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Experience matters in management stakes

Simon Austin | 09:34 UK time, Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Maybe it's only a coincidence that three of the four men battling to save their sides from the Premier League trapdoor this weekend are all first-time managers.

Yet one of the messages of the season is that experience matters. The leading contenders for manager of the year will mainly be seasoned, battle-hardened campaigners.

Aside from obvious choice Sir Alex Ferguson - whose myriad achievements I don't need to list here - I'm thinking of the likes of Roy Hodgson, David Moyes and Tony Pulis.

Each has exceeded what could reasonably have been expected of them at the start of the season.

Alan Shearer looks forlorn after Newcastle's defeat against PortsmouthTake Fulham's Hodgson, the Phileas Fogg of English bosses. The 61-year-old has worked at 16 clubs in seven different countries during a management career spanning 33 years.

All that experience and know-how has been used to guide the Cottagers to the brink of European qualification, when many had tipped them to be battling relegation.

In contrast, the bosses who have struggled have tended to be inexperienced. Paul Ince, a manager for only two seasons before he landed the Blackburn job, was the first Premier League boss to get the boot.

Rovers then turned to the hugely experienced Sam Allardyce as a replacement and he has steered them to safety. Tony Adams, whose only previous experience as a boss was a short and inglorious spell at Wycombe, was fired by Portsmouth in February.

Veteran Paul Hart took over and eased Pompey to safety. Instead, it is Newcastle manager Alan Shearer, Boro boss Gareth Southgate and Sunderland's Ricky Sbragia who will be battling to save their sides on Sunday.

Gianfranco Zola, who has done a sterling job at West Ham in his first stint in management, is a notable exception. But Andy Roxburgh, Uefa's highly respected technical director, says experience is a big asset.Roy Hodgson should be a contender for manager of the season

"Fabio Capello summed it up best when he said football was the only profession where you could go from the shop floor to chief executive's office in one day," Roxburgh told me.

"Countries like Italy and Spain regard management as a profession, which has not traditionally been the case in the UK.

"You wouldn't throw a talented youngster straight into a huge game and the same principle applies for coaches."

The situation in the Netherlands, where "all top club managers have been assistants", is very different, says Roxburgh. Dennis Bergkamp, arguably the greatest foreign player to grace the Premier League, coaches Ajax's strikers, while Frank de Boer, who won 112 caps for Holland, is in charge of the Amsterdam club's academy.

The former Scotland boss accepts there are sometimes compelling reasons for appointing an untried man - if he has been a legendary player at that club, for example. If that is the case, it is crucial he is as well prepared as possible, which perhaps was not the case with Shearer, who is yet to start his Uefa Pro Licence, a mandatory qualification for full-time Premier League managers.

Ince was given special dispensation to take the job at Blackburn despite not having the licence, while Southgate, who took over at Boro in 2006, is due to finish the course in June.

Shearer, Southgate, Ince and Adams were undoubtedly magnificent international players, but research shows that top players don't enjoy greater success as managers.

Research commissioned by the League Manager's Association found that managers who were former internationals had a win percentage of 35.2%. The figure was 34.5% for those who had played in the Premier League, 34.7% for ex-Football League players and 34.1% for those who had not even played professionally.

Roxburgh adds: "Gianluca Vialli went straight from playing for Chelsea to managing them.

"After he left his next managerial job, at Watford, he returned to Italy to get his coaching qualifications. That is clearly the wrong way round and Gianluca has told me that he wishes he had been trained before getting those jobs in England."

Roxburgh believes the perfect combination for a manager is "talent, experience and preparation".

Getting the right formula is crucial, when you consider how little time managers are given to succeed.

The four managers who have been sacked this season - Ince, Adams, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Juande Ramos - were in their jobs for an average of only 0.59 years, according to Sue Bridgewater, an associate professor at Warwick Business School.Andy Roxburgh talks to Sir Alex Ferguson before last year's Champions League final

The average for sacked managers in the Premier League and Football League combined was 1.47 years, down from 1.56 last season. Many of these men will not get another chance, as 49% of first-time bosses don't get another managerial job.

The LMA is putting on coaching clinics, emphasising the importance of qualifications and using managers like Hodgson to advise the next generation.

Do you think Premier League chairmen should look to experienced campaigners like Hodgson and Pulis when they make their appointments in the future, rather than former star players such as Shearer and Southgate?


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