Bob Bradley’s appointment at Swansea City this week seems to have ruffled a few feathers amongst the football fraternity.
“How can they choose someone from ’Merica over Ryan Giggs for the job?” they cried. “A ’Merican can’t be more qualified than Giggsy. Bradley doesn’t know the Premier League. Who has he managed? Les Harvey in the French Sunday League? A Starbucks in Norway? I bet he doesn’t even have a hairy chest or anything. Just because he’s coached and managed teams for 35 years means nothing if he has no Premier League experience.”
It isn’t just a game of Football Manager on your laptop you can dip in and out of.
Something along those lines anyway.
Now I’m fully aware that the discussion may have been led down that path for the sake of discourse but it all sounded a bit whiney, a bit Brexit-y to me.
If there was any snobbery in the air, it was in the argument that ‘He’s only getting the job because the new owners are ’Merican’.
Of course, Gary Neville’s chance at Valencia came from his deep-rooted links with the club and country too, didn’t it?
Giggs is a true legend of British football, unrivalled in his achievements, but the idea that he and other British coaches are victims of institutional snobbery and some kind of inverted discrimination really is ignoring what really divides him from an American who is largely unknown to the football fan in the street.
Bob Bradley and his like have done the hard yards, not just by passing the minimum requirement in qualifications but by getting their hands dirty at almost every level.
It’s been argued by some that despite having the experience of being a top level footballer, four and half years to become qualified enough to manage is too long, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last four years it’s that being a footballer isn’t necessarily the best preparation to be a coach.
For every top player that has been a success, there are dozens who have gone into the job ill-prepared and been swallowed up and spat out by the job.
Playing the game gives you great insight and knowledge of the game, but when you’re first stood out on the training pitch with a whistle around your neck, you’re in alien territory.
Only when you start the process of becoming a coach do you realise how little you actually know about how the game works.
The one thing that gets me about players who think they have a right to be fast-tracked into jobs is that it smacks of not wanting to do the hard work that’s required to become proficient.
Being a manager is all encompassing, it consumes your life.
It isn’t just a game of Football Manager on your laptop you can dip in and out of, so if you want to be manager, you have to put the hard work in.
If you need to be enticed into the job by having your path greased for you, then it probably isn’t the vocation for you in the long-term and you’re going to bail at the first hurdle.
Moaning about the time it takes to become qualified are the words of someone who is playing with the job as if it’s just a hobby.
And if it is something you want to do, then there is no reason why you can’t start doing your badges while you are still playing and would recommend players did it at a young age to give themselves a better understanding of the game.
I took my first goalkeeping coaching course in 2004 with the Scottish FA and made sure I had my Level 3 UEFA B Licence when I retired so I at least had the option to go down that route.
The costs can be an issue the further you climb up the pathway, I can’t argue with that, but as a PFA member, any courses taken with them are subsidised so it’s not until you take the next step that the costs jump but even then, that isn’t a hindrance for top players.
If anything, it’s more skewed towards the likes of them in that respect anyway. They are the ones who have the money and, more importantly, the time at the end of their careers to be able to focus on coaching and management if they wish. And that’s the crux of it. Do they really want to become managers?
The four and a half years isn’t just about learning from FA courses either. It’s a chance to gain experience in between your visits to St George’s, so while you’re in the process of acquiring qualifications, you have the time to develop yourself as a coach by taking sessions with young players, and hone your craft.
Let’s not talk of the timespan the education takes, let’s talk about the content of those courses because thats what the real issue is.
We have this impression it’s easy for players in Germany and Spain to become coaches as if they are handed to them on a plate, but it’s about what they are taught. That’s the difference.
Rather tellingly, none of the current Premier League managers began their managerial careers with Premier League clubs and of the 20, only four them began with jobs at top flight clubs outside England.
So why the clamour for Giggs? Why should he have had the Swansea job ahead of Bob Bradley? Because he was a great player? Yeah, but so were Bobby Charlton and Maradona.
Most of the courses I’ve attended have been made up almost exclusively of other pros and I can tell you now, it doesn’t matter how confident or experienced a player might be, I’ve seen some people crumble under the pressure when asked to put on a session for their peers and very few, if any, seemed naturals.
Even those that did were bluffing their way through on confidence. Others don’t even realise coaching is for them until they do it, but what we all appreciated was that a good coach isn’t made overnight.
What we need to go back to is not to ask ‘how’ Bob Bradley was given the job over Ryan Giggs, but we need to ask ‘why’.
We can point the finger at others and say we aren’t given the chance, but if we really want it and dedicate our time to it, we’ll begin to see we can.
How can we bemoan short-termism in the job if we only dedicate a short-term approach to learning? Look how long it has taken Mike Phelan to become his own man.
Pep Guardiola lives and breathes football, as does Eddie Howe, and both seem to be getting out what they put in. Funny that, isn’t it?