Let's spare Jesse Marsch the Ted Lasso snobbery

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Let's spare Jesse Marsch the Ted Lasso snobbery - AP
Let's spare Jesse Marsch the Ted Lasso snobbery - AP

Jesse Marsch’s managerial CV does not suggest an instant upgrade on Marcelo Bielsa. Two doubles in Austria with Energy Drink Salzburg are laudable. MLS coach of the year for 2015 in his home country perhaps less so. And there is the main problem critics seem to have already with Marsch, his nationality.

As Leeds announced they would be Marsching on together with a new manager this week the comparisons came quickly with Ted Lasso, eponymous protagonist of a garlanded but divisive sitcom about fictional football club AFC Richmond. No backstory yet about the original Richmond being forcibly rehoused to Milton Keynes, but maybe that will be explored in series three.

Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, is a lovable buffoon, an American manager plunged into an unfamiliar environment. He was conceived for a 2013 advert for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League in which he ignorantly ported American phrases onto our proud English game. Think misunderstandings about draws, cleats instead of boots, a sort of USA Soccer Guy Twitter account made flesh.

His sitcom incarnation is more saccharine, the antithesis of the old Seinfeld mission statement: no learning, no hugging. What started as a send-up of tone deafness has ended as a different sort of anti-American propaganda tool because of its schlocky sentimentality.

Perhaps there is a little of the Lasso in Marsch. During his time in management so far he has preached togetherness, encouraged open communication and has used the phrase "safe space". During his 17-game spell as a Bundesliga manager last year he challenged the generally aloof idea of the manager in the Bundesliga and tried instead to forge a connection with fans.

Still it is tough to imagine Marsch going full Lasso and enjoying a daily biscotti with Andrea Radrizzani. Tougher still to foresee him saying something like "Ice cream's the best. It's kinda like seeing Billy Joel live. Never disappoints." Indeed Marsch speaks with the vocabulary and intelligence you would expect of someone educated at Princeton. Admittedly there is something quite funny about his furious Germanglish in a clip of a half-time team talk during a Liverpool vs Salzburg Champions League game.

Please note this video contains offensive language

Lasso is now a handy shorthand for the unique snobbery which blights the American football manager. What can they teach us about our sport? Ralf Rangnick’s American assistant Chris Armas has allegedly been nicknamed Ted Lasso by disgruntled players.

Partly this is because of a dearth of source material. Unlike the American heroes of Premier League past (Kasey Keller! Cobi Jones! Lynden Gooch!) there have only been two US nationals in charge of top flight clubs. David Wagner holds American citizenship through his stepfather and was capped eight times by the USA. He kept Huddersfield up before things unravelled the following season.

Bob Bradley, appointed by American owners of Swansea shortly after their takeover, fared less well. He managed 85 days in charge, only won two of his 11 games and made the heinous mistake of publicly calling penalties ‘PKs’.

American managers are not just easy to mock, but acceptable. Their country’s lingering cultural imperialism still makes them a punch-up comedically. ‘They call it soccer!’ Ho ho ho! But we are on shaky ground here. The military fly-pasts and relentless commercialisation of gridiron used to seem silly but think back to last Sunday when there were soldiers in camouflage on the pitch before kick-off at the League Cup final then, during the match over the PA system, an advert for new flavours of Carabao.

You wonder if there is anything similar in American sport when the NFL’s annual London games roll around. “Jolly good inside linebacker cup of tea field goal?” We would be rightly scornful of such broad brush nonsense, and should resist writing off Marsch before he has had a chance to overcome his biggest obstacle: replacing the beloved and poorly treated Bielsa.

The most legitimate comparison of Marsch to Lasso is the fact he seems a pleasant and well-rounded person. Would increasing the emotional intelligence quotient of the league be so bad? Leeds must just hope life does not imitate art in one crucial way. At the end of Ted’s first season, AFC Richmond are relegated.