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Rob Burnett: Will Derby’s Paul Clement experiment pay off?

18 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Will Derby’s Paul Clement experiment pay off?

As the Rams take on Boro, the's Sports Editor discusses the importance of modern managers having a playing career to call upon

Just 15 years ago, Paul Clement was a PE teacher at a school in a London suburb.

On Tuesday night he will lead out Derby County at the iPro Stadium to face Middlesbrough in his fourth competitive match in charge of the Rams.

He now manages a squad of 23 hard-bitten pro footballers, yet he never once kicked a ball in a professional game himself.

A city’s footballing pride now rests on the shoulders of a man who, when most of his contemporaries in management were in the middle of their playing careers, was taking the register and supervising children on cross-country runs.

Derby’s owners have – according to conventional wisdom – taken a huge gamble by appointing a former school teacher as the man to lead them back to the Premier League.

Especially since they sacked a ‘real football man’ – and a former England boss – in the shape of Steve McClaren to make way for him.

But is it really such a big throw of the dice?

Arrigo Sacchi is revered as one of the greatest managers in the history of the game, with his double European Cup-winning AC Milan side said to be perhaps the greatest team ever.

He also took Italy to within a Roberto Baggio missed penalty of winning the World Cup.

Famously, he never played the game professionally, once remarking when challenged about his qualifications: “I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first.”

Clement’s opposite number on Tuesday is Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka, another man who has been as assistant at Real Madrid and now finds himself in the hotseat at a British second division club.

Karanka is one of Jose Mourinho’s disciples, having worked under the Portuguese for three years at the Bernabeu, yet it is Clement who shares a remarkably common history with the Special One.

4/1 – Derby to win and both teams to score

Both were sons of professional footballers, yet neither was good enough to follow their fathers on to the playing field.

Both were school teachers before pursuing coaching, first at amateur, then professional level.

Both were spotted by world-class managers before being taken under their wing: Mourinho with Bobby Robson, and Clement with Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.

Both followed their mentors to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, winning the continent’s biggest trophies before setting out on their own.

So can Clement be another Mourinho?

After all, it is one thing coaching some of the world’s best players at clubs like Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, but quite another trying to mould a promotion winning side in the rough and tumble hurly-burly of the Championship.

It is an unforgiving league, but one where a manager can make a marked difference. Unlike the Premier League it is not a division that is completely decided by the wage bill – just look at Burnley the season before last, for example.

And in Clement, the Rams have a man whose preparation for his first job as boss is second to none.

Will his Derby players care that he didn’t spend 15 years out there himself on the field of battle in the professional game? We may never know, but Mourinho’s certainly don’t seem to mind.

Derby v Middlesbrough match betting