Foreign Managers: Right Or Wrong?

Excerpts from today’s World Cup Podcast, with Adrian Clarke and Iain Spragg:

Adrian Clarke: Yeah definitely. Argentina has been great to watch too. Obviously Greece parked the bus big time.

Iain Spragg: But they are not good at that anymore, are they?

A: Otto Rehhagel has no plan B, does he? It’s defend or nothing isn’t it?

S: Maradona though, what’s he doing in that dressing room? Cause you look at two players who perhaps sum up what Maradona seems to be achieving with Argetina – it’s Martin Palermo, 36 years old, came on and scored, famous in Guinness Book of World Records for missing 3 penalties for Argentina in 1999 Copa America games, Columbia, infamous match for him. 11 years later Maradona coaxed him into performance where he scores a goal. 

And Veron. Everybody thought Veron underperformed in England, people don’t have particularly shiny memories of him, he is in that team pulling the strings, he is only playing in Argentina, he is not playing in any major European leagues and Maradona, on top of the Messis and Higuians in this game, Maradona is getting performances out of them. He is working magic. I never doubted him.

A: Yeah right. Now man management clearly is Maradona’s forte. And it can get you a long way there’s no doubt about that. I’ve played in teams where a gutter manager can really get you going and pull out extra 10% out of you, get you to a boiling point as I mentioned the other day. But when it comes to the biggest games against the best opposition you also have to have tactical nous. And I still have a big question mark about that but Argentina yeah fantastic so far. And it’s that spirit that’s shining through.

S: But it’s a spirit allied with a lot of talent. You know you look at Higuain, you look at Messi and then Veron pulling the strings, so it’s not a side that is limited. You are not talking about the comparison like the Wimbledon team that won the FA Cup. Tactically and skill wise limited, but a fantastic team spirit we all know what happened against Liverpool. Argentina seems to have that siege mentality with a lot of affection for Maradona but they’ve got the talent to go with it.

A: Yeah I couldn’t agree more. But it brings me to my next point actually mate, Maradona, an Argentinian in charge of Argentina. What we have seen from England so far, ok it’s easy to jump on this bandwagon. You know Capello has got it all wrong, pre-tournament we loved Capello but, the rights and wrongs of foreign managers of national teams. Where do you stand on it? Because for me I think they should be banned.

S: Well if you are talking specifically about England, it’s because we bounce between 2 extremes of football philosophy, don’t we? We go from McLaren, Eriksson era of player-friendly, maybe too much player power. And perhaps compared to Capello, a bit more tactically limited.

That doesn’t work out so we then jump both feet forward, eyes closed towards Capello we want someone more cool, calculated, detached and then if, IF this World Cup campaign doesn’t work out there will be a clamour for an English manager who reprises the spirit of England and then when that doesn’t work out we will go for another cool, calculated foreigner.

A: Possibly so. I think the point is though here that foreign managers are performing appallingly over this World Cup. You know how many foreign managers there are in this World Cup?

S: I think you are going to tell me.

A: 8. There are 8 of which England is one.

S: You mean 8 sides don’t have a manager from their country?

A: That’s right. It’s less actually, I thought it would be a lot more then that. South Africa, Nigeria, England, Ghana, Australia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Switzerland. What do most of these teams have in common?

S: Not doing very well.

A: And I think it is a hallmark of this World Cup so far. Spirit is such a crucial thing, because small teams are showing a lot of it, in defending well against the big teams. They’ve learned how to defend. And I think you forge a much better spirit when you got a guy there that you can relate to.

S: Well you are talking about the team spirit…

A: And reflect your national identity.

S: Yes but the odd thing is the England squad is one of the few if not the only one, you will probably tell me I’m wrong, that all of the players are based in the country they represent. They all play their club football in the country so if that doesn’t bring team spirit what will?

A: Yeah this is where your argument falls down. The guys in Chelsea and Manchester United are not mates, they are not best buddies, how often do they meet? 6, maybe 7 times a year normally when there are no major tournaments for a few days here and there. And they are also rivals. You’ve got to remember that. They are rivals on the club level, but when they meet internationally they are also competing for places.

S: But look at the Spanish team. I think 9 out of 11 Spain’s starting side in their last game was either Barcelona or Real Madrid. And their rivalry is no less intense then Manchester United and Chelsea.

A: Spain’s midfield with the exception of Alonso is exclusively Barcelona. That’s got to help. Xavi, Iniesta, Brusquets…

S: But I’m talking about the team dynamic. They have what you could argue but doesn’t seem to be a clear club division.

A: No, I’m not saying that you have to have divisions club-wise but I think it’s a myth to say because England contains player from the Premier League that they should all suddenly become best mates, that they should be more unified then players that play here, there, everywhere all over the world.

S: I’d like to prefix my next comment that this is Wednesday morning before the England game so please ignore this if England win handsomely and carry on through.

But I think what we are learning in the Capello era is that it’s not a black and white issue. That you need team spirit but you don’t want it at the expense of tactical nous and how you approach the game and how you try to play the game. But it seems Capello has gone too far that way and perhaps the path forward lies somewhere in the middle.

A: I think so yeah. Without labouring the point where do you stand just ethically on the issue? Because I think it’s cheating. I think your national.. yeah I do, I’m sorry. I know I keep bleating on about cheating but I do think national team should be exclusively from one country.

S: Let’s face it. When England came to appoint Capello in the wake of McLaren debacle, they looked around, they surveyed the footballing landscape in England and there was nobody they could have legitimately appointed.

A: It’s tough luck.

S: Cause obviously now again delete as applicable if England win handsomely. But if England go out and start looking around obviously people are talking about Hodgson and Harry Redknapp. But they weren’t on the radar when job was vacant.

A: You are not going to change my mind on that one Spraggy I don’t think it should happen.

You can listen to this episode below: [audio:World_Cup_24062010.mp3] Download link (mp3, 16mb, 17 mins)

Make sure you send in your feedback and questions through [email protected] and Clarke and Spragg will feature the best on the next episode.

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