Armchair Pundit

In defence of foreign managers

Alex Chick

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"It's a
form of cheating in international football and it's a bit embarrassing."

What was Jamie
Carragher talking about? Doping? Match-fixing? Maybe diving?

No -
Carragher's condemnation refers to the perfectly legal practice of appointing a
foreign manager.

"I've got nothing against (Fabio) Capello,
I went to the World Cup and got to know him, but that's not what international
football is," he said.

"It's like saying if our keeper's not good
enough, we'll go and get (Gianluigi)
Buffon from Italy.

"It's different for developing countries
in Africa and elsewhere, who are trying to build the game up but, for England,
such a big football nation, I don't think we should have a foreign manager."

Carragher is a free-thinking veteran who deserves to have
his opinions heard. On this occasion, however, he is talking nonsense.

Foreign coaches are absolutely a part of international
football, even if the very top sides like Spain, Netherlands and Germany resist

There are currently 15 of them in charge of European nations
including Turkey, Russia, Greece and Switzerland - countries with more in
common with England than the elite trio mentioned above. Mind you, all four
qualified for the last European Championship, unlike England.

Is it "embarrassing" that there are no English
coaches considered good enough to manage the national team?

Perhaps, but it says as much about the public perception of
English managers as it does about their qualities. In any case, when Fabio
Capello - one of the greatest managers of the last 30 years, lest we forget -
is the competition, there are few contenders of any nationality whose CV can
match up.

There is an argument that only an Englishman can inspire the
requisite amount of patriotic fervour from his players.

Sven-Goran Eriksson and Capello may have failed to fire
their charges up, but that should not condemn all foreign managers. Does anyone
doubt Jose Mourinho's ability to motivate English players? Or Guus Hiddink's?

Even if you consider the use of foreign coaches inadvisable,
that is a long way from saying it is cheating - a view long dismissed in other
sports, where the benefit of expertise from every corner of the globe has long been felt.

Should Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent give their gold
medals back because they were coached by a German, Juergen Grobler?

Or the British track cycling team, propelled to glory by the
coaching genius of Australian Shane Sutton?

What about the England cricket side, led by Zimbabwe's Andy
Flower, and featuring a middle order with two South Africans and an Irishman.

Which brings us to the subject of foreign-born players in football.
While England have not been recruiting prospective Gianluigi Buffons from
abroad, other top countries have.

The home nations have an agreement not to sign players who
quality through residency like Mikel Arteta or, shudder, Manuel Almunia.

Consequently, we have not had a genuine ringer since John
Barnes, who moved to England from Jamaica aged 13 (Owen Hargreaves is tenuously
English through his father).

Not so with our rivals.

Spain won Euro 2008 with their midfield anchored by a
Brazilian - Marcos Senna - while Brazil-born Deco and Pepe both switched
allegiance to Portugal.

Holland tried to sign up Salomon Kalou, while Mauro
Camoranesi won the 2006 World Cup with Italy.

Camoranesi followed in a great tradition of Argentine-born
players representing Italy - the best of whom was probably Omar Sivori, who
turned out for the Azzurri in the early 60s, around the time Ferenc Puskas and
Alfredo Stefano were playing for Spain.

All of this was perfectly within the rules - consequently
these countries have no moral qualms about selecting whatever players are

Nor should we when it comes to the man in the dugout.

England have found it hard enough trying to win under the
same rules as everyone else - why on earth would we want to add an extra level
of difficulty by denying ourselves a free choice of coaches?

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