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David Moyes was relieved of his duties at Real Sociedad this week,

In a not unexpected move by the Basque club.

Why do the British continue to flop abroad?The general level of agreeableness and lack of animosity over his departure however points at a missed opportunity and most sadly, a lack of application and willingness to adapt from yet another Brit abroad.

On his return to British shores in 1988 after his ill fated year at Juventus, Ian Rush was quoted as saying ‘I couldn’t settle in Italy, it was like living in a foreign country’. Urban myth, embellished story or a painful truth, it is symptomatic of Britain’s footballing exports to a large degree. Given the UK’s previous huge predilection – uninvited by those being imposed upon I would add – for arriving en-mass to all corners of the globe in the past few centuries, it is not without great irony that its’ footballers in particular struggle to go beyond a summer holiday in the Mediterranean.

One of the (intended or otherwise) results of Britain’s colonial past is that vast numbers of the global population speak English. This is both a huge advantage and a hindrance for those hailing from the UK and probably for those in Australia and the USA also. On one hand it means you can travel large parts of the globe and expect to be understood, but on the other it has apparently removed all curiosity in the country’s populace to learn another tongue.

Now the language barrier is not the only reason that British footballers do not thrive abroad but it must surely go a long way to contributing to the many failures or what might-have-beens. Food and weather were often cited as reasons previously although why exactly one would crave for ’80s and ’90s British cuisine or its’ weather from any given century is quite beyond me. Now food stuffs such as pasta, garlic, chilli and the like are no longer to be found in supermarket aisles marked ‘exotic’ and assuming that most sane people have a predilection for milder weather, that leaves us squarely with language and culture.

Now of course, the likes of Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez (the golf courses aside) found themselves less than enamoured with the delights of North West England and Hernan Crespo’s family could not even find a foothold amongst the cornucopia of culture so abundant in London. But it does seem to be a particularly British syndrome to be just so bad at integrating abroad. David Moyes is not the first manager to work abroad and live in a hotel and he is not the first to not learn the language, but the point is that it is just so utterly predictable.

Moyes apparently did make some (even if just a token) effort to learn the language at the outset but quickly gave up. I am no linguist but one would think that should you even commit an hour a day (with the opportunity for more intensive learning during the Summer etc) you could be passable within a year at most languages. Even if you would still require an interpreter, you would demonstrate to the your employers, the players and the fans that you are serious about doing your job well. And of course your skills would continue to improve with time.

In the UK it is expected (quite rightly) that the language of the dressing room should be English, indeed in all countries the mother tongue should be used in all dressing rooms. Remi Garde has just made that very point at Aston Villa. That is not to say that conversations or communication does not happen in other languages, especially when an important message needs to be gotten across but there has to be an acceptance that when in Rome, you speak as the Romans do.

The antipathy towards’ Moyes departure is a damning indictment of what could have been. La Real’s results are generally around the same as when Moyes arrived meaning he has done little wrong or right. Given that the previous manager was removed for those results, it seems logical the same would happen to Moyes.

Whilst there is considerable debate over just how good La Real’s squad actually is – the club hierarchy believe it is good enough to qualify for Europe whilst others including Moyes think otherwise – one can only hypothesise at where they could be headed now had Moyes thrown himself into the job, moved into a house, immersed himself in the language and forged allegiances within the club – the president was his only real ally from day one.

These are intangibles of course and one would query greatly whether they would make their wingers run faster or their strikers hit the target more often. Yet Moyes initially looked a picture of a man who had possibly found a wonderful niche for himself now the weight of Old Trafford and the ghost of Sir Alex had been lifted from him.

And this is of course a large part of the problem. These overseas ‘postings’ are often seen as mere holidays or distractions from the real thing. It is questionable whether Moyes’ heart was ever really in it. One had the same impression when Michael Owen went to Real Madrid. That is not to say that all Brits are of this ilk. The likes of Steve McClaren, Steve McManaman, Paul Lambert (an all too short stay) and currently Gareth Bale have all shown a determination to succeed and to integrate in a foreign environment. Indeed McManaman and Bale have both railed against fierce criticism at the Bernabeu and stayed to fight for their places – much to their credit. Vicente del Bosque just this week spoke in glowing terms of McManaman.

In previous generations, the likes of Kevin Keegan, Joe Jordan, Ray Wilkins, Graeme Souness, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Sir Bobby Robson and John Toshack have all made a decent fist of playing or managing (or both) abroad. They are however exceptions to the general rule. Even David Beckham who is one of Britain’s most successful exports, is generally a footballing tourist. He did not do badly at Madrid but the big prizes escaped him and despite fighting for his place, he was all to ready to sign far too prematurely for LA Galaxy.

His sojourns to AC Milan and PSG showed a player that still offered much but also a player who relied on his character and aura to get him through his various stints. The clubs in many ways adapted to him, and sold a lot of shirts as a result. Few people in any walk of life can command the type of attention or accommodation that Beckham can. Steven Gerrard is by many reports struggling to adapt to the big differences in playing in the USA and that is without the problem of a language barrier.

Many reasons are debated or sought for as to the reasons for British clubs falling flat in Europe and the constant perennial failures of the national teams. There can be little doubt that whilst not necessarily the answer to all evils, more willing exposure to different footballing ideas and cultures, more acceptance of different methods could do little harm. The key word being willing. Granted there are huge amount of foreign players and coaches in the UK but they are the ones forced to adapt and the Premiership in particular remains a very peculiar animal. The adaptation in many ways needs to flow in the other direction. It does not by any means guarantee success, indeed both Paul Lambert and Steve McClaren would say that their time abroad has made a huge impression on them yet they have (so far) been unable to translate it into true success in England. The important thing is however that they tried.

Whilst this video offers a hilarious insight into the mind-set of the Brits and foreign languages, McClaren did an excellent job at FC Twente.

The comments in a radio interview from Patrice Evra this week about the disparity in medical and coaching methods between Juventus and Manchester United should have Premiership alarm bells ringing. Much can be learned from listening to and following others and then blending it with what you already know.

Football is constantly evolving as we can see with far more disposition across Europe again right now for counter attacking eschewing the possession based fashion of the previous decade. The UK is badly lacking from exposure to the latest methods. For Moyes specifically, La Real was a wonderful chance to rebuild his reputation much in the way that Steve McClaren did in Holland. Many forgave Moyes his all too brief stint at United, preferring to remember the bristling fiery coach of Preston and Everton.

Another job in the North-West or possibly a return to Celtic probably lie in wait for him but it is tough to see him broadening his horizons much further at those destinations. Still, at least everyone speaks English there.

Originally published at oneshotfootball.com

Post written by Steven McBain
for One Shot Football, Blog: One Shot Football, Twitter: @O_S_Football

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