Category Archives: The Managers

The Managers: Chris Coleman

Premier League Clubs Managed: Fulham (2003-2007)

After a testing year experiencing relegation with Sunderland in 2018, Chris Coleman was recently trying to reboot his managerial career in China with Hebei China Fortune. However, this venture came to an end recently. Coleman’s peak moment came three years ago when he led Wales famously to the semi-finals at the 2016 European Championships.

In the Premier League, he played for Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers in the 1990s and spent four years as boss of Fulham, keeping the west Londoners comfortably in the mid-table reaches during that period.

Born in Swansea, Coleman’s first professional contract as a player was at Manchester City aged 16. However, he never made a senior appearance for the Citizens and left after just a year on their books citing homesickness as the reason for his departure.

Playing days at the Palace

He signed for his hometown club Swansea and spent four years with them, making nearly 200 appearances. He moved in 1991 to Crystal Palace and it was with the Eagles that he made his Premier League debut, featuring on the opening weekend in their thrilling 3-3 draw with newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers.

They reached the semi-finals of the League Cup in that campaign but were relegated in the Premier League on the final day of the season. Promotion from the First Division followed in 1994 but relegation came a year later for the second time. In December 1995, he bought his time at Selhurst Park to an end and signed for the Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers in a £2.8 million deal. He made 143 appearances for Palace, scoring 16 times which included five goals in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992-1993.

Coleman’s career at Blackburn never really took off. A persistent Achilles injury restricted him to 28 league appearances and he took the brave decision to drop down two divisions to continue his playing days at Fulham. Signing for the Cottagers in 1997, it began a 10-year association with the club as player, coach and eventually manager.

Fulham were in the Second Division on his arrival but had Kevin Keegan as manager and were owned by the Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed. Keegan quickly appointed Coleman as club captain and he led Fulham to the Second Division title in 1998-1999.

When Keegan left to take the England post in March 1999, he would be succeeded by Jean Tigana and he kept Coleman as skipper. However in January 2001, his professional career as a player effectively ended in a serious car accident in Surrey just days before an FA Cup third round tie with Manchester United. Coleman broke his leg in the accident and although he did play one reserve match in 2002, it was clear to Chris that he wouldn’t recover sufficiently to continue his playing career. In October 2002, he announced his retirement and took a place on the club’s coaching staff.

Flying at Fulham

In April 2003, Tigana left Fulham after contract negotiations broke down. Coleman was given the opportunity to take caretaker charge of the first-team for the final five matches of the season. At the time, the Cottagers still had an outside chance of being dragged into the relegation dogfight.

In his tenure, Fulham won three games and only lost once away to Leeds United. Finishing clear of danger in 14th place, he became the youngest permanent manager in the Premier League when he was given the job permanently by Al-Fayed.

Many pundits tipped them to struggle but Fulham were flying in his first full season at the helm, finishing in a creditable ninth place in the Premier League table. The west Londoners won 3-1 away at Manchester United and the goals of Louis Saha had them shooting towards potential European football before he joined the Red Devils in the 2004 January transfer window.

Andy Cole, Claus Jensen and Tomasz Radzinski were among the new arrivals in the summer of 2004 but Fulham couldn’t build on the success achieved by Chris in his first season. They finished 13th in 2004-2005, despite thrashing Norwich City 6-0 on the final day of the season.

Under his tenure, Fulham became a tough customer to play on home soil. Liverpool FC, Chelsea and Arsenal all tasted defeat during his managerial spell with the club but away from home; they became far too easy to play against. They achieved just one away victory in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 campaigns. Before the end of the 2007 season, he was gone.

A seven-game winless run saw the club hover only four points above the relegation zone in April and beaten 3-1 at home on Easter Monday by Manchester City. The decision was taken to relieve Coleman of his duties and he was replaced by Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez.

A club statement read: “Chris has provided a fantastic service during his 10 years at the club, but as a team and organisation Fulham Football Club has goals to attain and success to achieve – and by no means can this be compromised.”

From the wilderness to Wales

For five years after his departure from Fulham, Coleman’s management career threatened to end up in the wilderness. He went abroad first to Spain to manage Real Sociedad in July 2007 but only stayed in the post for six months, resigning after disagreements with the club’s president over the vision and direction they were heading in. At the time, Sociedad were playing in the second-tier of Spanish football.

He then returned to England, replacing Iain Dowie as boss of Coventry City in February 2008. He only managed to win 34 of his 117 matches as manager of the Sky Blues and was sacked at the end of the 2009-2010 season after a disappointing 19th place finish in the Championship. In May 2011, it was back on his travels to AEL in Greece in a stint that lasted a meagre 12 games. His career in the management game looked to be in danger of slipping away until the national job with his country came up in the most tragic of circumstances.

In November 2011, the British football world was stunned by the sudden death of Wales’s first-team manager Gary Speed at the age of just 42. The Welsh team were experiencing an upturn in their fortunes and eventually, Coleman, who had won 32 caps for his country in his playing days, agreed to take the position two months after Speed’s untimely death.

His first game was an international friendly defeat in New Jersey to Mexico in May 2011. Things didn’t start well and he became the first Welsh manager to lose his first five matches with the nadir being a 6-1 away defeat in Serbia. This meant qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals was never likely but a 2-1 victory over Scotland in October 2012 was the galvanising effect required for his management.

Reaching eighth in the FIFA World Rankings three years later, Wales qualified for the 2016 European Championships – their first major tournament appearance since the 1958 World Cup finals. Led by Ashley Williams with heroic performances from the likes of Joe Allen, Sam Vokes, Aaron Ramsey and of course, Gareth Bale – Wales went further than anyone could have expected. They topped their group ahead of England before beating Northern Ireland and Belgium in the knockout rounds. A 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal in the semi-finals was no disgrace. It had been a tournament to remember for Welsh football and put Coleman back on the radar of many clubs following his management here.

He stayed in the Wales post with the aim of getting them to their first World Cup finals in 50 years. Sadly, it didn’t work out. Serbia dominated their qualifying group and a shattering 1-0 home defeat in their final group game to Republic of Ireland meant they even missed out on a play-off spot. Coleman resigned a month later.

He took over at struggling Championship club Sunderland in November 2017 but couldn’t halt the Black Cats’ slide into League One. He was relieved of his duties just before the 2017-2018 season concluded due to a board takeover.

Coleman wasn’t out of the game for long. In June 2018, he moved to China, succeeding West Ham-bound Manuel Pellegrini as the manager of Hebei China Fortune. They finished sixth in the 2018 Chinese Super League and have Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Mascherano among their squad. However, after just five points from nine matches in the new season and an early exit from the Chinese FA Cup by Chongqing Lifan, Coleman left the club in May 2019.

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The Managers: Harry Redknapp

Premier League Clubs Managed: West Ham United (1994-2001), Portsmouth (2003-2004), (2005-2008), Southampton (2004-2005), Tottenham Hotspur (2008-2012), Queens Park Rangers (2012-2013), (2014-2015)

Harry Redknapp’s career in professional football has spanned a staggering six decades. He had moderate success as a player but in management, has become one of the English game’s most charismatic and enjoyable characters to witness. He remains the last English manager to win the FA Cup when he guided Portsmouth to the trophy in 2008 and in 2018, become the star of the ITV reality programme I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Redknapp became King of the Jungle.

His son, Jamie Redknapp played under him at both AFC Bournemouth and Southampton whilst the football connections continue with him being uncle to Frank Lampard, who is now making his first steps in management at Derby County.

In his playing career, Redknapp was a midfielder. He began his career at Tottenham Hotspur before moving to West Ham United at the age of 15. He broke into the Hammers first-team in the 1965-1966 season and would spend the next seven seasons in the East End of London. His best campaign was in 1968-1969, where he was a regular fixture in their team, scoring three times in 42 appearances. In total, he made 175 appearances in all competitions for West Ham.

He dropped into Division Three in 1972, joining AFC Bournemouth, spending four seasons on the south coast. In 1976, he got the opportunity to experience the American game, joining Seattle Sounders as a player-coach, reaching the play-offs in his first season out there before losing in the Division Championship final to the Minnesota Kicks. By now, Harry’s playing career was winding down but his time in management was about to get its first significant scalp.

Taking United’s scalp

He began his coaching time as an assistant manager, first to his former teammate Bobby Moore at Oxford City in the Isthmian League, then with David Webb at AFC Bournemouth. When Webb left midway through the 1982-1983 season to take the vacant position at Torquay United, Redknapp applied for the position but the board elected to give the position to Don Megson. It didn’t work out for Megson and when he was sacked with the club in the Third Division relegation zone, Harry was hired as his successor in October 1983.

Months into his first management post, he took a huge scalp as Bournemouth stunned mighty Manchester United in the FA Cup third round, beating the cup holders 2-0. This gained big national publicity and increased his rapport with the supporters which remains today whenever he comes back to The Vitality Stadium as a spectator.

Redknapp’s first major honour as a manager came in 1987 when he guided Bournemouth to the Third Division title when they broke their own club record for most points in a season, amassing 97 by the season’s end. The Cherries stayed at Second Division level for three years before being relegated in 1990. Fate was about to play its part in the next chapter of his career.

Road accident twist

At the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy, Redknapp experienced an event that would change the course of his career. On 30th June in Rome, he was on a chauffeur-driven minibus that was involved in a head-on collision with a car that was carrying three Italian soldiers.

The minibus was flipped onto its roof in the accident and doused in petrol, Redknapp was pulled to safety by York City owner Michael Sinclair, who was travelling with him at the time. He suffered a fractured skull, cracked ribs and a broken nose and also lost all his sense of smell in the accident. Tragically, there were four deaths in the crash. The soldiers in the other vehicle were all killed as was one of his best friends, the Bournemouth managing director, Brian Tiler. Had it not been for Sinclair’s intervention, there is a good chance Redknapp wouldn’t have survived.

