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Jesse Marsch: An American Manager in Yorkshire

The ex-Leipzig manager has already called out Ted Lasso when discussing the stigma he will face.

After three and a half seasons and a Championship title, Marcelo Bielsa parted ways with Leeds United last Sunday following a streak of four consecutive losses. Whilst Bielsa may take his trusty translator and iconic side-line bucket with him, he leaves behind a legacy as one of the most beloved managers at Elland Road for a long time. With the vast majority of supporters gutted to see the Argentine go, it was bound to be an act that many wouldn’t want to follow. Step up, Jesse Marsch. Only a day after the sacking of Bielsa, Leeds announced the appointment of ex-RB Leipzig gaffer Jesse Marsch on a three-year deal, making Marsch the third American to manage in the Premier League.

“I’m not sure Ted Lasso helped,” said Jesse Marsch in today’s press conference, when asked about the stigma around American coaches, “I haven’t watched the show but I get it.” Despite how laughable the discussion seems at first, the history of American managers in the English top-flight is very short. The first US-born manager in Premier League history was Bob Bradley, a coach with a successful career in the MLS and in international football, who was given the Swansea job in October of 2016. If you don’t remember Bob, we don’t blame you; the New Jersey native was fired after only 85 days in charge, which seems very harsh before you realize that he managed to only win two out of 11 games in that period (one of which was a 5-4 win over Crystal Palace; one of the most entertaining games in Premier League history, but a very hard watch for those who value defending).

The second American manager faired significantly better, David Wagner of Huddersfield Town. Wagner won the Championship playoffs with the Terriers and managed to keep them in the Premier League for two seasons before leaving in early 2019. Wagner was not born in the US, however, and despite playing eight games for the Stars and Stripes in the late 90s, he never lived or played domestic football across the Atlantic. Wagner’s claim to the US national team was through his family as his mother had married an American man during her pregnancy. With a German accent, an unremarkable playing career, and a widely publicized friendship with Jurgen Klopp, many fans in England wouldn’t have realized Wagner’s US connection.

Marsch has now become the third. The 48-year-old has had a successful managerial career in Europe since making the move over from the MLS (where the Wisconsin native won two Supporters Shields with the New York Red Bulls). Marsch became assistant to now-Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzig; in his singular season as a number two, Leipzig finished third and made it to the final of the DFB-Pokal. At the end of the season, Marsch decided to move back into the driving seat, taking up a job as the head coach at Leipzig and New York’s sister club Red Bull Salzburg. In the two seasons under Marsch’s tutelage, Die Roten Bullen completed successive doubles, taking home both the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cups.

Yet another inter-Red Bull move then occurred at the start of this season, as the ex-US national team midfielder was given the head coaching job back at RB Leipzig; this season presented a notable challenge and Marsch was dismissed in early December with a record of seven wins, four draws, and six losses. Despite his sacking this year, Marsch has demonstrated that he is worthy of the challenge of the Premier League with notable successes in previous seasons, and is a dynamic new choice in Leeds’ battle for survival.

Jesse Marsch screams in front of the Man City dugout, a team he'll now be facing with Leeds Utd.

Even the fact that Jesse Marsch was asked the question about anti-American stigma shows the issue. People may say it is purely down to rivalry between the nations but in the modern-day, it would be hard to imagine the same question put to a manager from England’s other traditional rivals of France, Germany, or Scotland. Some may interpret this as being purely down to the frequency of American gaffers, but similar questions were not asked when Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl became the first Austrian manager in the Premier League. Whether you interpret this as mild-mannered international banter, a rivalry that has existed for 246 years, or straight-up xenophobia, Marsch’s nationality will certainly have an impact on the way he is treated by the English media and press.

Leeds currently sits in 16th, just two points above the relegation zone, with 12 games to play. The first game under their new manager will be on Saturday, away to Leicester (who have had a very underwhelming season, similarly to Leeds.) The Whites have been badly missing their top scorer from last season, Patrick Bamford, who has been out for the vast majority of the season with multiple injuries but there is good news for Leeds supporters as Marsch has announced that the English international has been involved in training.

Written by Sam Houston

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