Foreign Managers and Bias in the Premier League

SHANGHAI, CHINA - MARCH 15: Shanghai FC Head Coach Andre Villas-Boas during the AFC Champions League 2017 Group F match between Shanghai SIPG FC (CHN) vs Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) at the Shanghai Stadium on 15 March 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)

Foreign managers and players make the Premier League one of the most diverse industries in the world. The addition of the world’s best footballing talents makes the league one of the most exciting and entertaining to watch.

In saying this, there is a growing trend among Premier League fans and pundits to value the reputations and achievements of foreign managers whilst quickly dismissing the records and achievements of British managers. The recent sacking of Frank de Boer by Crystal Palace and media reaction to the subsequent hiring of former England manager Roy Hodgson is the latest example.

Does Foreign Always Mean Better?

Roy Hodgson is one of the most experienced managers in world football. He has managed clubs from Sweden, Italy, England and a host of other nations. During his managerial career, he has taken some of the biggest jobs in world football such the Liverpool Job, Inter Milan twice and the England job.

In stark contrast, de Boer has managed two clubs prior to Palace. He spent six years at Ajax, which saw him win four titles. Whilst this seems a good record, when you consider Ajax’s traditional dominance of Dutch football, it becomes less so. His second job was at Inter Milan where he lasted a mere 85 days, which isn’t the greatest advertisement for his managerial ability.


De Boer’s latest role has seen him sacked at Palace after just four games and his team failing to score a single goal. Many people have attacked this decision, citing he didn’t have adequate time to implement his style of play.

Considering he also lost three pre-season games, including one against the club’s U23 side, maybe his style just isn’t as good as people think. Many people feel Roy Hodgson’s signing is a backwards step. However, if you take away their big names, playing careers and nationalities and just look at their two C.V’s, who in their right mind would rather de Boer over Hodgson?

De Boer’s attempt at ‘total football’ has failed in the two competitive leagues that he has tested it. Added to this to the fact that his Ajax side rarely threatened in European competitions, maybe the Palace owners would rather stay up with Hodgson than play nice football and lose every game with de Boer?

Character and High Fives

In recent years Liverpool have been performing way under their perceived level. The appointment of Jurgen Klopp has seen many ups and downs and they’ve rarely been consistent under his leadership.

In contrast, Brendan Rodgers lead his side to their best title challenge during the Premier League era and developed some of the best players the club has seen in a long time. It is bizarre that Klopp is treated as the messiah and Rodgers is very much a pariah.

Rodgers is often mocked for his repetition of the word ‘character’, whereas Liverpool fans grow impatient 15 minutes into a Klopp interview if they haven’t heard some funny soundbites to tweet about.

Klopp’s style of play may be more entertaining but it is largely due to his neglect of the defence, which more often than not catches them out. Rodgers’ side was also entertaining to watch but were built on a solid defensive foundation. It is safe to assume that if Rodgers had Klopp’s squad, he wouldn’t have spent £35m on Mohamed Salah. Instead, he would have added to the reported £75m they had for Virgil van Djik and bought 2-3 quality centre-backs.

Foreign Managers Develop, British Managers are Carried

One of the biggest critiques of Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool is the common consensus among their supporters that he was ‘carried by Suarez’. Some, however, this is a very unfair assessment. His side had some of the finest players in England, many of which he bought or developed.

Sturridge scored 21 goals in 29 games during the title challenging season for Rodgers after signing for only £12m from Chelsea, a coup in any market. Rodgers also developed Raheem Sterling who would later be sold for £50m to Manchester City. Additionally, Rodgers scouted and purchased Inter Milan bench warmer Coutinho, subject to reported bids in excess of £150m from Barcelona over the summer, for only £8.5m. The idea that Rodgers was an average coach who got lucky is absurd and is simply used to rationalise why the squad Klopp inherited was so poor and why he isn’t living up to expectations.

Another example of this is Gareth Bale at Tottenham. He arrived at Spurs a left-back but quickly became one of the world’s best at left wing. Harry Redknapp saw his potential and moved him to attacking midfield to fulfil it. This move probably cost Tottenham Champions League football that season due to Bale taking time to adapt and his poor decision making in an unfamiliar role ruining vital attacks. After he got used to his new role, though, he quickly became an £80m player. Unfortunately for Redknapp, this occurred under his replacement, Andre Villas Boas, who is often credited with Bale’s transformation from good to great. It’s fair to say Redknapp took the risk while Villas Boas reaped the rewards.


Following Villas Boas’ dismissal at Tottenham, many names were thrown about for his replacement. One of the men to throw his hat in the ring was their former manager and club legend, Glenn Hoddle. While working for Sky Sports, Hoddle showed the nation the team and formation he’d play if appointed.

He stated that he would play three centre-backs, with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker deployed as wing-backs.

Current Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino played that formation last season and saw his side have the best defensive record in the league as well as wing-backs Rose and Walker both being awarded places in the PFA team of the year.

Four years on from Hoddle’s interview, every top Premier League has implemented or aspires to implement some variation of the three at the back system with wing-backs style. At the time Hoddle was laughed out of the studio. It was not until Italian manager Antonio Conte brought it to England that the tactics were respected. If a Klopp or Villas Boas had suggested these tactics, everyone would’ve labelled them geniuses but not English ‘dinosaur’ Hoddle.


Foreign managers are welcome addition to the game. Some of the best managers to grace the league have come from abroad. Like the British managers, though, there’s no guarantee of success from foreign managers. For every Jose Mourinho there is an Andre Villas Boas and for every Alex Fergusson there is a Tim Sherwood.

It’s time we give as much respect to British managers as we do towards foreign managers. We should base them not off their funny antics or how difficult it is to pronounce their home town, but by their qualities and the success they bring their teams.







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