Liverpool v Manchester United: Why Scottish Bosses Are The Best In The World

From Shankly to Fergie and Busby to Dalglish, Scottish managers are by some distance the head and shoulders above the rest. But why? Is it something in the whisky? Do they know more about the game or is it simply because everyone is scared of them?
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Liverpool v Manchester United: 5 Reasons McManagers Are The Best In The World

It’s The Scotch Talking

Along with top-level football managers, we Scots also punch above our weight in other vocations too, namely street drinking and answering phones in call-centres. Regular surveys of call-centre customers consistently show the Scottish accent to be the most consumer friendly for that particular type of frustrating phone-based hell.  It seems that the dulcet Scottish vernacular somehow soothes your irate Anglo-Saxon ears and instils a false sense of confidence in the service being provided. This unconscious mind trick transfers into football parlance too. Just lost 5-0 at home to your relegation-threatened local rivals? Feel like lynching someone for it? On comes your terse, pragmatic and dead-eyed Scottish manager looking slightly apologetic as he faces the media. One look in his eyes reveals a barely concealed loch-full of incandescent rage and psychotic fury whilst he delivers an articulate, brutally honest and vaguely threatening review of his teams performance and how he’s going to fix it. By the end of the interview you feel strangely reassured, a bit empty and also slightly sorry for the players who will face his unbridled wrath in the dressing room and the training sessions ahead.

Education of a Nation

In Scotland, education and learning is a birth right and has always been seen that way. Throughout the history of our nation the desire to learn, teach others, innovate and invent has always been to the fore. The various ‘seats-of-learning’ in St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh, coupled with the long line of inventors, engineers, academics, authors, politicians and scientists that history has produced from North of the Border stands testament to that mind-set. Historically we may have been an oppressed nation but we were a learned nation too. Even throughout the rough working class communities that birthed the likes of Ferguson, Dalglish, Shankly and Busby, education was not seen an aspirational choice but as a human right. This desire to learn, to innovate, to pass on knowledge and inspire through progressive thinking is ingrained in the managerial styles of many of Scottish manager and coach. Coupled with strong discipline it is a successful formula that appears as successful as it is popular.

Cultural Stereotype? Moi?

Let’s be honest. Scottish managers are fashionable. Just like having an obligatory Scandinavian goalkeeper, a Cockney striker in the Sixties or an Englishmen playing for Ireland in various World Cups. It started with the need to have an uncompromising Scottish defender/midfield terrier in English teams of the Seventies and Eighties, then it became popular to have Scottish media pundits in the Nineties and soon after it became all about the coaches and managers. We see the legacy of those trends all the time now, with the likes of Hansen, Burley and Gray as totems of the football media whilst Sir Alex, King Kenny et al dominate the dug-outs. Put it this way, it makes the owner of a football club more likely to give the reigns to a Scottish manager, regardless of their record, a prime example of this being, the soon to be sacked, Steve Kean at Blackburn. His accent and the precedent set by other clubs shone brighter than his CV at the time of appointment. His Scottishness seemingly helped tick the box for the stereotype of what a manager should be. Don’t believe me? Then tell me there aren’t depressingly bad football dramas, hideously unfunny comedy sketches and doomed film scripts being ‘developed’ right now that don’t feature an awful stereotypical Scottish football manager character? See what I mean?

When you find yourself in a situation of conflict or where assertiveness is required then it’s time to ‘ramp up the Scottishness’ or ‘release the inner Begbie’

McFear Factor

There’s an unwritten rule amongst Scots which applies only when outside of the Motherland or particularly on trips to London. It goes like this. When you find yourself in a situation of conflict or where assertiveness is required then it’s time to ‘ramp up the Scottishness’ or ‘release the inner Begbie’. Like bloated, bluffing pufferfish we will usually thicken our accent, swear like Malcolm Tucker and generally behave like a kilted baboon. Normally, it works a treat. You see peoples arses visibly go and whilst they cannot always understand what you’re saying there’s a primal message that comes across loud and clear. Please note; this method is completely ineffectual in Newcastle where they are both a) completely used to us and b) mental.  This approach clearly works in football circles too. Can you imagine being pinned to the Old Trafford dressing room wall, Fergies big red nose in your face as he calls you ‘a c**t ‘or ‘a big time charlie’ in his Glasgow brogue? Less hairdryer more Govan blast furnace. The truth is you’re scared of us. Plain and simple. When you see Billy Bremner you see one of those tough tragic soldiers from black and white war films. Joe Jordan rucking with Gattuso subconsciously becomes Francis Begbie, William Wallace and Groundskeeper Willie on the rampage as opposed to a 60 year old man taking on an elite sportsman. Fear is a huge motivator and whether or not there’s actually anything to be afraid of is irrelevant. One clear reason Scots make good managers is because the English have a deep-rooted collective fear of the barbarians from North of Hadrians Wall. This in itself gives a level of instant respect and wariness that has been of huge benefit to various managers and coaches throughout the years.


The current crop of top-flight Scottish managers are treading a well-worn path that dates back to the ‘Scottish Professors’ of the late Nineteenth century. A band of players and coaches who formed the best part of the successful Preston North End team of the time. These days, Sir Alex Ferguson stands as possibly the best football manager these shores have ever produced. But looking at his historic rivals, all, apart from Ramsey, Paisley and Clough, are Scottish. The late, great Sir Matt Busby born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, John ‘Jock’ Stein, conqueror of Europe born in Burnbank, South Lanarkshire and the inimitable Bill Shankly born in Glenbuck, Ayrshire. All outstandingly brilliant managers whose achievements are, even now, mind-boggling awe inspiring. All from tough working class communities. Men of shipbuilding, of coal mines, union men, hard men, blessed with footballing brains that gave then a shoe-hold out to a better life. To riches and glory. The best of their and any other generation. But there have been countless others not quite as luminous. George Graham, Tommy Docherty, Graeme Souness, David Moyes and Walter Smith are amongst others and there will be more in their wake. These collective legacies opened and continue to open up opportunities for Scottish tacticians and football thinkers for years gone and years to come.

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