England have announced that former players such as Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer will be fast-tracked into the national team coaching set-up. Harry Pearson assesses  Bryan Robson's reign at Middlesbrough

A friend of mine sits in the North Stand at the Riverside Stadium next to a man whose already dark mood has been exacerbated in recent years by the ban on smoking in the stands. Natural pessimism coupled with nicotine deprivation has turned him into a ner­vous wreck. During one home match he ex­pressed so many doubts and fears about the team’s prospects that a bloke sitting a few rows in front turned round. “Ow, mate,” he bellowed, “will you shut your face, you sound like the fucking Grim Reaper.”

Joe Boyle swallows hard and thinks back to 1993, when Terry Butcher brought his own brand of English traditions to the Sunderland hot seat

Though the recent triumph over Newcastle has created a mood of benevolence among Sunderland supporters, rancour has been a more predominant tone this season. Astonishingly, some people believe Peter Reid has taken the club as far as he can and want him out.

Terry Fenwick claims to have ejoyed his time as manager of Portsmouth. Steve Morgan and thousands of other Pompey fans did not

There is a strange no-man’s land in football, a place reserved for those who inspire a unified raising of the hackles, whether you watch at St James’ Park, Exeter, or Newcastle. In any self-respecting fan’s Room 101, there is surely a corner table set aside for Terry Fen­wick. Fenwick’s appointment at Portsmouth for his first managerial post in February 1995 was symptomatic of the mal­aise that descended on Fratton Park after the club failed to clinch promotion to the top flight by scoring one goal fewer than West Ham in 1992-93. (Thanks to the Hammers’ 2-0 win over Cambridge on the last day which saved Terry Butcher’s Sunderland.)

Sacked Chelsea coach Gianluca Vialli will most likely continue his managerial career in England, not Italy, reports Filippo Ricci

What does the future hold for Gianluca Vialli after his sacking by Chelsea? He didn’t need an official coaching licence to work in Eng­land, though it will be mandatory in the future, but it is already compulsory in Italy and Vialli doesn’t yet have one.

Craig Brown talks to Jonathan Northcroft about his expectations for Euro 2000 and how is job as Scotland manager is affected by changing trends in international football

Which countries do you expect to do well at Euro 2000?
If I had to pick a winner, I’d choose France. My top four fav­ourites are France, the Czech Republic, England and Holland – in that order. People might be surprised I’m putting England that high, but I feel that when Kevin Keegan gets his squad away from club distractions, their performances will improve. There’s so much at stake at English club level these days, it’s bound to have an effect. If you’re a Manchester United player, for example, you naturally concentrate on the Champions League and winning the Premiership during the season. Get the play­ers away at the training camp, where Keegan will be very good, where he can get the mo­tivation bubbling up, and it’ll be different. The French have obvious qualities – they won the World Cup with a great team and none of those players has since gone over the hill. Indeed they’ve strengthened their squad by bringing in quality young players like Johan Micoud. Laurent Blanc’s still in great form, aged 34, and Didier Deschamps still battles in midfield. Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet are great striking options. And Zidane is still the man, for me. They’re the closest the world’s got to a complete team: as well as their skills, they’ve got great athleticism and just look at the size of them. The fact they struggled a little in qualifying was just a natural reaction to coming back to earth after win­ning the World Cup.

As foreign coaches prosper in the Premiership, the reputation of British managers is not what it once was. Justin McCurry profiles Steve Perryman, one of the few currently enjoying success outside this country

Before Steve Perryman arrived as assistant coach to Ossie Ardiles at Shimizu S-Pulse in 1996, the British influence on the J-League had been minimal. Four years on, the former Spurs captain is one of the most popular figures in Japanese football, and his young, entertaining side looks set to mount another challenge for the championship this season.

Jan Molby talks to Huw Richards and tells him about cultural changes in his time in England and the transition from player to manager

As a youngster, how conscious were you of British football?
Very aware of it. In my part of Denmark, the interest was in English and German football – in other parts it’s only in the English game. The Danish game then was still amateur. My first team was Arsenal. It was the year they won the double and while I didn’t know what the double was, you get interested in teams you see a lot on television. That interest in British football is still there in Denmark. There was a period when you had stars like the Laudrup brothers playing in Spain and Italy when they got the similar coverage, but nowadays all the kids want to play for Manches­ter United, who have incredible support in Den­mark, the same way Liverpool do in Nor­­way. I remember when we played Ros­enberg, there were about 10,000 people to greet us at the airport and in a stadium hold­ing 24,000 there were 21,000 supporting Liverpool.

Having been a hero to the Birmingham City fans in the 1970s, John Tandy finds out if he stills holds the same affection as manager in the 1990s

It’s the early eighties. Birmingham City are well into the downward spiral that will shortly see them drop into the Third Division. Trevor Francis is at Sampdoria. The song rings out: “My Trevor lies over the ocean, My Trevor lies over the sea... Oh bring back my Trevor to me...”

Brian Kidd has been sacked as Blackburn Rovers manager, but Ray Chenery is not too sure whether it was all his fault

I started watching Blackburn Rovers in 1958. That makes me one of those old codgers whose knowledge and wisdom earn respect and hushed attention.

Stephanie Pride talks to Howard Wilkinson about the future of youth coaching in England and possible regrets he has from an illustrious career

WSC Do you feel there is still a suspicion in this country of bringing the more technical aspects of coaching into the game?
Howard Wilkinson Yes, there’s a cultural attitude which is, if you like, anti-coaching, or against having an analytical attitude to sport, and it does make life difficult because it colours everyone’s attitude. It’s come out recently when we’ve had foreign players who start to talk about the differences and make negative comparisons with the preparation they’ve been used to. It comes out with foreign coaches coming in – people like Arsène Wenger. The sort of preparation that he employs I don’t think is that much different to the sort of preparation that others would employ, nor would it be fundamentally different to that which I would employ, but because Arsène’s come in and done it, it’s had a positive influence. People say “ah well, it’s come from abroad, it must be good, it’s worked there” – and I think that’s good.

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