Scarred and shattered by the experience, Redknapp returned to Dean Court in time for the new season but the zest had disappeared and he chose to resign from his position as manager at the end of the 1991-1992 season. He decided to return to the other club he’d represented as a player, West Ham United in a reduced capacity.

Redknapp returned to an assistant manager’s role, serving as no.2 to club legend Billy Bonds. It was a role he would hold for the next two seasons and a position he seemed more than comfortable with. However, with his former club Bournemouth keen to rehire him as manager in the summer of 1994, the West Ham board made a decisive decision. They decided to offer Redknapp the managerial position and move Bonds into a role upstairs. Bonds was furious and promptly quit on the eve of the 1994-1995 campaign beginning. Redknapp was now the boss at Upton Park. It damaged the relationship between the two to a point where they didn’t speak to each other for years afterwards.

Redknapp admitted: “It wasn’t a situation I wanted, I was happy working with Billy. I had nine years managing Bournemouth and didn’t want the aggro. But I suppose I came round to it.”

Stabilising the Hammers

Harry Redknapp would remain West Ham manager for seven years and for the majority of that time, enjoyed plenty of success, whilst ensuring the football played at The Boleyn Ground was often exciting for the supporters. Redknapp was keen to see youngsters come through the academy and the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole all made their breakthrough into the senior team under his tenure as Hammers boss.

It was an initial early struggle after succeeding Bonds and West Ham were at the wrong end of the table for the majority of the 1994-1995 season. However, the goals of Tony Cottee kept them safe from relegation, finishing in 14th place at the season’s end. There were crucial victories in the run-in at home to Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool FC and on the final day, their point at home to Manchester United denied the Red Devils a third successive title with the Premier League championship heading to Lancashire and to Blackburn for the first time in 81 years.

West Ham finished in the top half of the table in four of the next five campaigns with their best-ever Premier League finish being recorded in 1998-1999. A 5th place in the table ensured qualification for the much-criticised UEFA Intertoto Cup. West Ham came back early for pre-season that summer to win the competition and earn a place in the UEFA Cup.

However, tensions would rise in his final campaign with the club in 2000-2001. After an underwhelming season with the club in the bottom half of the table, he departed one match before the end of the campaign. It wasn’t until 2007 that Redknapp admitted that he had been sacked by owner Terry Brown. Brown had offered him a four-year contract but when Redknapp made some comments about him to a fanzine, those comments were leaked and reached the owner. Brown was less than impressed. Redknapp said: “I walked into his office expecting to sign the contract and walked out without a job!”

From Pompey to Saints, then back to Pompey

He returned to the managerial dugout at First Division Portsmouth in March 2002, replacing Graham Rix with the club struggling to avoid relegation. Redknapp was already at the club as Director of Football and he moved downstairs after a string of poor performances that even had owner Milan Mandaric threatening not to pay the players. He eventually did after mounting pressure.

After guiding them to safety, Redknapp added experience to the squad with the useful addition of Paul Merson and ex-Derby County boss Jim Smith joined him as assistant manager. Portsmouth stormed to the First Division title in 2002-2003 and were about to embark on Premier League football for the first time.

Survival was achieved in 2003-2004 after an excellent run towards the end of the season that saw the club finish 13th and be the only side out of the three promoted clubs that campaign to avoid the drop. The signings of Teddy Sheringham, Patrik Berger and Steve Stone played a significant part in their impressive debut campaign.

The 2004-2005 season started positively. There was a 4-3 win over Fulham and a super 2-0 success at home to Manchester United, with Yakubu in great goalscoring form. Two wins and two draws from four games in October 2004 saw Redknapp win the Manager of the Month award. He seemed a happy man. Or so we thought?

Mandaric was keen to hire Velimir Zajec as Director of Football and this was something that led to a major disagreement between the chairman and his manager. The off-field issues started to effect on-field performances. Portsmouth lost meekly to Aston Villa, Southampton and Manchester City in quick succession and after another row with Mandaric over the desire to move his assistant manager Smith on, Redknapp elected to walk away in November 2004.

Just over two weeks later, he turned up down the road at south coast rivals Southampton, replacing Steve Wigley as the club’s new manager. In the eyes of the Pompey supporters, Harry had just committed the ultimate betrayal. T-shirts were printed, calling him “Judas” and “Scummer” and it took a while for Redknapp to realise how angry the supporters felt towards him because of the fierce rivalry between the two clubs.

He admitted on the eve of his first return to Fratton Park after his departure in April 2005: “I’m not looking forward to it. It will be a difficult day. I will be glad to get it out of the way to be honest.”

He was right. Portsmouth supporters goaded him all afternoon and his new side were well-beaten 4-1. Defeat on the final day at home to Manchester United confirmed the Saints’ relegation to the Championship after a 27-year stay in England’s top-flight. It was his first Premier League relegation too.

He stayed on at Southampton that summer but was unhappy with chairman Rupert Lowe’s decision to add former coach of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup success, Sir Clive Woodward as technical director. With the club failing to sustain any consistency in the Championship to become promotion contenders, he walked out on Southampton in early December 2005.

To complete the south coast soap opera saga, he returned to Portsmouth after they had sacked his initial replacement, Alain Perrin. The club were in relegation danger and in early March 2006, looked almost certainties for the drop. Then, two cracking goals from Pedro Mendes helped Pompey to a vital 2-1 home win over Manchester City. Further wins followed over West Ham United, Fulham, Middlesbrough and Sunderland and on the final Saturday of the season, a 2-1 success away at Wigan saw them escape relegation at the expense of Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion. For now, Redknapp was a hero again with Portsmouth supporters. It had been a crazy few years.

Spurs come calling

Portsmouth finished ninth and eighth in the next two Premier League campaigns and with more money to spend following a takeover by Alexandre Gaydamak, they became a formidable side capable of challenging for the European positions.

In 2008, Redknapp led the side to victory in the FA Cup. After knocking out favourites Manchester United with a stunning quarter-final victory, Portsmouth saw off West Bromwich Albion in the semi-finals and Cardiff City in the final with Kanu scoring the winning goal. It was the club’s first FA Cup final in 69 years and to this day, Redknapp remains the last English manager to win a major English trophy.

During the 2007-2008 campaign, Newcastle United had made an approach to Redknapp but Harry turned down this opportunity to stay at Portsmouth. He couldn’t do that though when Tottenham Hotspur came calling in October 2008. Spurs were in dire straits, bottom of the Premier League having collected just two points from their first eight league fixtures. Daniel Levy had dismissed Juande Ramos and approached Portsmouth for Redknapp’s services. A £5 million compensation fee was agreed and Redknapp was on his way to White Hart Lane, returning to the club where he had started his playing career.

There was an immediate turnaround in results. Tottenham beat Bolton 2-0 in his first game as manager and days later, they produced a remarkable turnaround from 4-2 down in the closing stages to draw the North London Derby with Arsenal 4-4 at The Emirates. Five players were added in the January transfer window, including swift returns to Tottenham for Pascal Chimbonda, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane. They eventually finished well clear of danger, achieving 51 points for an eighth place finish and the club reached the League Cup final, losing on penalties to Manchester United.

In 2009-2010, he led Tottenham to the UEFA Champions League for the first time, finished in a brilliant fourth place in the table. The qualification was secured by a late Peter Crouch header to defeat major rivals Manchester City 1-0 at The City of Manchester Stadium. Redknapp received a soaking afterwards whilst conducting his post-match television duties from some of his players, especially David Bentley, who barely played for the club again afterwards. His efforts saw him become only the second manager to win the Premier League Manager of the Year award despite not winning the title.

Tottenham beat Swiss club BSC Young Boys in the play-off round to reach the Champions League group stages and they went on to beat both Milan clubs on their way to the quarter-finals where they eventually bowed out to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side 5-0 on aggregate. The 2010-2011 season was slightly less successful domestically with a 5th place finish meaning UEFA Europa League football for the following campaign. However, this was the campaign where Gareth Bale started to make his major impact and won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year whilst the supporters enjoyed a first victory at Arsenal in 17 years.

The 2011-2012 campaign started slowly with two big defeats to the Manchester clubs but Tottenham quickly recovered to become the closest challengers from outside the city. They were third for much of the campaign but faded dramatically after a 5-2 North London Derby defeat to Arsenal. Issues were starting to play their part away from the game.

In January 2010, he had been charged with two counts of tax evasion along with his former chairman at Portsmouth, Milan Mandaric. The charge related to a £189,000 payment made by Mandaric to Redknapp via a bank account in Monaco. The trial began in January 2012 and he was eventually acquitted of both charges two weeks later. Later that day, England’s manager Fabio Capello resigned after seeing his skipper John Terry stripped of the national team captaincy for the second time following allegations of racial abuse during a fixture between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea. Redknapp was the overwhelming favourite and admitted it was tempting to take the position if it was offered to him. However, he was overlooked and the FA chose the West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson as Capello’s successor.

Tottenham ensured a fourth place finish for the second time in three years on the final day of the season but Chelsea’s victory in the UEFA Champions League final a week later against Bayern Munich meant they took an automatic spot and relegated Spurs into the Europa League. In June 2012, he was dismissed by Tottenham after talks broke down over a new contract.

A tough time at QPR

Harry remained out of the game until November 2012 when he agreed to take over struggling Queens Park Rangers, who were winless when they appointed him to replace Mark Hughes. The task looked immense and he could only guide the team to four league victories during his time with a heavily imbalanced squad and a team that looked short on confidence. In April 2013, a terrible game at Reading saw the match finish goalless and both clubs relegated to the Championship.

Redknapp stayed on and guided QPR back to the top-flight at the first attempt, as Bobby Zamora struck a dramatic late goal in the Championship play-off final against Derby County. However, the Hoops struggled on their return back to the Premier League in 2014-2015. Despite the goals of Charlie Austin and a decent home record, their failure to claim a single point on their travels, plus failure to capture the players Redknapp desired in the January transfer window led to his resignation in February 2015. The reason for his departure was an imminent knee operation and he felt he couldn’t focus 100% on the job.

