that one great manager’s ascension into the coaching ranks.

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