PNE manager goes it alone

PNE manager Alex Neil
PNE manager Alex Neil
Share this article

New Preston North End boss Alex Neil is flying the flag for Scottish managers in the top two divisions of English football.

Until Neil was appointed by the Lilywhites last Tuesday, no Scot was managing in the Championship or Premier League.

Alex Neil at Deepdale

Alex Neil at Deepdale

The Premier League celebrates its 25th anniversary next month and for the first time in its history it will kick off without a Scottish manager at one of its clubs.

It is a statistic made all the more remarkable by the fact that just six seasons ago 30 per cent of Premier League managers were Scottish and another, Owen Coyle, was born in the country despite representing the Republic of Ireland as a player.

Four more Scotsmen guided Championship clubs that term but today former Norwich manager Neil is flying the flag alone for a nation where 22 permanent Premier League bosses, and a raft of caretakers, have hailed from.

When the league began as a 22-club division in 1992, five teams - Arsenal, Blackburn, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United - were led by Scots.

There would be three or more in permanent managerial positions for all but two of the first 22 seasons as the likes of Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, George Graham, Gordon Strachan and David Moyes held posts.

Even when the 2013-14 campaign began without Ferguson following his retirement, four of his compatriots - Paul Lambert, Malky Mackay, Steve Clarke and Ferguson's United successor Moyes - were all employed by top-flight outfits.

In February 2015, when Lambert lost his job with Aston Villa, there were no Scottish bosses in England's uppermost division for the first time since 1984, but at that point there were still five in the Championship in Mackay, Clarke, Neil, Dougie Freedman and Steve Evans.

Neil and Moyes were the lone representatives in each of the Premier League's past two seasons and between the former's appointment at Preston last week and Lambert's departure from Wolves in May, no Scot held a managerial position at England's top 44 clubs.

As the Premier League nears a landmark date, it may be a while before the next Busby, Shankly or Ferguson emerges to continue Scotland's fine record of elite managerial success in England.