Football is a fickle sport, views and opinions chop and change like the wind, managers are sacked at the drop of a hat, referees are turned on in a split second, players are heroes one minute and zeros the next. Football is not only a game of unsettled opinion; it has become a fast moving technological industry where everything changes from the rules of the game to the technology used on a football pitch. Not much in football has withstood the test of time and there are very few things in football that are tried and tested.
One thing that is however, is the Scottish manager and next season we will see an unprecedented amount of Scot’s at the helm of Premier League sides. After guiding Norwich back to the Premier League, Paul Lambert will become the 7th Scot managing in the top flight of English football.
But this isn’t a new phenomenon. We have all bared witness to the success of Ferguson at United since the start of the Premiership, but things go a bit further back than that. If we go back to before 1900 we will see that the Scot’s involvement in the game has been as important as any other nationality to the development of football in Britain.
In some ways the Scottish revolutionised the game in the early days, educating their English colleagues on tactics and playing styles by trying to promote pass and move football, rather than hoof and hack. They also seemed to understand the dynamics of football from the start, thinking about tactics more so than their English counterparts did.
The proof of this was in the early meetings of these two great nation’s pre-1900. Scotland came off a lot better winning around 70% of the meetings. It is said that the English were so impressed with the tactics and play of the Scot’s, when things went professional south of the border, English clubs started to recruit Scot’s in their droves as both players and managers. And if you know your history, you will know that some of the greatest successes in football in England have come under teams managed by Scot’s.
Sir Matt Busby is arguably the best manager to ever take the helm at Manchester United. He revolutionised football management by taking on everything on the football side of the club. This was unusual in those days and he actually rejected the chance of coaching Liverpool because they would not let him have total control. He pioneered the modern day managers role as we know it.
He took Manchester United from a team in the bottom half of division one and built the foundation for one of today’s most successful and popular football clubs. His successes and achievements were unbelievable. He challenged old ideals when he put together ‘The Busby Babes’ side and put his faith in youth. He was so good he rebuilt Manchester United twice, the Munich Air Disaster took many lives in his young team and nearly killed him, but he had the strength and skill to do it all again.
Liverpool may have missed out on Sir Matt, but they got their Scotsman in the shape of Bill Shankly. Liverpool were second division strugglers when Shankly took over. He was given free reign to do what he wanted with the club. He introduced fitness regimes, diet plans, structured training that shifted the emphasis from physical work to skill and creativity. He instilled a pack mentality in his side, they all looked out for each other and covered each other’s back – an ideology he bought with him from his mining background in Glenbuck. He transformed Liverpool, creating a team spirit that guided them to league championships and their first European silverware in 1973 when they lifted the UEFA Cup.
Alex Ferguson has been the only manager to even come close to rivalling the achievements of Busby or Shankly. Ferguson was mentored throughout his career by the great Jock Stein who was the most successful manager north of the border with his achievements at Celtic. We all know what Ferguson has done with Manchester United and his record will only get better when United win the title this season.
Next season there could be up to 8 Scottish managers in the Premier League, depending on sackings, relegations and promotions of course. This season there were 6 Scottish managers, 6 overseas managers, 5 English managers, 2 Welsh gaffers and 1 manager in control of Premier League sides. If we take the top 10 sides in the Premier League as of today, 4 are managed by Scots with only 1 team being managed by an English manager in Harry Redknapp (who has a Scottish assistant in Joe Jordan).
Why the Scot’s make such great managers is a subject that is hard to quantify. Some say it is their passion and pride, which all started in mining town communities where football was near religion. Others say that it is because of their understanding of the game and how it should be played. Some speculate it is the fear they instil in a dressing room. Whatever the reason, Scottish managers have had the biggest achievements in English football so far, so if you want your team to reign supreme, it is the Scot’s that can help fulfil those dreams.