This turned out to be Redknapp’s last appointment in the Premier League but he has managed again since. He got his taste of international management with Asian country Jordan. He coached two matches in March 2016 – an 8-0 win over Bangladesh and a 5-1 defeat to Australia. A brief tenure followed at Birmingham City where he managed to guide them to Championship safety in 2016-2017 after two wins from their last three games of the season. However, a run of five straight defeats early on in 2017-2018 led to his sacking and admittance from Redknapp that this was likely to be his last position in football management.

His public persona has continued though when in October 2018, it was confirmed he was heading into the Australian jungle to take on the challenge of the ITV reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ He was much-loved by his fellow campmates and also, the voting public. He beat former star of The Inbetweeners Emily Atack in the final to be crowned The King of the Jungle.

He has since managed a team of England legends including Merson, David Seaman and Robbie Fowler to victory against a team of German legends in ‘Harry’s Heroes…The Full English.’ Later this summer, he will be going on a nationwide tour, sharing some of his amazing experiences in the world of football.

He might be light on honours but with bundles of experience and knowledge of The Beautiful Game, Harry Redknapp has had an amazing career and has to be considered easily as one of the best English managers in Premier League history.

The Managers: Gerry Francis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Queens Park Rangers (1992-1994), Tottenham Hotspur (1994-1998)

Gerry Francis was a club legend at Queens Park Rangers and guided Tottenham Hotspur through a challenging but exciting period in the mid-1990s when he could call on the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Jurgen Klinsmann and Darren Anderton to drive the team on in the Premier League.

Management for Gerry in the top-flight ended over 20 years ago but he was still involved as a coach in the top-flight all the way until Tony Pulis’ departure from Crystal Palace on the eve of the 2014-2015 season getting underway.

QPR and England hand-in-hand

In his playing career, Gerry Francis made his name at Queens Park Rangers. He made his first-team debut against Liverpool FC back in March 1969. Throughout the 1970s, he was part of a Hoops squad that were thrilling to watch and challenged the elite in the old First Division. He was captain of the club during that period and also got the thrill of winning 12 international caps for England, skippering the Three Lions in eight of those games after being appointed captain by Don Revie. Unfortunately, this was during a difficult period for the men’s international team, who failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in both 1974 and 1978.

After a decade of loyal service to QPR, Francis left for Crystal Palace in 1979 but already troubled by a persistent back injury, his influence on sides he played in afterwards were limited. He ended his playing career in 1987 having had stints at Coventry City, Cardiff City, Swansea City, Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers which is where he hung up his playing boots. It was at Bristol Rovers where he would enjoy his managerial breakthrough.

Gerry had already a season on his books as a player-manager with Exeter City in 1983-1984 so he wasn’t a complete rookie when he took over as manager of Bristol Rovers. They were in the Third Division and he succeeded Bobby Gould in the role. Bristol Rovers were a club who often sold their best players and didn’t have much of a transfer budget but Francis often got the best out of his players. In 1990, he guided the club to the Third Division title which remains the only honour of his managerial career. In 1991 though, a return beckoned to the club he called as home.

Lack of consultation

Having made 313 league appearances across two spells as a player at Queens Park Rangers, the fans were thrilled to have Francis back as their manager when he returned to Loftus Road in 1991, succeeding Don Howe as manager. Like his playing days, Francis’ insistence was clear – to go out and have fun and thrill the supporters and at QPR, his sides definitely did that.

In the inaugural Premier League season, QPR finished fifth and were the highest-placed of all the London clubs in the division. Les Ferdinand flourished and finished as runner-up to Teddy Sheringham in the race for the Golden Boot and the Londoners were becoming a good watch for all concerned.

A ninth place finish followed in 1993-1994 and once again, Ferdinand was amongst the goals but Francis was becoming frustrated by the club’s desire to sell its best assets available. In March 1994, ambitious Wolverhampton Wanderers offered him the chance to manage them but Francis turned them down, staying loyal to QPR despite being annoyed by seeing Darren Peacock transferred to Newcastle United on transfer deadline day. Wolves eventually appointed the former England boss Graham Taylor as their new manager.

His resolve was being tested and in October 1994, his patience finally ran out. QPR made a slow start to the season and were amongst the relegation strugglers. Owner Richard Thompson decided to offer another club legend, Rodney Marsh, the opportunity to return to the club in a Director of Football capacity. Francis was not consulted about these desires and was absolutely furious. Ever the professional, he got on with the job in-hand and back-to-back home victories in three days over Aston Villa and Liverpool FC started to guide Rangers away from danger. This time though, he knew he couldn’t stay.

He tendered his resignation a week later which was reluctantly accepted by the board. Five days later, a new opportunity emerged at another London club who were in a spot of bother.

Testing Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur had sacked Ossie Ardiles in early November 1994 after a string of poor results which had culminated with a shock 3-0 loss to Notts County in the League Cup third round. Off-the-pitch, the club was facing a deduction of points for financial irregularities and had been banned from playing in the FA Cup. It didn’t seem like the most enticing job available.

Francis though realised there was plenty of potential in the squad and he took the job when offered the position by owner Alan Sugar. His principles remained the same as at QPR but also, defensive responsibility was required after the Ardiles reign which often bordered on recklessness. Tottenham immediately improved defensively and the likes of Sol Campbell, Colin Calderwood, Dean Austin and Justin Edinburgh became better players due to confidence and also, Francis’ coaching. Their improvement meant the likes of Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton and Nick Barmby could focus on doing the damage in a potent attacking line-up.

Tottenham became the first team in the campaign to stop Manchester United scoring at Old Trafford, beat champions-elect Blackburn Rovers 3-1 in February and with their ban successfully overturned, also reached the FA Cup semi-finals, knocking out Liverpool FC 2-1 at Anfield in the quarter-finals. They were tipped to go all the way in this competition but lost 4-1 in the semi-finals to a Daniel Amokachi-inspired Everton at Elland Road. In the Premier League, Tottenham finished in seventh place which was a good achievement considering they were just outside the bottom four relegation positions when Francis took over.

The summer of 1995 saw Klinsmann return to Germany and Barmby sold to newly-promoted Middlesbrough. Chris Armstrong arrived from Crystal Palace and formed a good partnership with Sheringham, whilst Ruel Fox added pace to the flanks after his October arrival from Newcastle United. Tottenham finished in eighth position in 1995-1996, with a 4-1 home victory over Manchester United on New Years’ Day among the highlights.

Fans though were unhappy with his handling of Anderton, who was developing a reputation of becoming an injury-prone player. Across his two full seasons at White Hart Lane, Darren was restricted to just 25 Premier League appearances due to injuries with many supporters believing he wasn’t given enough recovery and rehabilitation time by the manager after his latest injury setbacks.

In October 1997, supporters had had enough. Before a televised home game with Sheffield Wednesday, two fans were interviewed on television saying: “Had his time, spent his money, not producing results” and “Just get rid of him, he’s useless!”

Tottenham won that match 3-2 but despite the arrivals of David Ginola and Ferdinand that summer from Newcastle United, results just weren’t coming. 11 days after a second half collapse at Anfield which saw Spurs on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline, Francis resigned as first-team manager, despite Sugar trying to do all he could to persuade him to change his mind.

Coach time

In September 1998, Gerry decided to return to Queens Park Rangers as manager for the second time with the club now in the First Division. He couldn’t rekindle the magic of his first spell and despite keeping them in the division; they were often closer to the relegation strugglers rather than the play-off positions. He resigned in February 2001 before returning to Bristol Rovers four months later for a second time as manager there too. Like at QPR, it was a bad move and after a family illness meant he had three weeks of compassionate leave, he resigned just before Christmas 2001. That was the end of his management career.

Gerry returned to the Premier League in October 2008 as a first-team coach at Stoke City to work underneath Tony Pulis. That was after rejecting a similar role at Newcastle United due to the club’s uncertainty regarding the future of owner Mike Ashley at the time. When Pulis left Stoke in May 2013, Francis left too and resurfaced with the Welshman when Tony took over at Crystal Palace in November 2013. He stayed with the Eagles until Neil Warnock’s appointment as manager for the second time was confirmed in August 2014. Although Warnock wanted him to stay on, Francis elected to leave due to his close links with the previous manager.

Gerry Francis is a proud man and actually was never sacked as a manager which is an impressive feat. He might lack the managerial honours but often got the best out of his players and enjoyed some whirlwind moments whilst the no.1 at both Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur.

The Managers: Glenn Roeder

Premier League Clubs Managed: West Ham United (2001-2003), Newcastle United (2006-2007)

Glenn Roeder hasn’t managed in the Premier League since 2007. In fact, his last managerial post was now over a decade ago at Norwich City when the Canaries were struggling at the wrong end of the Championship table. However, this is a man who has had to deal with the pressures of management which saw him suffer a potentially career-threatening illness whilst managing West Ham United.

Roeder played as a defender in his club career and also took charge of Watford and Newcastle United alongside his spells at both West Ham and Norwich. Most recently, he served as a managerial assistant at League Two club, Stevenage.

Captain at the cup final

Having been rejected at scholarship level by Arsenal, Glenn Roeder began his professional playing career at Leyton Orient before earning his first major move which was to Queens Park Rangers in 1978. Four years later came arguably his greatest individual honour in his playing days.

QPR were only a second-tier team when they surprised many to reach the 1982 FA Cup final. They would play reigning holders and heavy favourites, Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium. Roeder got the privilege of leading his team onto the field for what at the time was the biggest football match in the country. Rangers earned themselves a replay but due to suspension, Roeder would miss the replayed match days later which Tottenham went on to win 1-0 to retain the trophy. QPR bounced back from that near-miss to win the Second Division title in 1983 and begin a 13-year association with England’s top-flight.

In 1984, Roeder moved to Newcastle United and during five years on Tyneside, he made close to 200 appearances, even playing alongside a youthful Paul Gascoigne during this time. A two-year stint at Watford followed before he wound down his playing career with an eight-game spell back at Leyton Orient in 1992 and then six matches at Gillingham in the following season. However by then, he was already immersed in the management side of things with the Gills.

