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The English Abroad: A Managerial Best & Worst

Steve McClaren returned to Wembley as Derby manager on Saturday for the first time since the ‘Wally with the Brolly’ incident in 2007. That 3-2 defeat to a talented Croatian side left McClaren’s reputation in tatters in England. He subsequently took up the managerial position at FC Twente in The Netherlands in a bid to rebuild his standing in the game – his achievements as assistant manager during the treble winning season at Manchester United and his subsequent success at Middlesbrough largely forgotten in England. Despite the unfortunate start to his time in Holland with the slapstick ‘Schteve McClaren’ interview delivered in pigeon English with a Dutch accent, McClaren’s spell there proved to be a huge success, securing Twente’s first ever Eredivisie title in 2010.  He subsequently moved to German side Wolfsburg and later returned for a second spell at Twente.

It took a move to the Continent for McClaren to earn a second chance at management in England. Below, David Sheehan takes a run down of some Englishmen who had undoubted success managing abroad and others who have fared less well…

The Best

Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby was informed prior to the 1990 World Cup by the English FA that his contract as national team manager would not be renewed. Rather than returning to club management in England, Robson chose to test his coaching skills at PSV Eindhoven, succeeding Guus Hiddink. Back to back Dutch titles in ’91 and ’92 were an endorsement of Robson’s abilities, but failure to make an impact on the European Cup saw Robson lose his job at the end of the ’92 season. Sporting Lisbon became Robson’s next destination with a young Jose Mourinho acting as his Portugese interpreter. A third place finish in the league in his first season was unspectacular but an early exit from the Uefa Cup in the following ’93/’94 season once more saw Robson sacked with his side top of the league.

Porto immediately snapped up Robson who restored the club to former glories, winning the league in 1995 and ’96. Barcelona came calling as a result of this success and Robson (with Mourinho in tow) would make the move to Catalonia, winning the Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in his solitary season in charge. A hugely successful spell outside of England with a lasting legacy that has seen the rise of the careers of Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas traced back to Robson’s willingness to challenge himself in new footballing cultures.

Terry Venables

Venables left English football in 1984 following respectable managerial spells at unfashionable Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers. Recommended to Barcelona President Josep Nunez by Bobby Robson, who had previously turned down the job, Venables was largely an unknown figure to the Catalans, having never won a single first division title either as a player or manager during his career up to that point. Replacing Diego Maradona with Steve Archibald at the beginning of his reign might not have seemed like the shrewdest move, however, Venables would be vindicated with a league title at the end of his first season in charge – Barcelona’s first since 1974.

Barcelona would go on to reach the final of the European Cup in 1986 under Venables, unlucky to lose on penalties to Steaua Bucharest. A poor start to the ’87/88 campaign saw Venables lose his job early that season, however his time in Spain is remembered as a successful one, with ‘El Tel’ fondly remembered in Barcelona for restoring the club’s competitive edge after a decade without a league title.

Roy Hodgson

Currently preparing to lead England into the 2014 World Cup Finals, Hodgson has largely built his reputation managing outside his homeland. A playing career hardly of note saw Hodgson hang up his boots at the age of 29, finishing up at non-league Carshalton Athletic. Hodgson had worked as a PE teacher in the local school to support himself during his final days as a player.

His managerial career began in Sweden where he took over at lowly Halmstad, after the club had received a recommendation from Bob Houghton, then coach at Malmo and Hodgson’s former boss at Mansfield. Hodgson guided Halmstad to two league titles during a five-year spell, before following Houghton back to England in 1980 to take up the position as his No.2 at Bristol City. The stint turned out to be a disaster as the club experienced severe financial problems and Houghton and Hodgson were gone by April 1982.  A return to Sweden followed with spells at Oddevold and Orebro in the second division before a step up to take over at Malmo in 1985. Two Swedish titles and a pair of Swedish Cups were Hodgson’s reward for a successful five-year stint in charge.

His next European destination was Switzerland where he spent two trophyless years at Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax. The Switzerland national side came calling in 1992 and Hodgson would subsequently guide them to the last 16 of the World Cup in 1994 and to qualification for the 1996 European Championships in England. Hodgson would not get the opportunity to bring his Swiss side to England for the Finals as he left to take up the job as manager of Inter Milan before the tournament began. A two-year spell in charge would again see Hodgson leave without a trophy, however, Hodgson is credited with stabilising the club during a transitional period and was unlucky to lose the 1997 Uefa Cup final on penalties to Schalke.

Stints at Blackburn, Grasshoppers in Switzerland, Copenhagen (where he won the Danish title) and Udinese were followed by a two-year spell in charge of the United Arab Emirates national side. Back on his travels again in 2004, Hodgson took on the role of coach of Norwegian side Viking. His final spell abroad saw Hodgson as manager of the Finland national side, taking them to their highest FIFA ranking position of 33rd. Hodgson will be hoping that a career that has seen him manage 16 teams across 8 countries will reach its peak this summer in Brazil.

The Worst

Tony Adams

An Arsenal legend, Adams spent 18 months managing in the footballing hotbed of Azerbaijan with club side Gabala, attempting to rebuild his managerial career after forgettable spells in charge of Wycombe and Portsmouth. His time in the ‘Land of Fire’ was hardly a raging success, with Gabala finishing 7th during his only full season in charge. Adams left the role in 2011 citing family reasons.

Peter Reid

The former Everton and Manchester City midfielder, spent four years on the outside looking in at the managerial merry-go-round in English football after 2004, unable to land a position following his sacking by Coventry. A four-year contract as manager of the Thailand national side seemed like Reid’ s route back into football when he took up the offer in 2008, however, he lasted only a year before departing by mutual consent.

Robbie Fowler

It may sound like an Asian house of ill repute, however ‘Muangthong United’ has the honour of being the only club managed by the one Liverpool fans call ‘God’. Fowler ended up in Thailand at the end of his playing career and lead the side as player / coach for 6 months from September 2011 to February 2012. A record of 7 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats from his 15 games in charge gives Fowler a managerial win percentage of 47% – it may be a stat that remains unchanged.

David Sheehan, Pundit Arena.

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