Chris Wilder thinks managers should be judged on their knowledge, not their nationality.
But, as the Premier League’s fascination for overseas appointments begins to creep into the Championship, the Sheffield United chief and Sunderland’s Simon Grayson find themselves at the forefront of the campaign to prove English coaches can still mix it with the best.
Despite clearly being uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a poster boy for home-grown talent when the issue was put to him earlier this week, Wilder was happy to laud the achievements of Neil Warnock, Mick McCarthy and Simon Grayson, his counterpart on Wearside, ahead of today’s match at the Stadium of Light.
“I just speak for myself, there’s a lot of people with a lot of football knowledge and experience out there,” Wilder said. “Foreign owners sometimes want their own people, which I understand, but there are some really good managers around.
“Neil has had a fantastic career hasn’t he. Mick has managed a national side. I’m just starting off in this division. Simon has done well, no matter what tools he’s had to work with, wherever he’s gone.”
On Thursday, when Wilder faced the media at Bramall Lane, men born in England were in charge of four of the division’s top six clubs: Cardiff City (Warnock), Ipswich (McCarthy), United and Nottingham Forest (Mark Warburton). Although Sunderland prepared for their meeting with United in 19th place, Wilder is convinced that appointing Grayson, previously of Blackpool, Huddersfield Town, Preston North End and Leeds, will eventually be seen as a masterstroke.
“He’s a good guy, you see him on the circuit and around,” Wilder said. “He’s managed in the Championship for a few years now and is a very respected man in the football industry.”
Jose Mourinho, one of 13 foreign managers in the Premier League,once described coaching as the art of “taking players where they can’t take themselves.” Despite hailing from Yorkshire rather than Setúbal, Wilder believes both he and Grayson share the same outlook.
“You just try and help,” Wilder explained. “You try and help the group and individuals, on the pitch and off it. Whether it’s in the training ground or the analysis room, you try to make people better players. We’ve always tried to do that, whether it’s Mark Duffy in his thirties or David Brooks, who has just come into the team.”
“Organisation, work on the training ground, team spirit and a work ethic are all important,” he added. “Good players are too, of course.
“There were a couple of lads who were plucked out of the reserves when Simon was at Preston last season. Jordan Hugill wasn’t playing a lot of football and now they’re talking about him going for a few million. He’s a good manager and now, going up the road, he’s taken a different type of job but I’d be very surprised if he isn’t a success there.”