Gary Neville at Valencia is not the first: British managers who have prospered – and flopped – in Spanish football

Frank Dalleres
Follow Frank
Terry Venables
Terry Venables won the Spanish league in his first season at Barcelona (Source: Getty)

Pre-civil war trailblazers

British managers have a long and rich tradition of success in Spanish football, not least in the pre-Civil War years.

Two league and cup doubles with Athletic Bilbao were the highlight of Fred Pentland’s 15-year stint in Spain, while William Garbutt, hugely influential in Italy, also enjoyed success with the Basque club.

Another Englishman, Robert Firth, led Real Madrid to the title while Northern Irishman Patrick O’Connell did likewise with Real Betis.

Modern success stories

Future England manager Terry Venables, proved an instant hit at Barcelona, ending their long wait for a league crown in 1985 and only missing out on the European Cup on penalties the next season.

In a boom period for Brits in Spain, double title-winner Howard Kendall quit Everton in 1987 for two largely successful years Athletic Bilbao and John Toshack masterminded Real Madrid’s 1990 La Liga glory in between three spells at Real Sociedad.

Sir Bobby Robson had just the one season at Barca but still won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Copa del Rey in 1997.

Gracias, but no gracias

Some have enjoyed eventful spells for the wrong reasons, such as Ron Atkinson’s 1988 stint at Atletico Madrid in which he led them from second bottom to second in the top flight but was fired by infamous club president Jesus Gil after just 96 days.

Chris Coleman’s half-season at second-tier Real Sociedad in 2007-08 was most memorable for him lying about a broken washing machine to excuse a 90-minute late press conference.

David Moyes lasted a year at the same San Sebastian club before being fired last month.

Related articles