Working underneath Waddle

Player-managers are nowadays nowhere near as common as they were in the early 1990s when they served as a useful transition between players finishing off their careers and starting off in management. Glenn was one of those who used this opportunity at Gillingham who were in the fourth-tier of English football and struggling when he was appointed. Relegation from the Football League was avoided on the penultimate weekend of the season when Gillingham beat bottom-placed Halifax Town who went down instead.

13 wins in 51 games doesn’t sound like great statistics but his former club Watford were impressed and with Steve Perryman leaving to become Ossie Ardiles’ assistant at Tottenham Hotspur, the Hornets were looking for a new manager. They managed to tempt Roeder away from Gillingham but not in an ethical manner. They were fined £10,000 for an illegal approach and then ordered to pay the Gills a further £30,000 in compensation. Roeder’s teams at Vicarage Road were open and expansive but he didn’t manage to get them out of the First Division. In 1994-1995, they finished eighth in the table which was the closest they got to a play-off challenge. In February 1996, he was sacked with the club rooted to the bottom of the First Division table. However, he did sign Kevin Phillips from local Hertfordshire team Baldock Town for only £10,000, beginning Phillips’ impressive career which hit its high point when he won the Premier League Golden Boot with Sunderland in 2000.

After a one-year sabbatical from the game to spend more time with his family, Glenn’s next appointment was as assistant manager to Chris Waddle at Second Division side Burnley. It was not a success. Burnley only narrowly avoided relegation after beating Plymouth Argyle on the final day and Roeder won no fans when he was accused of saying star player Glen Little was “not fit to lace the boots of Chris Waddle.” True or not, Burnley supporters were fuming and it was unsurprising that the partnership ended in the 1997-1998 off-season.

It looked like Roeder’s career would see him just end up as a regular first-team coach. After the dire time in Lancashire with Burnley, he worked briefly underneath Glenn Hoddle with England and then when Hoddle was forced to resign in February 1999, Harry Redknapp offered him the opportunity to return to club football at West Ham United. It paved the way for his biggest challenge yet.

Hammered and under pressure

In the summer of 2001, Redknapp left West Ham United after seven years as manager at Upton Park. West Ham tried to tempt Alan Curbishley away from Charlton Athletic but he stayed loyal to the Addicks and when Steve McClaren elected to take the vacancy at Middlesbrough, the Hammers hierarchy handed Roeder the opportunity to take over as boss.

It was a surprising move and one which didn’t fulfil the supporters with too much confidence considering he clearly wasn’t first-choice with the board. He splashed out £15 million in pre-season to snap up England goalie David James from Aston Villa, whilst bringing Don Hutchinson back to the club for £5 million from Sunderland.

Life didn’t start well for Roeder. West Ham lost back-to-back away games heavily in the autumn of 2001, hammered 5-0 by Everton and 7-1 at Blackburn Rovers. The writing seemed on the wall but he did have a talented squad at his disposal with the likes of Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick blossoming. West Ham recovered to finish an excellent seventh in the table in his first full season at the helm. It is a finish only beaten once by the club in their Premier League history which was the fifth place Redknapp achieved in 1998-1999.

Things took a major downturn though in 2002-2003. West Ham failed to win a home match until the end of January, were leaking goals at an alarming rate and when they drew 1-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers in December, they were rooted to bottom in the table on Christmas Day. At this point, no club had ever survived from this position and things looked bleak for Roeder.

Lee Bowyer, Les Ferdinand and Rufus Brevett all arrived in the January transfer window and there was uplift in some results but still, the Hammers looked favourites for relegation, especially when they lost a crucial match in mid-April away at Bolton who were their main rivals for survival.

On Easter Monday 2003, West Ham claimed a vital 1-0 home victory over Middlesbrough with Trevor Sinclair scoring the only goal of the game but after the match, football results became immaterial.

Recovery

The pressures of top-flight management were once again highlighted when moments after the full-time whistle; Glenn collapsed in his office and was rushed to hospital. Doctors soon confirmed he had suffered a brain tumour, caused by a blockage in a blood vessel.

The West Ham board quickly acted after this sudden shock and club legend Trevor Brooking moved downstairs for the final three matches of the season. Despite achieving seven points from the final three matches, West Ham were relegated on the final day of the season, despite amassing 42 points which normally guarantees safety from relegation.

Three months after his collapse, Roeder returning to work at West Ham but the board’s faith had run out and after a 1-0 defeat to Rotherham United in August 2003, they brutally sacked him. It was the end of a stressful few months for the Roeder family.

After two years away, Glenn returned to football in June 2005 as the Youth Development manager at his former club, Newcastle United. In February 2006, Freddy Shepherd sacked Graeme Souness after a string of poor results and Roeder was installed as caretaker manager until the end of the season. Newcastle were down in 15th place when he was appointed but they flourished underneath his management and finished in an encouraging seventh place. That was enough for an Intertoto Cup place and convinced Shepherd to keep Roeder in the job in a full-time capacity. That was despite missing the mandatory UEFA Pro Licence required to manage in the Premier League – something that had come into fulfilment since Roeder’s spell at West Ham United. Despite initial rejections from the Premier League, the other club chairman all agreed that Roeder could continue in a special dispensation case due to his previous illness whilst at West Ham.

The 2006-2007 season didn’t turn out as well as was hoped in what was the first Newcastle season since Alan Shearer’s retirement as a player. Despite winning the Intertoto Cup and therefore earning passage into the UEFA Cup, Newcastle struggled domestically and finished down in 13th position, hit by injuries to a large part of their first-team squad. Just before the end of the season, Roeder tendered his resignation and would be replaced by the outgoing Bolton Wanderers boss, Sam Allardyce. He left with a 45% win ratio.

After five months away from the game, Roeder’s next appointment and ultimately final managerial role came at Norwich City, who were in the Championship and struggling, four points adrift of safety. He managed to keep the Canaries away from relegation in 2007-2008 although survival was not confirmed until a 3-0 home success against Queens Park Rangers in the club’s penultimate fixture of the season. Supporters at Carrow Road though were unhappy by the lack of permanent signings and also the way Darren Huckerby had been released without being given a proper farewell. Although there was a 5-2 victory over league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers in October, Norwich were at the wrong end of the table and in January 2009, Roeder was dismissed. An FA Cup exit in a third round replay to Charlton Athletic was the final straw and Norwich ultimately were relegated to League One at the end of the season.

Since then, Roeder has kept a relatively low profile. He has had coaching and advisor roles at Sheffield Wednesday in 2015 and Stevenage in 2016. The role at the latter ended in March 2018 when he left alongside manager Darren Sarll with the club in 16th position in the League Two table.

Glenn Roeder’s time as a Premier League manager was tough and fraught but after the health scare he experienced, he knows all too well that life is far more important than just a game of football.

The Managers: Steve Coppell

Premier League Clubs Managed: Crystal Palace (1992-1993), (1997-1998), Reading (2006-2008)

As a player, Steve Coppell was a flying right winger who won domestic honours with Manchester United and represented England at the World Cup finals in 1982. His work-rate levels have served him well in management, having four separate spells in a variety of different roles at Crystal Palace and also guiding Reading to the top-flight in 2006, followed by an impressive eighth place finish in their debut Premier League campaign.

Coppell played a huge role too in the career of Ian Wright. He signed Wright from the depths of non-league football and turned him into an international footballer and one of the leading strikers in English and Arsenal history. He continues to manage today, currently with Atletico de Kolkata in the Indian Super League.

A promising career cut short

In the mid-1970s, Steve Coppell was multi-tasking to the extreme. He was studying for a degree at University, coached a University team and played part-time for Tranmere Rovers. His life changed forever when Manchester United offered Tranmere £60,000 for his services, offering to double his wages too. Unsurprisingly, Coppell signed on with the Red Devils.

Manchester United allowed him to complete his degree in his spare time whilst he made his professional debut for the club. He made his debut in March 1975 as a substitute in a 4-0 victory over Cardiff City. He made 10 appearances before the season’s end and also broke his goalscoring duck as United bounced back to the First Division at the first attempt of asking.

The following season, he won honours for the England Under-23 team and made a big mark on the Manchester United first-team, scoring 10 times in 39 games. One of those goals came at his boyhood club, Liverpool FC at the famous The Kop terrace. It was an exciting Manchester United side that manager Tommy Docherty was putting together and Coppell experienced cup glory in 1977 when the Red Devils beat Liverpool 2-1 in the Wembley showpiece. He did end up as a loser though in both the 1976 and 1979 finals despite claiming two assists in the latter match against Arsenal.

He made his senior international debut with England in 1977, playing in their final qualifying game for the 1978 World Cup finals. They beat Italy 2-0 but the damage had been done earlier in the campaign, so the Three Lions missed out on the finals in Argentina. Coppell would win over 40 caps, scoring seven times and he featured in Ron Greenwood’s teams on a regular basis including at the 1980 European Championships.

His career took a major change in 1981. He was the victim of a vicious tackle from Hungarian player Jozsef Toth during a World Cup qualifier whilst on England duty. He sustained bad knee damage and needed two operations. He was never quite the same player again. Coppell did struggle on through the 1982 World Cup finals and the 1982-1983 season but further setbacks and operations followed. In October 1983, he announced his retirement from playing, aged just 28. He had broken the record for the most consecutive appearances for an outfield Manchester United player making 207 from 1977 to 1981. It is a record which still stands to this day.

Making his mark at Palace

Less than a year after his retirement from playing, Coppell became one of the youngest men to ever manage a club in the Football League. He was 28 years and 10 months old when he was appointed Crystal Palace manager. He would remain in the post with the Eagles for the next nine years.

