Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Who Wants to Be ... as Two New Boys Enter the Premier League, Hunter Davies Asks What Makes a Manager

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Who Wants to Be ... as Two New Boys Enter the Premier League, Hunter Davies Asks What Makes a Manager

Article excerpt

Now that Birmingham City and Sunderland are up, it means that next season we'll have four managers in the Premiership who once played for Man United--Steve Bruce and Roy Keane joining Steve Coppell of Reading and Mark Hughes of Blackburn. Interesting, huh. But what does it signify?

So I looked at the present Man U stars and immediately thought Gary Neville. Not quite officer class, despite his new and rather lovely rural mansion, but he's definitely one of nature's NCOs, so you'd have to tip him to be a manager. Paul Scholes? I suspect he's one of those footballers who doesn't actually much care for football, as a subject, as an obsession. Once finished, he'll turn his back on the game.

Sparky Hughes sat silent in the dressing room and was never considered manager material, but to everyone's surprise, including Fergie's, he's turned out excellent, doing it his way, without shouting and screaming. Steve Coppell was obviously an intelligent player, but he seemed self-effacing, hesitant, bit of a mumbler. Which he still is.

None of the managers of this season's top four played for Man United, nor even played in England. Fergie had a reasonably decent career in Scotland, but with smallish clubs, apart from a brief period with Rangers. Being Scottish, I've always kept an eye on Scottish football, but when Fergie suddenly appeared as a brilliant manager at Aberdeen, I had no memory of him as a player. The other three--Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Arsene Wenger--were completely unknown over here as players, mainly because they had rubbish careers. Which proves whatever it proves.

Looking at the rest of the Premiership managers, Stuart Pearce had an excellent England career, but it remains to be seen if he'll do as well as a manager. …

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