Why South America is target for English manager with lofty ambitions
Martyn Pert was sacked by El Nacional in Ecuador before he met the players yet remains set on managing in South America
Located 2,800m above sea level is an Englishman with lofty ambitions. His name is Martyn Pert, and despite a modest and nomadic coaching career he is determined to become a successful manager in South America, a plan put firmly in place after he was last year handed control at El Nacional, Ecuador's biggest club.
Well, not quite. Pert, who hails from Norfolk and first worked as Norwich's under-14s coach, was offered the El Nacional manager's job on 12 December by the club's military owners only to be told three and a half weeks later, and three weeks before this Saturday's start of the Serie A season, that the 13-time Ecuador champions had been taken over by a hedge fund company called Monaco Capital Group and that they wanted to hire a Spaniard, the little known Manuel Tomé Portela, to the post.
"They decided to get rid of me before I'd even had a chance to properly meet the players, which is a bit of a disaster," said Pert. "I was never officially informed that I was no longer the coach – after the president offered me the job they just stopped contacting me directly and told my agent that Monaco Capital Group wanted to bring in their own person.
"In truth, coaching in South America can be volatile at the best of times – clubs change their manager regularly, often after just one year, so I may not have lasted that long anyway."
Unemployed he may be, but Pert remains focused on establishing himself on a continent where, historically, British managers have made a negligible impact. There was Jack Greenwell, the County Durham-born wing-half who led Peru to the Copa America title in 1939, and a few others who journeyed across the Atlantic in the decades that followed but, overall, South America remains a place where, really, only South American coaches succeed.
Pert is asking a lot of himself, then, but the 35-year-old cannot be accused of a lack of preparation having mastered Spanish while undertaking a host of jobs in England, including academy coach at Cambridge City, fitness coach at Watford and assistant manager at Coventry – prior to holding the same position with the Bahrain national team – and, during the same period, hiring an agent to "put my name about" across the region.
Pert eventually became well-known enough to be considered a viable candidate to manage El Nacional following the sacking there of Sixto Vizuete.
"El Nacional finished just one place above the relegation zone last season, which was a disaster for a club of their size, so they decided to get a new manager in," explained Pert. "I was chosen, partly because the president felt I could open up the English market in terms of selling players, which El Nacional have a decent record of doing thanks to their successful youth academy. Antonio Valencia, for instance, came through the ranks prior to being sold to Villarreal [in 2005].
"The standard of football in Ecuador is mixed, with some very talented youngsters playing alongside some not-so-good older players, as anyone who does look decent, such as Valencia, is quickly sold on.
"If I had to pick one El Nacional player to keep an eye on in the future it would be Dennys Quiñónez, a 20-year-old midfielder who has been picked a couple of times by the national team."
Pert will not get the chance to work with Quiñónez due to El Nacional, despite their joint-high 13 titles, 22 Copa Libertadores appearances and 40,000-plus crowds, finding themselves in such financial trouble that they had to accept help from outside investors, ending the tradition of military control that has existed at the club following its inception in 1964.
He must soon also leave Quito, the Ecuador capital where El Nacional are based and a city the man from Sprowston describes as "beautiful, friendly but with an edge". Quito is also the highest point in the world, alongside La Paz in Bolivia, where professional football is currently played.
Moving is not such a huge deal for someone who commutes to the Brazilian city Maringá to see his wife, Bela, and funded visits to clubs such as Milan and Ajax to learn more about European coaching methods while carrying out a degree in sports science And then there was the 13 months Pert spent in Bahrain, assisting the former Leicester and England Under-21 manager Peter Taylor.
"I met Peter while doing my pro licence in the UK and we got on well," he said. "A year later, in the summer of 2011, he called me to ask if I was interested in going to Bahrain with him. I immediately said yes.
"It was a unique experience in so many ways; having to manage players who needed time to pray and who would turn up to training having not eaten all day because they were fasting. I also got to visit countries like Iran and Indonesia, places I would not have seen otherwise."
Pert and Taylor's time with Bahrain was successful – the national team won two tournaments under their charge – but they were nevertheless sacked following a 6-2 defeat to UAE in October last year, leaving Pert out of work but at least able to focus on realising his South American dream.
"Most English coaches look for jobs only within the 92 English league clubs, but there are a vast number of opportunities out there for those willing to look," said the one-time Norwich youth player, who has recently started working for a Colombian football agency to keep himself busy. "My agent has already started to hunt for a new club and given the size of South America, I'm confident I'll find one soon.
"Eventually I'd like to return to England but the two things I love in life are football and travelling, so I'm in no rush to come home."
Filed under: Euro 2012
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