No longer will ageing players be able instantly to become Premiership managers: soon you will need proper FA and UEFA qualifications, as Ryan Lovejoy reports

During his time as the Football Association’s Technical Director, Howard Wilkinson pushed through proposals which will soon bring England into line with the rest of Europe. By 2003-04, each Premiership manager must hold an FA Coaching Diploma or a UEFA Professional Licence. In 2010-11, the Pro Licence, UEFA’s most-esteemed qualification, which takes 240 hours to complete, will be a requirement.

The FA have, to a point, been bullied into this by UEFA’s decree that no club will be allowed to enter European competition with an under-qualified coach next season.

Managers with at least ten years’ experience will be allowed to carry on regardless, so Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson et al will not have to go back to school. But as it stands, only 13 Britons hold the Pro Licence, because there has been just one recruitment drive so far. Eight current Premiership managers will have to attend a five-day course at Warwick University this summer to obtain their diplomas – Micky Adams, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce, Chris Coleman, Dave Jones, Steve McClaren, David O’Leary and Gordon Strachan. Eight managers will qualify through experience, but only four – Gérard Houllier, Arsène Wenger, Claudio Ranieri and David Moyes – hold the Pro Licence. That means that German giants Bayern Munich, with seven, have more Pro Licence coaches than the entire collection of Premiership managers. The Pro Licence has been running in Germany since 1976.

Steve Cotterill, Wilkinson’s assistant during his ill-fated reign at Sunderland, possesses the Pro Licence and is an advocate of mandatory qualifications. “You can’t fail to learn from the calibre of some of the guest speakers we had, such as Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello and Bobby Robson. The more qualified coaches and managers there are in this country, the better.”

He stresses that you have to do more than just turn up. “It’s time-consuming, you notice that especially if you are in a job, and it’s hard work. The qualifications don’t just get handed out like toffee apples, you have to work for them.”

The FA wants to breed coaches who will be as attractive to top foreign clubs as Wenger and co were to their English employers. The last time high-profile British managers were in demand abroad was in Spain in the 1980s, when Terry Venables worked at Barcelona, followed by John Toshack and Howard Kendall at Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively. Ron Atkinson, too, had a spell at Atlético Madrid, where management was far more coaching-based than he had been used to: “In England you look after everything right down to the youth team, and you have to do scouting all week. In Spain I just coached the first team and the rest of the day was my own. The youth and reserve teams were virtually separate clubs.”

He is unsure about the need for badges. “I don’t think there’s any harm, but we shouldn’t go down the road of treating qualifications as the be-all and end-all. If you had gone on that premise, world-famous managers of the past such as Bill Shankly would never have got jobs.”

Atkinson began his managerial career at Kettering, and Shankly started out at Carlisle in a time when you were expected to cut your teeth at a lower level. These days many clubs would rather appoint a high-profile ex-player than take a chance on a gifted young hopeful. Sean O’Driscoll is a lower division manager who has done it the hard way, at Bournemouth. Having racked up the club’s record number of appearances, he had stints as coach driver, physio, community officer and coach before becoming manager in 2000.

He holds the UEFA ‘A’ Licence, just one down from the Pro Licence: “It’s changing from the times when it depended on who you knew, and that can only be a good thing. Before there was an old boys’ network and you had to try to hit lucky.”

He adds: “It’s like doing a degree, which can take you on to a job which has nothing to do with the degree itself. But what it shows is a commitment to learning and an ability to study. They are trying to raise standards and that will be a benefit to everybody.”

One way of bridging the gap between bootroom and boardroom is to take the Certificate in Applied Management, also at Warwick University. The first intake spent a week knuckling down last summer with the aim of graduating in June 2003. Participants included Welsh national manager Mark Hughes, Manchester United coach Brian McClair and former Sheffield United manager Nigel Spackman. In all, they will have to spend 15 days in the classroom, undertake web-based projects and write five lengthy assignments.

Andrew Hardwick is academic director of the course, which is unique in European football. He is keen to impress that business principles can be put to use in football. “On the continent the manager is more of a coach, but, particularly at a small club, in this country the manager is lots of things. He has got a lot of input into marketing and the buying and selling of players. The coaches on the course recognise the importance of coming to a top business school, so they are very committed. Until now, there were plenty of coaching licences to work for, but there was nothing that got to the heart of management.”

Hardwick hopes that the course, backed by the FA, the Premier League, the Football League, the PFA and the League Managers’ Association, will soon become a requirement. “After they agreed to make the UEFA Pro Licence mandatory, we are hoping that they will see this programme as important. The quality of the people coming from the course should speak for it.”

The class of 2002 included O’Driscoll. “The course at Warwick gives you tried and trusted business methods and skills that you can take into the football world, an industry that is probably unique. Whether or not they work is trial and error. Sometimes they will work at one club but not at another.”

Joe Roach, who works with O’Dris­coll as the Cherries’ Youth Development Officer, is one of fewer than 100 people who hold the FA Coach Educators’ Diploma, and he believes that the money involved in the game should engender a more sensible attitude to managerial appointments. “It must be the only business in the world where someone can have a multi-million pound job, and be seen to be doing it wrongly, then leave it and walk straight into another one in the same industry.”

As a player he failed to win a contract at Liverpool because of his diminutive stature, and went on to play in Hong Kong and in the British Army, all the while developing his coaching reputation. “When I was in Hong Kong, Bobby Moore was over there as a coach, and he didn’t make it. People have contacted me to say that they have been elevated to coaching positions, but they might be an attacking player so they ask me to come and do sessions on defending because they haven’t got a clue.”

Roach thinks that some coaches could benefit from working their way up patiently. “People want to get to the top of the ladder, but there are lots of rungs on it, and each rung has an important part to play. If you haven’t been in the business, you need to learn the trade. If you are a mechanic working with a Lada, you need to be better equipped to suddenly start working with a Rolls Royce.”

It is hard to escape the feeling that we have been living in the dark ages compared to the rest of Europe, with top players thinking they can just waltz into any management job. This new regulation should improve coaching throughout English football and as such it’s a positive move, long overdue.

From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month

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