He had to rely on signing players who had been rejected by other First Division sides and took the opportunity to give a young Ian Wright his chance, signing him from the non-league. When he took over, Palace were in the Second Division and it took until 1989 before the Eagles were promoted to the top-flight via the play-offs. In 1990, they went on a wonderful journey in the FA Cup, knocking out champions-elect Liverpool FC 4-3 in an epic semi-final at Villa Park. They met Manchester United in the final, still looking for their first major piece of silverware under Alex Ferguson. Wright sparkled, scoring twice and the first game finished 3-3. United won a scrappier replay 1-0 to take the prize.

In 1991, they finished in third place in the top-flight, only below Arsenal and Liverpool FC. However, they had to sell their main striking assets. Wright eventually moved to Arsenal and his long-time strike partner, Mark Bright went to Sheffield Wednesday just a few weeks after the start of the Premier League. Crystal Palace were relegated on the final day after losing 3-0 at Highbury, whilst Oldham Athletic’s 4-3 success over Southampton saw them complete a late escape from the drop at the expense of the Eagles. Coppell resigned from his position as manager shortly after their relegation.

The 33-day experience in Manchester

When Graham Taylor stepped down as England manager following their failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals, Coppell’s name was linked with the job but he swiftly ruled himself out of the running. Another job where his name was strongly mentioned was Middlesbrough following Lennie Lawrence’s departure in May 1994. Ex-Manchester United captain and Coppell’s former teammate Bryan Robson was ultimately chosen as Lawrence’s successor.

In fact, Steve remained out of the game until June 1995 when he returned to Palace in a Director of Football capacity. It was a role he held until October 1996 when the lure of managing Manchester City was simply too much to resist. Coppell was appointed with the club struggling to make an impact in the First Division. It looked like it would be a great moment for him but it turned into a nightmare. His reign lasted just six games and 33 days.

He gave a press conference where his facial expression and tone of voice was completely different to how he had been when he took the job on. He admitted:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have suffered for some time from huge pressure I have imposed upon myself, and since my appointment this has completely overwhelmed me to such an extent that I cannot function in the job the way I would like to. As this situation is affecting my well-being, I have asked Francis Lee to relieve me of my obligation to manage the club on medical advice.”

His reign at the club is the shortest of any City manager to date.

So, he went back to Crystal Palace in another different role, this time as Chief Scout. Before the end of the campaign, he was back in the managerial hotseat after Dave Bassett left in February 1997 to take a role with Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest. He secured promotion back to the Premier League with the south Londoners after David Hopkin’s dramatic late winner in the First Division play-off final against Sheffield United.

He stayed in the role going into the Premier League but stepped down in March 1998 as Crystal Palace supporter Mark Goldberg led a takeover of the club. The club were relegated at the end of the season. Goldberg though wanted to keep Coppell on and so, he reverted to a Director of Football position with Terry Venables appointed first-team manager on their return to Division One.

In January 1999, he was back as manager yet again after Venables’ resignation. By this point, the club had severe financial issues and high-earners had to be sold to cut spending such as Attilio Lombardo. They finished 14th in 1998-1999 and 15th in 1999-2000. Simon Jordan bought the club in the summer of 2000 from Goldberg and replaced Coppell with Alan Smith. That bought Coppell’s association with the club to an end. For both parties, it had been a loyal collaboration but both needed to go their different ways.

Record-breaking Reading

After spells managing Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion, Coppell’s next major project came at Reading in October 2003, succeeding Alan Pardew who had moved on to fill the West Ham United vacancy. After finishing seventh in his first full season as Royals manager, Coppell guided Reading to the Championship title in 2005-2006, setting a new league record of 33 league games unbeaten during the campaign. The Berkshire club finished with 106 points which was another record smashed and could look forward to Premier League football for the first time.

Reading impressed many neutrals with their style of play and results achieved in 2006-2007, finishing their first Premier League season in an impressive eighth position and just one point away from qualifying for European competition. He received praise from Sir Alex Ferguson, who said after Coppell won Manager of the Year: “I think it’s totally deserved. It’s a marvellous contribution he’s made. What’s encouraging for the Premier League is that it’s mostly British-based players in his side, with some Irish players thrown in. I think that says a lot for the way he has gathered his team together.”

Reading’s second season was not as good as their first and it ended in relegation back to the Championship. Coppell said he would consider his future as Reading manager after being relegated on the final day but he stayed on in an attempt to get the Royals back up at the first attempt. However, he missed out on promotion in 2008-2009 via the play-offs after a semi-final defeat to Burnley and this time, he elected to resign immediately after the game, feeling he had taken the club as far as he could.

One more challenge cropped up in England in May 2010 when he signed a 12-month rolling contract at Bristol City. However, he walked away from the position just three months later, saying that he would retire from football management altogether citing a lack of passion for the job.

He hasn’t retired from football management as mentioned but the job at Ashton Gate was his last in English management. He has since worked as Director of Football at both Crawley Town and Portsmouth before moving to Asia where he has managed Kerala Blasters FC, Jamshedpur FC and ATK where he was appointed manager in June 2018.

Steve Coppell has managed over 1000 matches in his career and boasts nearly a 40% win ratio rate. That’s a pretty decent return for someone who has spent nearly 35 years in the management game.

The Managers: Jurgen Klopp

Premier League Clubs Managed: Liverpool FC (2015-PRESENT)

After deciding to part ways with Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, Liverpool FC turned to Germany and one of the most charismatic managers in the game to revive their fortunes. The Reds had won just one trophy in nine years and had only qualified for the UEFA Champions League once in five seasons.

Jurgen Klopp was on a managerial break after ending his successful stint with Borussia Dortmund in May 2015 but the lure of managing one of the most passionate clubs in world football was simply too much to turn down. Klopp has galvanised Liverpool into an exciting team again, adding more defensive steel in the last 12 months and it means the Merseysiders have a real chance of ending their league championship drought this season.

Often believed to be the man who created the philosophy known as ‘Gegenpressing,’ Klopp is considered as a popular manager with the media too but he will need to start turning Liverpool into serial winners in the coming years.

Mainz factor

Born in Stuttgart in 1967, Jurgen Klopp grew up in the Black Forest countryside village of Glatten in Germany. Introduced into football by his father Norbert, Klopp supported VfB Stuttgart as a boy but actually aspired to be a doctor during his education. Liverpool supporters are probably relieved he decided to go down the football route.

In 1990, he signed for Mainz and began a relationship with the club that lasted nearly 20 years. He is still considered as one of Mainz’s finest icons, playing for the side for 11 years. He scored 52 league goals in 325 club matches, starting out as a forward before being converted into a defender in 1995. Mainz have been a stable of the Bundesliga for several years now but in Klopp’s time, they were one of the smaller sides competing in 2. Bundesliga and he never played as a player in the German top-flight.

In 2001, Jurgen decided to hang up his footballing boots, as he began to realise that his qualities as a coach could lead to a longer career in football. Mainz didn’t want to see one of their idols leave and when they elected to sack Eckhard Krautzen, Klopp was appointed as his successor. His first match as a manager came on 28th February 2001, spearheading his team to a narrow 1-0 victory over MSV Duisburg. 18 years on, Klopp is now widely regarded as one of the best managers currently in the game.

Klopp actually won six of his first seven matches as a manager and he achieved promotion to the Bundesliga with Mainz in 2004 after two near-misses in previous campaigns. It was Mainz’s first-ever promotion into the big league in Germany.

In those days, the big-hitters in the Bundesliga when it came to coaches were Felix Magath at Bayern Munich, Jupp Heynckes at Schalke, Bert van Marwijk at Borussia Dortmund and Thomas Schaaf who had recently led SV Werder Bremen to a league and cup double. Despite having one of the smallest budgets and the smallest stadium in the division, Klopp led Mainz to back-to-back 11th place finishes and a maiden European campaign where they lost to Sevilla in the first round of the 2006 UEFA Cup.

In 2007, Mainz were relegated which was a major blow for Jurgen and one he was unable to recover from. After missing out on an instant promotion back to the top-flight in 2008, pipped by Hoffenheim and Cologne, Klopp resigned at the end of the season, finishing with a record of 109 victories, 78 draws and 83 losses from his tenure as their manager.

Borussia Dortmund though had been impressed with Klopp’s reign at Mainz and needed a lift out of the doldrums.

Making Dortmund great again

Borussia Dortmund finished the 2007-2008 Bundesliga season in a miserable 13th position and unsurprisingly, dismissed Thomas Doll after this underwhelming campaign. Klopp was seen as the man to revive their fortunes.

Under his stewardship, Dortmund boasted one of the youngest squads in the league and Klopp allowed players like Shinji Kagawa and Mats Hummels to flourish and become household global superstars. After finishing sixth and fifth in his first two full campaigns as BVB boss, it all came together in season 2010-2011. Dortmund won 14 matches in a row to sit top of the table at the winter break and helped by 16 goals from Lucas Barrios, they couldn’t be caught by Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Bayern Munich. Dortmund’s seventh league championship was sealed in late April with a 2-0 home victory over Nürnberg. They became the youngest-ever side to win the Bundesliga.

It got even better in 2011-2012. They gathered 81 points, enjoyed a 28-match unbeaten run and equalled Bayern Munich’s record of 25 victories in a league season. A second title followed and a resounding 5-2 thrashing of Bayern in the 2012 DfB-Pokal final gave Borussia Dortmund their first-ever domestic double. It was the stuff of dreams for the supporters. After years out of the spotlight, Dortmund were great again.

Next target was to make the club a genuine European contender and it happened in the 2012-2013 season. Dortmund made the UEFA Champions League final, beating the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid to reach the showpiece event at Wembley Stadium. Standing in their way of a second UEFA Champions League victory were their great rivals from Munich. Bayern had regained the Bundesliga title and in an intense and keenly-fought match, it was an 89th minute winner from Arjen Robben that separated the sides. Bayern went on to win the treble in Heynckes’ final season and a new rivalry was about to emerge in the Bundesliga between Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola drew first blood with the signing of playmaker Mario Gotze from Dortmund after Bayern activated his release clause in his contract and in the end, Bayern ran away with the title in 2013-2014, winning the league title by a staggering 19 points. Despite scoring 80 goals and boasting the top scorer in the league in Robert Lewandowski with 20, Dortmund were no match for Bayern and in the DfB-Pokal final, Bayern underlined that strength with a 2-0 victory.

