A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

Do footballing greats always become quality football managers? Alan Shearer – Jury still out but what of his Euro 96 team-mates

With Andy Carroll’s goal 10 minutes from time salvaging Newcastle United a point against fellow relegation battler Stoke City, and with it former England great Alan Shearer’s first points as temporary coach still leaving the Magpies with an uphill struggle to stay in the Premier League, the debate over whether past stars become top managers rages on.

Temporary Newcastle manager Alan ShearerShearer, (pictured, right) a classic English centre-forward in his time, took over the reigns at St. James’ temporarily park after current boss Joe Kinnear was taken ill, and as of yet has still to take his UEFA pro licence coaching course, a qualification needed to take charge of any top-level club in UEFA boundaries for more than 12 weeks. Shearer insists he will not stay longer than his caretaker role ensues but considering Kinnear could happily move to a boardroom position and the fans are sure to want the geordie legend to stay with the club, it seems entirely possible that he will stay beyond the original limit.

Since hanging up his boots in 2006, the former Blackburn and Southampton player has shown little interest or desire to take up management, rebuffing attempts from the F.A. to become a coach under Capello’s watch, and numerous times dampening down speculation of becoming Newcastle boss, instead preferring to focus on his job as a pundit for the BBC and his charity work. So it seems a wonder why he has risked his reputation on a Newcastle team so often devoid of enthusiasm and spark this season. One would obviously point to the fact that his beloved Toon may well suffer relegation, and living with the thought that he could have done something to help may well be the reason.

But what has the impact of Shearer achieved thus far? One point from six would suggest not a lot, and with no previous experience of management what can he be expected to do aside from spur on his players with tales of glory days in the black and white shirt, or give his players the boost of playing under someone many off them will respect and believe in.

Shearer is not the first English manager to take over at a club on reputation as a player alone  you can suddenly be a grade-A manager because you had all the attributes as a player is not water tight.

Arguably the most successful managers of the modern era in the Premier League – Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho – all had modest playing careers at best. So why do clubs continually put their faith in past pro’s when they have not proved that they can cut the mustard.
MK Dons, formally Wimbledon F.C. now based in Milton Keynes, are keen practicers of the trade having seen their recent successes under the guidance of former Manchester United star Paul Ince and now ex-Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo. What makes it even more intriguing is these players never played for the club they managed, so why did the Dons feel the gamble was the right option? Increased crowds looking to see a famous face manage their local club? the increased exposure? Whatever the reason they did, and both times MK Dons have profited from the wealth of experience these players brought to the side.

It doesn’t always work out as nicely as it did in Buckinghamshire for all former players-come-managers. To take a look at the team-mates of Alan Shearer at Euro 96 gives a mixed report for the chances of ex-pro’s trying their luck at running a side as effectively as their played within one.

Out of the 21 squad members led by Terry Venables on home soil to only England’s second semi-final in any major tournament (excluding Shearer), 6 are retired are yet to have moved into management, 3 are of have been coaches, 4 were unsuccessful managers at top level, 6 are still playing and only 2 can be considered to have become good bosses – Stuart Pearce and Gareth Southgate – and even that is debatably given Pearce’s troubles at Man City and Southgate’s current problems with Middlesborough. 

The most intriguing post-player career is certainly that of midfielder Steve Stone, who shunned the chance to be a manager to train as a Herbal Therapist and now runs a therapy centre in North Yorkshire. However, the normal template for former players is to either become a pundit, as high-profile examples Jamie Redknapp with SkySports or Steve McManaman with SetantaSports have done, attempt coaching but ultimately give up unsuccessfully as Paul Gascogine, David Platt and Steve Howey did or respectively work your way up the coaching ladder taking the essential qualifications to become a manager, a route Paul Ince and Tony Adams chose. However, invariably most players find it difficult to replicate their efforts on the field in a postion of management, as Ince and Adams found.

Out of the 20 Premier League managers at the moment, only five were capped at international level – Martin O’Neill (Aston Villa) Mark Hughes (Man City), Gianfranco Zola (West Ham), Gareth Southgate (Middlesborough) and Alan Shearer (Newcastle) – although many enjoyed stellar if not spectacular playing careers. The top four clubs – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal – are all managed by players that never touched the heights as a player as they have done so as a manager and there is an argument that it is impossible to be a great player and a great manager. That may not be true, as O’Neill & co. prove but it certainly seems that the tide of opinion is swaying against managers who were once players of note.

Two players from the Euro 96 squad – Steve McManaman and Sol Campbell – have both expressed an interest in one day becoming managers, but both mentioned the negative reaction to ex-players like Paul Ince and Tony Adams as detrimental to chances of young managers fresh from their playing careers.

It seems some teams are willing to give young ex-pro English managers a chance, like MK Dons and Newcastle, at the top at least it remains very much upon achievements and reputation for what you can do as a coach and not what you did on the pitch that dictates if you get a big job or not. And if it continues that way then England are likely to have a foreign manager more often that not.

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April 12, 2009 - Posted by | Football

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