England's finest eye management
Football's 'golden generation' are ready to go from star players to driven coaches
THE acrimonious departure of Mark Hughes from Manchester City has left just 13 British-born -- and only eight English -- managers in the Premier League, but it seems there will be no shortage of candidates from the next generation aiming to redress the balance.
Several leading English players have begun studying for their FA coaching badges and Frank Lampard is convinced that at least one member of the so-called 'golden generation' will go on to become a world-class manager.
Lampard's logic is compelling. In an example of the type of creative thinking that should serve him well in the dugout, the Chelsea midfield player argues convincingly that many of his England team-mates have already served the best apprenticeship by working under some of the top managers around, particularly as they have been subject to a variety of influences from all over the world.
The 31-year-old accepts it is not as straightforward as that, and makes no claims that he will achieve success himself, but is already working hard to that end by taking on the added responsibility of coaching Chelsea's youngsters.
"This generation is very fortunate," he said. "We've worked with some of the best managers in the world so hopefully one of us will go on to the top level. Who knows who it will be? Some people will say John Terry because of his leadership, Steven Gerrard because he's an inspiration or Frank Lampard because of what he's done in the game, but it might be someone else. It might be a player who's not such a big star, but has just been in and around these managers.
"When you've played for a long time at the top level and taken in a lot from all the top managers we've been lucky enough to work with, you do get a head start over the average coach who's not had the benefit of that. Previous generations worked mainly with British managers, who had certain fixed ideas whereas we've been exposed to managers and ideas from all over the world."
Chelsea's players may have felt exposed to rather too many new ideas at various points, though the uncertainty caused by having five managers in three years has brought some unexpected advantages. If pushed, Lampard will nominate Jose Mourinho as the best manager he has worked with, not least because the Portuguese took charge during a pivotal period in his career, but he has learnt different things from all of them, including the much-maligned Avram Grant.
A composite of Chelsea's recent managers, featuring Mourinho's man-management and organisation, Guus Hiddink's tactical acumen and Carlo Ancelotti's sense of calm would be a formidable opponent indeed.
Terry is even more open about his ambitions than his Chelsea team-mate, whom he talks to regularly on the subject. The England captain has begun making his own preparations, though has yet to begin formal study, unlike Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who are taking their UEFA A Licence.
"I want to go into management after I've finished playing, even though it's a lot of pressure," Terry said. "I would love to be Chelsea manager, and that's the natural progression.
"I have played under some great managers and have kept notes of training sessions. Even when managers do things I don't agree with, I note it down so I remember not to do that. It sounds silly now, but hopefully it will be helpful. When Mourinho was at Chelsea I used to get training sessions off him, and Hiddink as well."
Neville is not convinced he wants to be a manager despite having already completed a UEFA B Licence. "Have I got the will like I had when I was 16, starting as a youth player, working my way up?" he asked in a London Times interview earlier this year, but Jamie Carragher has no such doubts. The Liverpool defender is planning to attend a residential A Licence course next summer, making good use of the free time brought about by his international retirement.
"I always look at managers, what they do and what I'd do differently," Carragher said. "I've always done that since I was a kid. If I stayed in the game, I'd have to be a manager. I like the thought of making decisions."
Lampard has called on the FA to help the present generation of players to make it as managers, and will be delighted to learn that such schemes already exist. The FA has worked hard in conjunction with the Professional Footballers' Association and League Managers Association to speed up the process, to such an extent that players can obtain all the qualifications they need -- from B, A to the UEFA Pro Licence -- in four years.
The opportunity is there, though it remains to be seen how many players will seize it.