Lewandowski joined Bayern that summer on a free transfer and Klopp’s time with Borussia Dortmund was drawing to a conclusion. The 2014-2015 league season was disastrous. Dortmund won only four matches in the first half of the season and when FC Augsburg won 1-0 at Signal Iduna Park on 4th February 2015, Borussia Dortmund dropped to the bottom of the table. Relegation looked a distinct possibility. Roman Weidenfeller and Hummels were seen in tense exchanges with frustrated supporters. Two points from safety, Dortmund rallied with nine victories in their last 14 matches and climbed up to seventh position by the season’s end. However in April 2015, Klopp announced he would be leaving at the end of the campaign. There was an enjoyable penalty shootout victory over Guardiola’s Bayern in the DfB-Pokal semi-finals but no fairytale ending as VfL Wolfsburg won the final 3-1 in Klopp’s last match as Dortmund manager.

He departed for a brief break away from football but the Premier League would soon be calling.

Early progression signs at LFC

In October 2015, Liverpool FC elected to part company with Brendan Rodgers just hours after a 1-1 draw in the Merseyside Derby with Everton. Immediately, Klopp’s name was heavily linked.

On 8th October, Klopp was officially appointed as the Reds new manager and at his first press conference, quipped himself as “The Normal One” in reference to Jose Mourinho’s infamous press conference when he was unveiled as the Chelsea manager for the first time in 2004 when the Portuguese claimed to be “The Special One.”

Klopp began his reign in English football with a goalless draw away at Tottenham Hotspur where it was already evident that his ‘Gegenpressing’ tactics were being deployed and developed. Liverpool’s pressing and sprinting statistics were already on the increase.

His first Premier League victory came two weeks later with a fine 3-1 win at Chelsea against Mourinho and although there was still some inconsistency in the Premier League, Klopp helped Liverpool to two cup finals in his first season. Both ended in defeat. Liverpool lost on penalties to Manchester City in the League Cup final and despite taking the lead in the UEFA Europa League final against Sevilla, fell away in the second half to lose 3-1. The Europa League run did include victories over Manchester United and his former club Borussia Dortmund, with a thrilling comeback win in the second leg.

After finishing eighth in the Premier League in 2015-2016, Klopp and his coaching staff signed a six-year contract extension. In 2016-2017, Liverpool FC returned to the UEFA Champions League, securing qualification via the Premier League with a fourth place finish which was wrapped up on the final day with victory over Middlesbrough. The Reds finished undefeated against the other members of the top six, so could have finished higher but for some disappointing losses to teams in the bottom half of the table including Burnley, Swansea City and relegated Hull City.

Although the Merseysiders were thrilling to watch, they were still leaking goals at an alarming rate at the back and Klopp knew it. In January 2018, he paid a world-record transfer fee for a defender to Southampton, acquiring Virgil van Dijk for £75 million. Immediately, the Dutchman’s presence saw Liverpool boast the best defensive record in the second half of the Premier League campaign in 2017-2018. Heavy losses to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were quickly forgotten and Liverpool finished fourth for the second consecutive campaign. The thrills though were saved for the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool knocked out FC Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma on their way to the UEFA Champions League final in Kyiv. However, it ended in a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid meaning Klopp had now lost six of his previous seven cup finals.

In pre-season 2018, the squad was strengthened further by the additions of Fabinho from AS Monaco and the long-awaited capture of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig. Six successive victories at the start of the season saw Liverpool achieve their best start to a season in their 126-year history and they topped the table on Christmas Day, finishing the first half of the campaign unbeaten. Their one and only loss so far this season came in early January away at Manchester City.

Liverpool are desperate to land the Premier League title for the first time and they believe they’ve got the manager to end their league championship drought. Can Jurgen Klopp deliver what the fans want? Only time will tell.

The Managers: Avram Grant

Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2007-2008), Portsmouth (2009-2010), West Ham United (2010-2011)

Avram Grant has spent the majority of his career coaching and managing in Israel, enjoying plenty of success in his homeland with a host of league titles and cup victories with different teams, including Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel-Aviv. However, he has also experienced three seasons coaching in England. He came within a kick of landing the biggest prize in European club football before experiencing a lost cause at Portsmouth and an underwhelming season in the dugout at West Ham United.

Four decades in Israel

Avram Grant began coaching as an 18-year-old all the way back in 1972 when he became a youth coach at his local side, Hapoel Petah Tikva. It was a spell that lasted a staggering 14 years. He made the big step into first-team management in 1986 when he was promoted into the role at Hapoel. He turned them into regular title contenders but they missed out on the top prize to Maccabi Haifa. Grant did enjoy back-to-back victories in the Toto Cup in 1990 and 1991.

His next stop was Maccabi Tel-Aviv where they won the league championship in his first season in-charge of the club, taking the top honours by 13 points in 1992. He repeated the success three years later before taking the position at Hapoel Haifa at the end of the 1994-1995 season. This was an unsuccessful spell as the club finished just fourth in the championship. He returned to Maccabi Tel-Aviv but couldn’t replicate the success of his first spell, only achieving one cup victory in 1999.

At the start of the new millennium, he went to Maccabi Haifa, coaching there until 2002. Maccabi enjoyed a dominating period under his tenure, winning consecutive league championships. However, they missed out on a potential place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League after fielding an ineligible player in a qualifying tie against FC Haka of Finland.

Having led most of the major clubs in Israel, Avram moved into international management in 2002, becoming Israel’s youngest-ever boss in the process. However, they failed to qualify for both the 2004 European Championships and the World Cup in 2006. That was despite an undefeated qualification campaign in the latter but six draws from 10 matches saw them finish below France and Switzerland.

Off to Chelsea

In June 2006, Grant resigned as Israel manager after electing not to extend his contract. He moved to Portsmouth to become Technical Director whilst Harry Redknapp was in his second spell as manager there. However, he was also a close friend of Roman Abramovich and when the Russian billionaire offered him the position of Director of Football at Chelsea; it was an offer he simply couldn’t turn down. His arrival in July 2007 was believed to be another maker in the increased fractious relationship between Abramovich and Jose Mourinho.

In September 2007, Mourinho left as Blues manager and Grant was given the opportunity to move downstairs into the management role at Stamford Bridge. His first game ended in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, just three days after taking control of the team. In doing so, he became the first Israeli coach to manage in the Premier League.

The fans and players initially weren’t happy with the appointment, all still upset with Mourinho’s departure but Avram managed to win them around, steering the club onto a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions following the reverse at Old Trafford which included a 6-0 thumping of Manchester City. That was enough for Abramovich to give him a contract extension and he added Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka to the squad in the 2008 January transfer window.

In February, the Londoners reached the League Cup final but lost in extra-time to Tottenham Hotspur to a goal from Jonathan Woodgate. A month later, Chelsea’s FA Cup defence ended with an embarrassing 1-0 loss in the quarter-finals to Barnsley. However, the Blues and the manager were showing great resilience in the other two major competitions. Late season victories domestically over Arsenal and Manchester United put them right in contention to win the Premier League title whilst Liverpool FC were beaten over two legs in a gruelling UEFA Champions League semi-final. Grant had achieved something Mourinho failed to manage – guiding Chelsea to a Champions League final.

May 2008 promised so much but ultimately produced heartbreak for everyone connected with Chelsea Football Club. Manchester United’s final day victory away at Wigan Athletic ensured they successfully retained their Premier League title whilst Chelsea could only draw at home to Bolton Wanderers.

Less than two weeks later, United and Chelsea went head-to-head in the first all-English final in the modern era of the UEFA Champions League. The game went to penalties and when Cristiano Ronaldo had his spot-kick saved by Petr Cech, skipper John Terry had a chance to win the competition for the first time for Chelsea. He lost his footing, slipped and his kick hit the post. The penalties went to sudden death and when Edwin van der Sar saved from Anelka, it was Manchester United who became the Kings of Europe. Chelsea had missed out on the biggest prize in European club football by the smallest of margins. Three days later, Grant was sacked.

Keeping the sinking ship going at Pompey

After 18 months out of the limelight, Avram returned to Portsmouth in October 2009 as their new Director of Football. Less than two months later, he was appointed manager, replacing Paul Hart in the hotseat. He took over a sinking ship. Portsmouth were bottom of the table with just seven points gained from 13 matches and the club were in desperate financial trouble.

He quickly installed some confidence into the players with home victories over Burnley and Liverpool FC and the players kept fighting, even with the huge problems off-the-field that were threatening to engulf the club’s existence. When Portsmouth were docked nine points in February 2010 for going into administration, relegation was virtually guaranteed. However, the supporters kept faith and a sensational run to the FA Cup final put smiles on the faces of the fans. They beat Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur to reach the Wembley showpiece where ironically, they would face his former club, Chelsea who were chasing a league and cup double. Didier Drogba’s free-kick decided the contest in Chelsea’s favour but Grant’s reputation had been enhanced in such troubling times for Portsmouth.

At the end of the season, he resigned as manager – deciding to embark on a fresh challenge but that didn’t stop the connection he felt with the supporters which he admitted to in an open letter to the fans.

“Portsmouth has given me a feeling of home away from home. I might be leaving Portsmouth physically, but you cannot take Portsmouth away from me and my heart. It’s been both a difficult and complex year for us at the club, but, at the same time, it’s been a wonderful and uplifting professional and personal experience. I have been inundated with letters and emails from fans. Many have brought tears to my eyes – and, take it from me, it takes a lot to do that.”

The Hammers nightmare

Two weeks after resigning as Portsmouth manager, Grant was appointed as West Ham United’s new boss, succeeding Italian playing legend Gianfranco Zola. However, it didn’t go well. He led the club to their worst-ever Premier League start, recording four successive defeats at the start of the season, scoring just twice and conceding 10 in that period.

