The media frenzy about David Moyes’s ability to handle the Manchester United job has reached a boiling point with countless tabloid articles and speculation about the manager’s future. But as a supporter of a rival club who enjoys seeing the Red Devils suffer, let me explain why I have a soft spot for Moyes and ultimately would like to see him succeed in some way.
We live in a day and age where we are constantly being preached too by many people about the inadequacies of British football and how much more sophisticated everything is on the continent. The top English clubs have followed this lead and have gone continental with their management preferences. Manchester United, a club whose best managers have all been Scots through the years, stands as a shining exception.
The obsession with continental tactics, personalities and players is understandable. But what I want to see is younger British and Irish managers and younger British players given a fair shake at the bigger clubs. Brendan Rodgers hiring by Liverpool was a good sign as was, of course, Moyes hiring by Manchester United. But Moyes’s hiring was made strictly out of deference to Sir Alex Ferguson and one must assume if he is sacked he will be replaced by a continental. Arsenal is breaking in younger British players, but Chelsea and Manchester City both of whom once had tremendous youth systems, have taken to simply loaning Academy players out until inevitably selling or releasing them.
Moyes worked his way throughout Preston North End, building a side that came close to promotion to the Premier League on multiple occasions and took Everton from a annual relegation candidate to the UEFA Champions League in a few short seasons. Those types of managers previously were rewarded and given deference in English football. But today, instant gratification characterizes much of the narrative as does a self-loathing attitude by many towards anyone of Scottish, Welsh, English or Irish background.
While the Premier League is an international phenomenon, all its matches are played in the British Isles. Players and coaches must live and work in England or Wales, and this fact seems lost, often on those who critique managers and players.
Today Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan would never have been given the opportunity to manage Liverpool. Both won European Cups, and both took what Bill Shankly built and improved it. Perhaps the same can be said for Kevin Keegan, or dare I say Sir Alex Ferguson.
This article is not meant to belittle the impact of continentals especially the likes of Arsène Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benítez and Roberto Mancini, who have all made a remarkable impact on the English game and title races. But it seems today, an English, Welsh or Scottish manager is starting with an automatic disadvantage and a built-in bias against him from many in the press.
Do I believe if Moyes were a continental who had led a mid-level side like Everton to several top half finishes in, let’s say La Liga or Serie A, that he would be given more deference? Yes, I firmly believe this.
The bias isn’t conscious in most cases but expressed subtly. The narrative often exaggerates the style of football advocated by continental managers and the time it takes to implement stylistic changes. For example, even while Manchester United sat ahead of Manchester City in the table at the last international break, the media was questioning Moyes while giving Manuel Pellegrini time to implement his new “style.” Last season at Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino’s results were no different than Nigel Adkins but lavish praise was given to the former for changing the way the Saints played while the later was dismissed as a “Championship level manager.”
Everton’s results this season, it can be argued, aren’t terribly different than they were under Moyes but the Martinez-Moyes contrast being played in the press is striking. This having been said, Roberto Martinez is virtually a British manager having spent almost his entire professional career in Britain. But were Martinez actually British, would he get the same level of praise?
The constant negativity surrounding Roy Hodgson in the press reflects this bias. It is often forgotten that Hodgson has actually accomplished a great deal as a manager on the continent and was even considered for the Germany job once, the only foreigner to ever be seriously thought of by the DFL for that post.
My sincere hope is that David Moyes will be given time and deference he deserves as an accomplished Scotsman in English football. But alas, in this day and age that seems unlikely as the media feeding frenzy intensifies by the day.
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