Sunday, August 15, 2010

A response to Paul James article "Foreign coaches bring fresh ideas to Canada"

Frank Yallop (On the right) head coach at San Jose Earthquakes.
One of the few Canadian managers at the pro level.

Earlier this week former Canadian International Paul James floated the idea that foreign managers bring a much needed tactical and physical expectation with them to Canada. He pointed out two managers in particular, The Vancouver Whitecaps Teitur Thordarson and Toronto FC's Preki.

James mentioned that the foreign managers bring a higher level of play and teaching styles. They stress on technique and defensive responsibility, and are not afraid to drop Canadian internationals that do not fit the bill so the speak. To quote James "In 2008, Thordarson cut loose Jeff Clarke, Steve Kindell, and Alfredo Valente. Within a few months of signing a contract at TFC, Preki jettisoned Canadian internationals Ali Gerba (now with the Montreal Impact) and Adrian Serioux (now with the Houston Dynamo). His main assertion was that these managers will make the tough decisions on players that cannot match the the level of play required. This in turn will filter down to Canadian youth players who will work to improve their skills to make their first teams.

I agree with James that both coaches have brought a higher level of play to their squads and that they have brought fresh ideas to the Canadian game. However my concern is with the development of Canadian managers and where they fit in. Granted Mr.James's comments are correct in the sense that managers from abroad bring a different level of knowledge and expertise to the Canadian game, but the question that remains is how can this be translated to home grown coaches?

An argument I've read states that when foreign coaches come to Canada they hire Canadian assistants. Through their experiences with the head coach those Canadian assistants learn the craft, and one day will be good enough to be managers. The idea is that things like tactical discipline, technique and skill coaching will be picked up by the assistants and eventually they will be able to lead teams at the professional level. Of course all managers, save a few, started out this way. However in the world of professional football the result is everything. If you as a club owner can win more games with a foreign manager, then you'll spend the extra money in most cases and hire him.

This is where the home grown manager gets squeezed out in most cases. You see it a lot in England's top league, where it is more "attractive" to bring in a foreign manager than take a chance on a "fresh" home grown talent.

It is true that in the early stages of the modern game coaches from England mainly would travel all around the world and spread football knowledge to the masses. In turn, those who were thought became professors of the game themselves. The reason such a scenario would be hard to replicate these days is down to world connectivity. It no longer takes foreign talent weeks to arrive by boat anymore, top talent can travel within hours, and due to the Internet and other media services it is much easier to live abroad. All of which makes home grown management talent an after thought in most professional cases.

Now I'm not asking or advocating for a home manager quota or anything like that, at the end of the day you're either good enough or you're not regardless of nationality. What I'm hoping to see is clubs in Canada taking a proactive stance on developing Canadian coaches. I know the MLS really tries to emphasise this with the U.S based clubs, mainly for the purposes of the U.S national team of course, but the CSA could do the same for TFC, Vancouver and Montreal as they enter MLS play.

It will take awhile before Canada produces the Manitobian Jose Mourinho, but with the growth in the professional game right now we can defiantly get started on that path.

You can find Paul James Original post here:


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