His first win for the Hammers came in a London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur but by the end of November, West Ham were bottom and had enjoyed just two Premier League victories. The pressure was growing and on his job too with reports that the recently dismissed Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce was being lined-up as a potential successor.

West Ham rallied over the festive period with victories over Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers and a draw at home to Everton but the rumours about his longer-term future continued to grow. Martin O’Neill’s name was mentioned with the job in mid-January, especially after a 5-0 loss away at Newcastle United but he categorically ruled himself out of the running. Although they reached the League Cup semi-finals, that ended in defeat over two legs against Birmingham City and following a 3-2 defeat on the penultimate weekend away at relegation rivals Wigan Athletic which confirmed West Ham’s relegation, Grant was sacked. He’d achieved just seven league wins from 37 matches.

After the Premier League, he guided Partizan Belgrade to a fifth successive Serbian championship in 2012 and he took Ghana to an African Cup of Nations final in 2015 where they lost a penalty shootout to Cote d’Ivoire. In January 2018, he became technical advisor at Indian Super League side NorthEast United FC.

The Managers: Brendan Rodgers

Premier League Clubs Managed: Swansea City (2011-2012), Liverpool FC (2012-2015), Leicester City (2019-PRESENT)

Brendan Rodgers is back in the Premier League having just been confirmed as Claude Puel’s successor at Leicester City. This is after he broke records and new grounds in the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Back-to-back trebles and an unbeaten campaign with the Bhoys in 2016-2017, Rodgers was on-course to win more honours in this campaign, eight points clear of Rangers, led by his former Liverpool FC captain, Steven Gerrard. However, the lure of managing again in the Premier League has been too much for Rodgers to resist.

Previously in England, Rodgers learned his trade under the wing of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea before going onto great success with Swansea City. This earned him the huge opportunity to manage Liverpool FC and he came within an inch of ending the Reds’ league championship drought in 2013-2014.

Enforced retirement

Growing up as a supporter of Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, Rodgers began his playing career as a defender at Ballymena United. He was signed by Reading at the age of 18 but he never made a first-team appearance and a genetic knee condition meant he was forced to stop playing at just 20. Reading kept him on the books as a youth coach and academy director for several years.

He decided to travel around Spain to study coaching methods and in 2004, was invited by new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to become the club’s new youth manager. He received the recommendation to join the Blues by Mourinho’s assistant, Steve Clarke – who is now also a Premiership manager rival of Rodgers’ up in Scotland with Kilmarnock.

In 2006, he earned the promotion to manage the reserve team and even after Mourinho’s departure, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari kept him in that particular role. However, his first senior management opportunity was about to follow in Hertfordshire.

The Royal return doesn’t work out

In November 2008, Aidy Boothroyd left Watford with the club in relegation trouble in the Championship. They were 21st in the table and turned to rookie Rodgers to try and revive their fortunes.

His first experience of management at first-team level didn’t start well. The Hornets dropped into the relegation zone by the end of January and suffered a League Cup exit at the quarter-final stage to holders, Tottenham Hotspur. However, Rodgers stuck to his principles and he guided the club away from danger from February onwards. A run of five wins in six matches saw them finish a creditable 13th in the table.

A few weeks later, his former club Reading were looking for a new boss after Steve Coppell resigned following their failure to earn promotion via the play-offs. Although he initially distanced himself to the job, the lure of returning to Berkshire couldn’t be ignored and a compensation package was eventually agreed which saw Brendan leave Watford and take the vacancy at Reading.

The return didn’t work out. Reading managed just an average of one point per game and won just once at home during his tenure in the Championship. In December 2009, days after conceding a late equaliser at home to fellow strugglers, Scunthorpe United, he parted company with the club by mutual consent after just over six months in-charge. He managed only five victories in an unsuccessful stint at The Madejski Stadium.

Achieving history with Swansea

In July 2010, Rodgers returned to full-time management with Swansea City, succeeding Paolo Sousa. Prior to this appointment, it had looked like he would take up a first-team coaching position alongside Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but the lure of management on his own was simply too much. The Swans played some of the best football in the 2010-2011 Championship season and comfortably finished in the top six.

They made the play-off final and incredibly, it was Reading – the club who had ditched him when the going was tough who were the opponents in the battle to reach the holy grail of the Premier League. Swansea prevailed, winning 4-2 thanks to a Scott Sinclair hat-trick. Rodgers had achieved history by guiding Swansea to the Premier League, becoming the first Welsh club to play at this level.

The experts immediately tipped Swansea for an instant return to the Championship but despite failing to score in their first four matches, he stuck to his principles and prevailed. A strong home record which included victories over Arsenal, eventual champions Manchester City and Liverpool FC saw the Swans finish an exceptional 11th in their debut Premier League campaign. During the season, he signed a contract extension to remain as the club’s manager but when Liverpool FC sacked Kenny Dalglish days after the 2011-2012 season concluded, Rodgers name was immediately linked with the vacancy on Merseyside.

So close with Liverpool

Initially, it seemed like Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was the favourite with the bookmakers but the American owners of Liverpool, The Fenway Sports Group, had earmarked Rodgers as their preferred candidate. In June 2012, compensation was agreed with Swansea and the Northern Irishman was unveiled as Liverpool’s new manager.

His first campaign seemed to be slightly underwhelming. Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League, below Merseyside rivals Everton and were eliminated from the FA Cup at the fourth round stage by League One strugglers, Oldham Athletic. However, he was building for the future and form improved in the second half of the campaign following the January arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, whilst Luis Suarez was in sensational form and seemed to improve under the coaching of Rodgers.

In 2013-2014, Liverpool’s minimum target was to challenge for a top four finish. Without any distractions from a European campaign, the Reds could focus on this goal but they well and truly exceeded expectations. They won their first three matches to top the Premier League table and were still sitting top on Christmas Day of a thrilling title battle against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Back-to-back defeats to City and Chelsea dropped Liverpool to fifth by the turn of the year and he was fined £8,000 by the FA for making comments about Lee Mason’s performance during Liverpool’s 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to the Citizens. However, Liverpool remained firmly in the title race, helped by the emergence of Raheem Sterling as a prosperous talent, the goals from the ‘SAS’ partnership between Sturridge and Suarez and some stunning displays from Gerrard at the heart of the midfield.

An 11-game winning sequence, which included a highly-charged and poignant 3-2 victory over Manchester City in April, had the fans dreaming of a first league championship in 24 years. However, it was not to be. Two weeks later, Gerrard slipped against Chelsea, allowing Demba Ba through on-goal to put the Blues ahead. Mourinho’s side won 2-0 and handed the title advantage to Manchester City. A dramatic collapse at Selhurst Park a week later at Crystal Palace ended the dream. It was a missed opportunity but Liverpool had never come so close to landing the Premier League prize. They scored 101 goals and thrilled spectators throughout the country but conceding 50 goals were one of the detrimental factors to their title tilt.

In the summer of 2014, Suarez left for Barcelona and Sturridge spent much of the campaign on the sidelines thanks to injury. Rodgers spent big but failed to find an adequate replacement for the Uruguayan forward. Mario Balotelli was a gamble that backfired whilst Lazar Markovic proved to be an expensive flop and Dejan Lovren struggled with his £20 million price tag. Back in the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool struggled to make an impact, achieving just one victory from their six group games and exiting the competition at the first hurdle. Rodgers’ decision to rest his star names at The Bernabeu, including Gerrard, caused a rift between the boss and his captain and that turned out to be the catalyst for Gerrard’s summer departure to LA Galaxy.

Liverpool finished a distant sixth, losing 6-1 on the final day at Stoke City and lost in domestic cup semi-finals to Chelsea and Aston Villa respectively. The campaign had been a real disappointment but the owners continued to have faith in Rodgers and stuck by him in the summer, providing further funds to allow Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne to join the club.

By now, the patience of the supporters with Rodgers had run out. The frailties that had persisted through the title near-miss of 2013-2014 hadn’t been fixed nearly 18 months on. They limped past Carlisle United on penalties in the League Cup third round and couldn’t even beat Swiss part-timers FC Sion in the UEFA Europa League group stages. Speculation was rife that his time was up at Anfield.

Hours after a 1-1 draw with Merseyside neighbours Everton in the 225th Merseyside Derby, Rodgers was sacked by the owners – his fate had been sealed before the match after a run of just one win in nine matches in all competitions. He left with Liverpool sitting a distant 10th in the table.

It was a chastening end to what had been an initial promising start to his Liverpool reign.

Celtic joy

In May 2016, he was appointed as Celtic’s new manager on a 12-month rolling contract and immediately set to work on one of the clubs he supported as a boy. Celtic had been winning titles comfortably under the previous regime but had been failing to win the domestic cup competitions and made little impact in Europe either. The aim was to make the Bhoys stronger in European competition and to leave nothing on the table in terms of silverware for the other Scottish clubs.

In 2016-2017, he achieved history by guiding Celtic to a domestic treble for the fourth time in their history and ending the season unbeaten in all domestic competitions. They became the first Scottish top-flight side to complete an unbeaten league campaign since 1899, finishing with 106 points and a whopping 30 points clear of runners-up Aberdeen. The Dons were beaten in the Scottish Cup final and the Scottish League Cup final too as Celtic managed their 100th major trophy in their history.

They went 69 games unbeaten domestically before losing 4-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle in December 2017. Nevertheless, they once again cruised to the Premiership title and beat Motherwell in both domestic cup finals, becoming the first manager to win a ‘Double Treble’ in the history of Scottish football.

His success at Celtic wasn’t ignored and it meant his name was often linked with vacant Premier League jobs when they came up. In February 2019, he decided to cut his ties at Parkhead and return down south to the Premier League, taking over a Leicester City side sitting 12th in the table and having lost six on their last seven matches in all competitions. He definitely has a point to prove, both to Leicester supporters and the Premier League in general.

