By Matt Bruce
You have to feel sorry for Neil Warnock.
Not because his recent dismissal from QPR was unfair – a run of nine games without a win is justification enough at any club, let alone one that has invested so heavily to earn its place in the top flight – but because Warnock, like many other English managers, has once again failed in his ambition to establish himself as a Premier League manager.
After dropping once again out of the Premier League, Warnock must now start afresh in a lower division, with recent reports suggesting that he may be looking to Leeds United as the vehicle to take him back to the top. Wherever he eventually finds himself, Warnock is unlikely to find a club that will provide him with the same level of backing he had at QPR last season, leaving him with the not inconsiderable task of achieving promotion on a budget.
Neil Warnock has always been a divisive figure, but the fact that one of the most recognisable and controversial managers in English football has once again failed in the Premier League is symptomatic of a wider problem facing the game in this country. There are not enough English managers at the top level.
With the departure of Neil Warnock and his replacement by Welshman Mark Hughes, there are now just three English managers in the top flight. Part of the league’s long-standing appeal has been its international flavour, reflected by the plethora of different nationalities at managerial level, with no fewer than ten nationalities represented in the dugout.
With many millions of pounds and a lucrative place in the Premier League or even Champions League at stake, Premier League chairmen understandably take few chances when appointing a new manager. Often they will look to managers who have already won trophies in their career, which usually means looking abroad. Countries such as Scotland and Portugal have become training grounds for future Premier League managers, with successful managers often making the step up to a top job in England. The problem is that top clubs are no longer in a position to take a chance on upcoming English managers, who often find something of a glass ceiling at Championship level. The difficulties faced by the FA in their quest to find an English manager with relevant experience to manage the national team exemplifies this.
So with the Premier League losing another English manager and Warnock again embarking on the Sisyphean task of earning his place back in the top flight, it seems unlikely that this situation is going to change any time soon. Ultimately, what is needed if talented English managers are to get their opportunity is for one of the big clubs to bite the bullet and take a chance on one of them.