Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager, has responded to suggestions that he should replace Arsène Wenger at Arsenal by saying that it is “highly unlikely”.
And he’s right. When Wenger arrived at Arsenal he had been in management for 12 years and in coaching for 14. Despite being greeted as “Arsène Who?” by the Evening Standard, he came to Highbury having won the league at Monaco, reached the final of the Champions League and with three domestic cups from the French and Japanese leagues.
Dyche, in contrast, has been coaching for a decade, only six years of which have been spent managing clubs. At Watford, he took the club to 11th in the Championship. Its new owners judged that he wasn’t the man to take them on – looking at Watford now it is hard to argue that they erred in that decision. At Burnley, he has got them promoted twice and relegated once. Though they are not out of the relegation battle this year they will almost certainly stay up. He has no experience of either playing or coaching in European competition.
It would, indeed, be “highly unlikely” for Arsenal to replace Wenger with Dyche, not least because since 1996, as a result of Wenger’s astute long-term decisions and the flow of money into the sport, Arsenal have been transformed into a global super-club.
But that’s not why Sean Dyche thinks that it’s “highly unlikely” that he will be sitting in the home dugout at the Emirates any time soon. This is why: “I just don’t think English managers have still got the kudos of some of their foreign counterparts. That’s not a big deal, that’s the nature of what it is at the moment.” And it’s not just Arsenal. It is unlikely, Dyche believes, that English managers will be getting “massive” jobs in the Premier League anytime soon, as they have fallen out of fashion thanks to the passion of all things foreign.
Is he right? Well, at Liverpool, a club with a more-garlanded history than Arsenal though their recent past has been less impressive, of the five men to manage the club in the last decade, three have been from the British Isles and one, Roy Hodgson, is English. (It is just about possible that the average Premier League club finds a Northern Irish or Scottish manager exciting and exotic but it doesn’t seem all that likely.)
Hodgson’s tenure at Liverpool was an unexpected failure but his career beforehand again, suggests why it is “highly unlikely” that Dyche will be Arsenal’s next head coach: 34 years in management, including stints at Internazionale, one of Italy’s most sucessful clubs, league titles in four countries and a Europa League final appearance while at Fulham. Frankly, that isn’t a CV that Dyche can claim to match.
Nor can he fairly claim to be at the level of Liverpool’s current coach, Jurgen Klopp, in management for 14 years, took Mainz into both the top flight of German football and the Europa League for the first time in their history. He then won the league and the cup at Borussia Dortmund.
At Manchester United, still by any reckoning England’s biggest club, since Alex Ferguson stepped down they have been managed by, in order: a Scot, a Dutchman and a Portuguese manager. The only one of that trio not to win a European trophy was David Moyes, a Scotsman.
It’s worth taking a look at the last two English managers to be considered for “massive” jobs: Bobby Robson, who gave Jose Mourinho his start in football, and Terry Venables, the last Englishman to coach the national team with anything resembling nous and verve.
Robson managed for 14 years before taking charge of the national team, and thereafter his career took him around the world: managing PSV, Barcelona and Porto. Venables’ pre-England career saw him manage clubs in the continent. They could call on players, too, who plyed their wares outside of the domestic leagues.
Dyche’s remarks are part of the cultural drift in politics and society where our own failures are blamed on immigrants, who come here, steal our jobs and bamboozle our players so they are unable to pass a ball, meet a cross or defend a set-piece. Instead of blaming Premier League owners for their passion for foreign mangers, Dyche should look at the foreign experience of great England managers past – and ask himself why he believes that a stint at two small English clubs should put him the running for one of the great clubs of English football.