Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Foreign managers lead English teams

AP , LONDON

The English may have invented soccer. Coaching it is another matter.

England, Spain and Italy have the world's best leagues. Yet, in the two Mediterranean countries, top players are mostly homegrown, along with a smattering of Latin Americans with roots in Europe. Coaches follow the same pattern.

In England, a homegrown manager hasn't won the top league since 1992. A country that used to produce famous coaches now looks to foreign imports.

A Frenchman, Arsene Wenger, has coached Arsenal since 1996. He won his third league title this season and his top stars are French: striker Thierry Henry, forward Robert Pires and midfielder Patrick Vieira. The goalkeeper is German, Jens Lehmann, and Dutch veteran Dennis Bergkamp is one of the league's most stylish players.

Wenger is known as the "professor" for his erudite ways. When he joined Arsenal from Japanese club Grampus Eight, he compared his move to "Japan turning to France for a Sumo manager."

A Scot, Alex Ferguson, coaches Manchester United, whose best player is Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Even England's national team is coached by a foreigner, Sweden's Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"We've got nothing against talented foreign coaches coming into England," said Frank Clark, vice chairman of the English Managers Association. "It's the mantra that says `foreign good, England bad' that we are fighting against."

"I come from just south of Hadrian's Wall, so I class a Scotsmen as a foreigner."

When Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich fired Italian coach Claudio Ranieri this week, his replacement Wednesday was 41-year-old Portuguese Jose Mourinho. He'll become soccer's highest paid manager at ?5 million (US$9 million).

An Englishman was never in the running.

The last Englishman to win England's top-flight title was Howard Wilkinson at Leeds 12 years ago.

Today, the only Englishman coaching one of the Premier League's top five clubs is Newcastle's 71-year-old Bobby Robson. And he learned much of his soccer in Spain and Portugal. It was Robson who first spotted Mourinho and hired him a decade ago as his interpreter at Sporting Lisbon. When Robson moved to FC Porto and FC Barcelona, Mourinho moved with him.

"He's done very well for himself, and I'm thrilled for him," Robson said.

London club Tottenham named former Danish player Frank Arnesen last month as its sports director, and Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni is mentioned as the top coaching prospect. The main British name is Martin O'Neill, a Northern Irishman who manages Scotland's Celtic.

Liverpool last month dismissed its longtime coach, Frenchman Gerard Houllier. The front-runner to take over the team is Spaniard Rafa Benitez.

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