DEN HAAG, NETHERLANDS - JANUARY 2: coach Alan Pardew of ADO Den Haag during the Presentation of ... [+] Alan Pardew at the Cars Jeans Stadium on Ja
Alan Pardew has been in plenty of Premier League relegation scraps, but when he takes his place in the dugout this weekend it’ll be a rather new experience for him. It’s his first match in charge of ADO Den Haag, currently languishing second from bottom in the Eredivisie. And his first game couldn’t be much bigger; Den Haag take on the bottom-placed RKC Waalwijk in a relegation six-pointer.
It’ll be his first match in charge of a club since a two-one defeat to Burnley led to the end of his spell at West Bromwich Albion back in March 2018. After Pardew was sacked from that job, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright suggested he would never manage in the top two tiers of English soccer again. Pardew’s record of one win from 18 league games with West Brom makes it tough to argue with Wright’s analysis.
Pardew says he has had a few calls since West Brom, but decided the Den Haag job was “worth following up because it is a top division in Europe and there aren’t many English coaches working in mainland Europe in the top divisions.”
Should he manage to turn Den Haag’s season around, it could turn his career around too. Pardew already has two FA Cup runners-up medals and a Premier League Manager of the Season award on his CV, but succeeding in a different environment could help persuade club owners that he isn’t the ‘dinosaur’ that some make him out to be. Many of his contemporaries like Sam Allardyce have been finding it more difficult to get top jobs recently as a new generation of coaches is coming through, and it’s clear that Pardew needs to do something to reinvent himself after the debacle of his tenure at the Hawthorns. The Eredivisie could be the fresh start he needs.
British managers aren’t really known for working abroad. One-time Real Sociedad manager David Moyes says “We’re very good at importing the best coaches from other countries, but we can’t seem to get any British managers into the best leagues in Europe.”
Despite this, four of the seven British managers in the Premier League who got hired by Premier League clubs (rather than leading Championship clubs to promotion) have managerial experience outside of the UK. Moyes at Sociedad is one, Roy Hodgson has managed almost everywhere in Europe from Malmo to Milan, Nigel Pearson was over in Belgium with OH Leuven, and Graham Potter famously took Swedish side Ostersunds FK to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Nigel Pearson’s situation is probably the most similar to Pardew’s. Pearson said he “always had aspirations to work abroad at some point,” and that he “wanted something different after his previous job.” Those who don’t know much about him often label him ‘old-school’ but his spell in Belgium might have helped change those perceptions a bit. His incredible feat of keeping Leicester City in the Premier League in 2015 was probably the decisive factor in Pearson getting the Watford job, but it is telling that he’s the first English manager to coach Watford for more than two games since Sean Dyche in 2012.
For Roy Hodgson and Graham Potter, going to Scandinavia and succeeding there made their managerial careers. Many coaches at the start of their career in England must look at Graham Potter’s success and be inspired. But it took a run in the Europa League for clubs in England to take notice, and even when he joined second-tier Swansea City, fans there were initially skeptical, as were many Brighton fans when he made the step up to the Premier League. Despite all his achievements taking Ostersunds from the Swedish fourth tier to the Europa League, it took beating Arsenal for Potter to get a job offer in England.
Matt Ward, who runs British Football Coaches Network, told me that “unless a coach already had a role with a club in the UK before moving abroad, it’s mostly unlikely they will be competitive for similar quality of roles in the UK”, highlighting the struggles of coaches like Stephen Constantine who has struggled to get interviews for lower tier British clubs despite managing several national teams including India. Soccer coach Jack Brazil, whose globetrotting CV includes a Cayman Islands FA Cup triumph, backs this up by saying he feels “some clubs believe that football overseas is ‘different’ and coaches working overseas won’t understand how English football works.” Matt Ward also said that while the experience of managing abroad is great, when it comes to getting hired, win percentage and the level that you are coaching at are the decisive factors.
But what happens at the top of the game often filters down to the lower tiers eventually, and should more top managers try their hand abroad like Pardew and Pearson, and should Graham Potter continue finding success at Brighton, perhaps other clubs will start giving a bit more weight to experience earned by British managers outside of the UK.
As for whether the move to the Netherlands is the right one for Alan Pardew, David Moyes said he learned a lot about soccer from his spell in Spain, and he learned a lot about himself too, adding that its an experience more managers need to have.