Managerial casualties are hurting country’s evolution
The impractical managerial merry-go-round, coupled with the release of the compelling Class of ‘92, comprehensively illustrates why this country will struggle to eclipse or even replicate the famed generation of Fergie’s Fledglings.
A gluttonous impatience for success conveyed by unyielding majority shareholders at clubs - attributed to the financial pressures of today’s game - has effectively dented football management’s longevity. There’s no room for error, minimal perseverance for structure, and a distasteful unwillingness for development.
That inevitably breeds instability, insecurity and unfamiliarity throughout the backbone of clubs, and the stunted establishment of burgeoning prospects is a manifestation of such behaviour.
Last season saw a record number of switches in management - with an end-of-season report scripted by the League Managers Association (LMA) detailing that in a combination of sackings and resignations across the top four divisions, there were 63 changes. That graveyard of dismissals included 43 sackings - a high since 2007 - coupled with a record 20 resignations.
And the ratio for the current campaign looks set to follow a similar course. After Carlisle United’s Greg Abbott became the first casualty of the 2013/14 term, there has since been 16 managers that have fallen in to unemployment - with the latest victim being former Clarets boss Owen Coyle who parted company with Wigan Athletic after less than six months in charge.
When analysing those statistics, it becomes glaringly understandable why coaches aren’t willing to ‘risk’ their own jobs by utilising the talented youngsters in development squads. There certainly isn’t any incentive to duplicate the blueprints set out by Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
The Class of ‘92, a film documenting the seismic rise of United’s FA Youth Cup winning squad, concentrates mainly on the protagonists - David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville - who became prevalent in the Red Devils’ Premier League and FA Cup double-winning campaign in 1995/96 before contributing to the historic treble success three years later.
“It depends if managers are brave enough to do it like our manager was,” said Chris Casper, who played alongside the aforementioned group at Old Trafford. “There’s a lot of really talented young players out there at the minute but unfortunately they’re not getting picked for the first teams. Our manager in 1995/96 got rid of three really experienced players in Kanchelskis, Ince and Hughes and replaced them with young players.
“A certain commentator, who is mentioned in the film, said “you’ll never win anything with kids”. Well, sometimes you don’t, but at the same time if you’ve got good pros around those players - the likes of Cantona, Keane, Schmeichel, Pallister, Bruce, Cole - you can recreate it. Whether you get the quality of a Giggs or a Scholes or a Beckham in the same cohort of players remains to be seen but it’s about giving them the chance to play. Managers need to be brave enough to throw them in.”
Casper added: “It’s a volatile profession as we’ve seen over the last week with seven managers sacked in as many days. One thing a young player would never do is let you down with his enthusiasm, work-rate, attitude, commitment and work ethic. Our manager was brave enough to play the younger lads, and the manager before who started the legacy, Sir Matt Busby, was the same. That’s what we’re hoping for in the future.
“Managers are under pressure and some times clubs want a quick fix. At the bottom it’s the players and young players that suffer because of these pressures on managers. There needs to be a long term process, and not panic if there isn’t immediate success. Clubs need to stick by their values and trust the people they’re bringing in. That settles everybody down and gives you the opportunity to build.
“Ferguson didn’t win anything for three-and-a-half years. In this day and age would he have survived? You never know. The chairman at the time - Martin Edwards - came out and said that there was no question about him being given the time. But you don’t know. I’m not questioning the man’s integrity but who knows what would’ve happened if he’d have lost the next few games badly. How would it have been perceived. It’s something that needs to be addressed but Manchester United has been a blueprint for decades on developing young players and providing them with an opportunity. Hopefully clubs in the future will start looking at that.”
Casper, son of former Burnley boss Frank, is currently looking to enhance English football’s system for nurturing young talents. Representing the Premier League, the former United defender is overlooking the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) which has the intention of freeing up younger players by establishing a hierarchy of association football academies in England.
“Young players give the whole club a boost,” he said. “They bring a vibrancy. With the new system that’s in place now - the EPPP - a lot of homegrown players are English, there’s more contact time with players and there’s better links with schools which brings more access to players. There’s a better coaching system as well. Hopefully these players will be given the opportunity.
“I’m working with youth development for the Premier League. I’m working with a cluster of clubs - including some in the North West like Manchester United and Liverpool, and the North East like Sunderland and Newcastle - to support them and help them develop the performance plan which is forever evolving.”
Casper, who handed Colin Kazim-Richards his debut while manager of Bury, as well as helping to raise the profile of a young David Nugent, added: “It’s a long term project but we’ve made massive strides. We need to keep addressing the provision of quality of coaching and keep on driving those standards forward. At the end of it there has to be a pathway for these players. The Premier League is putting on an unbelievable games programme along with futsal tournaments and national and international competitions with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, if you see these games all the way through the ages there’s some unbelievably talented young players. Hopefully we’ll see them come through.”