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What English Football Coaches Could Learn From Indian Cricket Coaches

English football, and coaches left behind by the passage of time, could certainly learn a thing or two from Indian cricket. Last week, Sam Allardyce, who managed six Premier League clubs while never finishing higher than seventh, told Andy Gray and Richard Keys – once the faces of Sky’s football coverage, but now working out of Qatar – that “you are almost deemed as second-class because it’s your country.”

Dileep Premachandran | News18 Sports

Updated:November 4, 2017, 3:02 PM IST
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What English Football Coaches Could Learn From Indian Cricket Coaches
A file photo of former England football team's coach Sam Allardyce. (Getty Images)
Xenophobia masquerading as patriotism/nationalism is the last refuge of the truly dim-witted. Indian cricket saw that first hand in the opening decade of this century, when three foreigners were entrusted with coaching the men’s national side. John Wright helped India get to a World Cup final (2003), and inspired a first series win in Pakistan, while Greg Chappell – despite failing in his primary target of winning the 2007 World Cup – presided over a series win in the Caribbean and India’s first Test victory in South Africa.

Gary Kirsten outdid both, winning the 2011 World Cup and leading India to No.1 in the Test rankings. One of the recurring themes during those ten years was the carping in the background from a small clique of ex-India internationals who resented the top coaching job going to those who weren’t sons of the soil.

What was conveniently overlooked was the dismal performance under a succession of Indian coaches in the years leading up to Wright’s appointment. While the rest of the world embraced computer analysis and the latest advances in sports medicine and training methods, India lagged way behind. That attitude was best exemplified by one of the candidates for the job that Chappell eventually got in 2005 pooh-poohing the use of laptops [for analysis].

It was also forgotten that the core group of players was more than happy to work with Johnny Foreigner and improve themselves. Rahul Dravid had previously worked with Wright at Kent in 2000, while Sourav Ganguly was behind Chappell being appointed after practising with him prior to the tour of Australia in 2003-04. As for Kirsten, and Paddy Upton, who assisted him, they were as popular a duo as Tom and Jerry.

By the time Duncan Fletcher’s tenure was coming to an end in 2015, Indian cricket was once again ready to look within. Ravi Shastri had donned the Team Director hat in August 2014, and worked with a group of coaches to get the best results out of a team that had just emerged from an arduous transition period. Anil Kumble succeeded Shastri before making way for him again after a 12-month stint that brought unprecedented success.

Neither Shastri nor Kumble played the son-of-the-soil card. They didn’t need to. Neither is that insecure, and both were confident enough about what they brought to the table to let those qualities speak for them. The results have been eye-catching, and also an inspiration for the next generation of Indian coaches eyeing the top job.

English football, and coaches left behind by the passage of time, could certainly learn a thing or two from Indian cricket. Last week, Sam Allardyce, who managed six Premier League clubs while never finishing higher than seventh, told Andy Gray and Richard Keys – once the faces of Sky’s football coverage, but now working out of Qatar – that “you are almost deemed as second-class because it’s your country.”

He went on to add: “I think it’s a real shame on the fact that we are highly educated, highly talented coaches now with nowhere to go and nothing to achieve in terms of trying to get to that top level.”

The facts are pretty simple. The last Englishman to win the European Cup/Champions League was Joe Fagan, one of Bill Shankly’s ‘Boot Room Boys’, with Liverpool in 1984. The last to win the First Division/Premier League was Howard Wilkinson with Leeds in 1991-92. Of the British managers appointed in the past decade, only Kenny Dalglish won any silverware, and that too only the League Cup (2012).

David Moyes, a Scot, succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Apart from Dalglish, Liverpool have also employed Roy Hodgson (English) and Brendan Rodgers (Northern Irish) this decade. Mark Hughes, a Welshman, was the first to experience the largesse of the Abu Dhabi United Group that took over Manchester City.

Of these names, Moyes and Hodgson took their clubs backward. Hughes finished tenth in his full season in charge. Only Rodgers, who spearheaded a thrilling but ultimately doomed title charge in 2013-14, could be termed a qualified success.

The Premier League hires players from across the globe. It stands to reason that owners would also want the best coaches in charge. Right now, there’s not one British coach worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti or Jupp Heynckes. Inferiority complexes dressed up as national pride aren’t going to change that.
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