British managers venturing afar


After seven months without a job, former Manchester United manager David Moyes has been confirmed as the new boss Real Sociedad, who sit 15th in Spain’s La Liga.

It is seen as a chance for the Scot to resurrect his career and reputation which was left in tatters after his stint at Old Trafford.

But how will he fit in? Despite many foreign managers plying their trade on these shores, it is rare that a manager from the UK has left the island to manage elsewhere, with British players moving abroad an even more out of the ordinary occurrence.

But there have been some brave souls who have ventured across the sea to take charge of foreign clubs, with varying results.

For some, learning the lingo is the hardest thing, but Moyes has reportedly tried to settle in straight away, saying “Kaixo” on his arrival at the club’s training ground, which means “hello” in Basque.

If he can’t get the hang of it though, he could always take tips off former England boss Steve McClaren, now of Derby County, who announced himself as “Shhteeve” in his best Dutch accent whilst in charge of FC Twente.

Embarrassing Dutch-accent interview aside, McClaren’s first spell at FC Twente was an undoubted success as he led them to the Eredivisie title in 2009-10 and forced a reassessment of his coaching abilities.

"Hi I'm Shhteeve"
“Hi I’m Shhteeve”

Having left Holland for Wolfsburg in July 2010, McClaren lasted just eight months before being sacked after winning just seven matches. His second stint at Twente was also slightly disappointing, although he did return a win ratio of almost 50 per cent.

So an up and down time abroad for a former Three Lions boss. There appears to be a trend with managers of our national team also taking charge of foreign clubs, with other examples being Terry Venables and current Three Lions coach Roy Hodgson.

It is how the former got his ‘El Tel’ nickname, when in charge of Barcelona between 1984 and 1987. Venables’ time in Spain was an undoubted success, winning the Spanish League Cup and also guiding Barca to their first league title in 11 years in 1985. A 1986 penalty shoot-out defeat in the final against Steaua Bucharest denied Venables the chance of a European Cup – and his reign ended disastrously as his side lost home and away to Dundee United in the 1987 UEFA Cup.

Hodgson meanwhile is extremely well-travelled and has coached 16 clubs in eight countries throughout his 38-year managerial career, including Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. And it was Scandinavia where Hodgson really began to establish himself as a manager, winning seven Swedish titles – two with Halmstads BK and five with Malmo – as well the Danish Superliga with Copenhagen in 2000-01. His time at Inter Milan saw him re-energise a club who were going backwards but he failed to win any titles and returned to England in 1997.

Moyes is following in the footsteps of fellow Brits Chris Coleman (pictured) and John Toshack, who have previously managed Real Sociedad.
Moyes is following in the footsteps of fellow Brits Chris Coleman (pictured) and John Toshack, who have previously managed Real Sociedad.

But, there can be no question of who Britain’s most successful manager abroad is: the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

Having led England to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals with a teary-eyed Paul Gascoigne as the Three Lions’ inspiration, Robson left for Holland to manage PSV Eindhoven – something he described as an ‘adventure’ but also a massive ‘culture shock’.

Two years in Holland brought two Eredivisie titles but there was uproar back home when Robson originally accepted the job, with the ex-Ipswich boss being called a ‘traitor’ and accused of lacking patriotism by some sections of the media.

However, a distinguished continental career followed with Robson claiming two Primeira Liga titles and the Portuguese Cup with Porto (between 1992 and 1994), as well as the Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona (between 1996 and 1997) – where he helped to nurture a young translator by the name of Jose Mourinho. He was shunted into the role of general manager, with Louis van Gaal taking charge, and decided to leave Spain.

Sir Bobby Robson with a young Jose Mourinho, a thin Ronaldo and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
Sir Bobby Robson with a young Jose Mourinho, a thin Ronaldo and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.

Following another year-long stint at Eindhoven, Robson returned to England when he answered the call of his beloved Newcastle United in 1999.

David Moyes isn’t an ex-England boss though, so I’ll look at a few managers who may be able to help him more. Two Brits who have also had a crack of taking charge of Real Sociedad – Welshmen John Toshack and Chris Coleman.

Toshack had three spells in charge of the San Sebastian club, totalling in eight years between 1985 and 2002. All he had to show for his efforts was the Copa del Rey crown in 1987, but he had better success at other Spanish clubs such as Real Madrid and Deportivo.

Current Wales manager Chris Coleman was appointed in June 2007 after being recommended by Toshack. A magnificent record of 12 wins from 21 games saw Sociedad up to fifth in the Segunda Division but Coleman resigned in January 2008 having fallen out with the club’s president.

The club have changed president since Coleman’s time in charge, and you hope new chief Jokin Aperribay will give David Moyes time – he needs it after not being given enough of it at Manchester United.


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