The Managers: Manuel Pellegrini

Premier League Clubs Managed: Manchester City (2013-2016), West Ham United (2018-PRESENT)

Manuel Pellegrini is among a group of high-profile managers who have managed to win titles in four different countries. The Chilean enjoyed great early success at Manchester City and has also had the privilege of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world in Real Madrid. In May 2018, he returned to the English top-flight, succeeding David Moyes as boss of West Ham United.

Born in Santiago to Italian parents, Pellegrini graduated in civil engineering in 1979 at The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. During that time, he spent his entire playing career with Universidad de Chile, featuring 451 times in the Chilean league between 1973 and 1986. He also won 28 international caps for his country. For him, a coaching career beckoned.

Attracting Real Madrid’s interest

Pellegrini took football coaching courses in Europe but started his managerial career in South America. He had spells in-charge as manager of Palestino, O’Higgins and Universidad Católica. He left his homeland behind for a spell as manager of LDU Quito in 1999, guiding them to a national title and attracting the interest of some of the leading sides in the Argentine game.

He became only the second non-Argentine coach to manage Buenos Aires-based club San Lorenzo in 2001 and led them to victory in the Copa Mercosur, South America’s equivalent to the UEFA Cup. His work at San Lorenzo was noted by River Plate, where he won the Clausura championships in 2003 before the jump into European coaching.

First port of call was Villarreal, who offered him their managerial position in July 2004. In his first season in-charge, Villarreal reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals and finished third. In four seasons with El Submarino Amarillo, Pellegrini never finished lower than seventh in the La Liga table and Villarreal enjoyed their best-ever campaigns in Europe. In 2006, the club reached the Champions League semi-finals, missing out on the final 1-0 on aggregate to Arsenal. It was the Gunners who ended their run too in the 2008-2009 campaign, defeating the Spaniards in the last eight.

His fine work at Villarreal attracted Real Madrid’s interest and in June 2009, the likeable Chilean was appointed Los Blancos boss on a two-year contract. He wasted no time in spending the cash to bring some world-class players to The Bernabeu. The world transfer record was broken to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to the club from Manchester United, whilst Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema and Kaka were also acquired for hefty transfer fees.

His team amassed an impressive 96 points in La Liga but still finished three points shy of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side. A disappointing European campaign which ended with a round-of-16 exit to Lyon saw Florentino Pérez give Pellegrini an ultimatum – win the league or face up to losing your job. Despite achieving the club’s highest points tally in their history, the runners-up position was not enough to keep him in the role at the end of the season. His contract was terminated and he was succeeded by Jose Mourinho who was leaving Inter Milan after winning the UEFA Champions League with the Italians.

Malaga to Manchester

Although he received an offer to manage the Mexican international team following the 2010 World Cup, Pellegrini elected to stay in club management, taking charge of Malaga in November 2010 who were under Qatari ownership at the time.

After guiding them to a mid-table position in 2010-2011, Malaga enjoyed their best-ever season in 2011-2012 as Pellegrini guided them to 58 points, fourth position in the table and qualification for the following season’s UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. By now, the Qatari owners had decided to put all their investment into Paris Saint-Germain and pulled the plug on their involvement with the Spanish side. Star players like Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon moved on but Pellegrini carried on and took the team to within an inch of the following season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals. They were 2-1 ahead in the quarter-finals, second leg against Borussia Dortmund before conceding two late goals to lose 3-2 on the night and on aggregate. With the club excluded from European competition for the following season due to breaching Financial Fair Play rulings, Pellegrini announced his departure at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign. Manchester City beckoned for him.

In June 2013, he was officially confirmed as City’s new manager and immediately started work on making some changes to the first-team. Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Fernandinho were among the new recruits whilst Carlos Tevez was moved on to Juventus. He became the first Chilean to manage in the Premier League.

He made a shaky start, especially away from The Etihad Stadium where City lost four matches upto the end of November but after a surprising 1-0 reverse at Sunderland, the Citizens went on a 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions which included a 7-0 thumping over Norwich City, a 6-0 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur and a comeback 3-2 win in the UEFA Champions League away to Bayern Munich.

City hit top spot in January 2014 and Pellegrini won back-to-back Manager of the Month awards during this period. They’d scored 100 goals in all competitions by mid-January and in early March; a 3-1 victory over Sunderland in the League Cup final saw him earn his first piece of silverware with the club. In the Premier League, Manchester City were locked in a tense fight for the title with Liverpool FC and Chelsea but after a 3-2 loss at Anfield, they dropped just two points in the run-in. On the final day of the season, goals from Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany saw West Ham United beaten 2-0 and earned Manchester City their second Premier League title in three seasons. Pellegrini became the first coach from outside Europe to win the Premier League.

Unable to build on initial success

Pellegrini was roundly praised for his attacking managerial style, calm demeanour and excellent man management. However, his second season at Manchester City was disappointing as they were unable to build on his initial success. Disappointing defeats at home to Newcastle United and Middlesbrough in the domestic cups and failure to progress further than the round-of-16 in the UEFA Champions League set the tone for an underwhelming campaign.

City were joint-top of the table on New Years’ Day but claimed just 18 points from their next 12 games which included defeats to Arsenal, Burnley and Crystal Palace and dropped to a distant fourth spot after a 4-2 reverse in the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford in April. A run of five successive victories in the run-in ensured a runners-up finish in the Premier League but some way behind eventual champions, Chelsea.

So it was a surprise to many in August 2015 when Pellegrini’s contract was extended by another season by the board. Manchester City began the 2015-2016 campaign in ruthless fashion, winning their first five matches without conceding a goal. However, a home defeat to West Ham United started an inconsistent run of form that plagued their league season. In early February 2016, Pellegrini confirmed he would be leaving at the end of the season with Guardiola finally arriving after confirming his departure from Bayern Munich two months earlier.

The Citizens stumbled over the finishing line in fourth spot and enjoyed their best season in the UEFA Champions League, reaching the semi-finals before bowing out over two legs to Real Madrid. Pellegrini left with the fifth-highest win percentage in Premier League history.

Unfinished business in the capital

In August 2016, Pellegrini moved to the Chinese Super League, succeeding Li Tie as boss of Hebei China Fortune. He won 22 of his 52 games in-charge of them before leaving in May 2018. Three days after his departure, he was confirmed as David Moyes’ successor at West Ham United.

On his arrival, he vowed to bring attacking, winning football to West Ham but despite plenty of investment in the first-team in the summer transfer window, the Hammers lost all of their first four matches. A 3-1 away victory in mid-September at Everton kick-started their campaign and a recent run of four wins in a row took the club upto eighth position in the Premier League table just before the 2018 festive period fixtures. 2019 began with an excellent 1-0 success over Arsenal but disappointment followed with a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of League One basement club, AFC Wimbledon.

It feels like Manuel Pellegrini has unfinished business in the Premier League. It is good to have one of football’s genuine likeable managers back on our shores and it will be interesting to see his progress at The London Stadium with West Ham United.

The Managers: Roy Hodgson

Premier League Clubs Managed: Blackburn Rovers (1997-1998), Fulham (2008-2010), Liverpool FC (2010-2011), West Bromwich Albion (2011-2012), Crystal Palace (2017-PRESENT)

Few in the management game have a CV that is as globalised as Roy Hodgson. He has managed 16 different teams in eight countries in a management career that has spanned over 40 years. It began in Sweden with Halmstads BK in 1976 and continues today as manager of Crystal Palace. Hodgson has also managed the Switzerland, Finland and England international teams, as well as the likes of Malmö FF, Inter Milan, Fulham, Udinese and Liverpool FC.

The Swedish connection

Roy Hodgson’s playing career wasn’t one filled with much success. He was in the youth setup at Crystal Palace but never quite broke through into the first-team. He spent time in the non-league with the likes of Tonbridge, Maidstone United and Gravesend & Northfleet. However, he was already into coaching and he started his managerial career in Sweden with Halmstads BK in the top-flight. His success there is considered as one of the biggest surprises in the history of Swedish football. When he took over, Halmstads were a team fighting against relegation on a regular basis but in his five seasons with them, he guided them to league championships in 1976 and 1979.

After an unhappy time in England with Bristol City which included a brief four-month spell as caretaker manager, he returned to Sweden in 1982, managing lower-league sides Oddevold and Örebro. In 1985, he took over at one of the biggest teams in the country and enjoyed his best win ratio rate of his career at Malmö. He led the team to five consecutive league championships and two Swedish Cups.

On the continental stage, the club’s biggest achievement was knocking out Italian champions Inter Milan in the first round of the 1989-1990 European Cup season, helped by drawing 1-1 at The San Siro. Malmö crashed out in the next round to Mechelen of Belgium. Due to his successful time with the club, he is still greatly appreciated by the supporters who have unofficially named a section of the stadium “Roy’s Hörna.”

Swiss factor

In July 1990, Roy moved to another country to manage, starting a five-year association with Switzerland. First up was unheralded club side Neuchatel Xamax, guiding them to third and fifth place finishes in his two seasons managing in the top-flight. In January 1992, Hodgson took over as manager of the national team, replacing Uli Stielike, who replaced Hodgson in the vacancy created by his departure from Neuchatel Xamax.

Switzerland had been absent from major international competition for nearly 30 years but under him, they qualified for the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, coming ahead of Portugal and Scotland in a tricky qualification section. He also took the Swiss to their highest-ever position in the FIFA World Rankings of third.

With no home nation involvement, Roy was one of the few Englishman at the 1994 World Cup and his team were drawn into Group A, together with the hosts, Romania and highly-fancied Colombia. The opening match against the United States was the first World Cup game to be played indoors at The Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. They drew that game 1-1 and finished runners-up in the group after an impressive 4-1 victory over Romania. Elimination followed in the round-of-16, losing 3-0 to Spain.

Under Hodgson’s tenure, they easily qualified for the 1996 European Championships, losing just once in 10 qualifying matches. However, Hodgson left after qualification was assured as he had already accepted a position as manager of Italian giants, Inter Milan. At Inter, he guided them away from relegation danger on his arrival to seventh place in 1995-1996 and third in 1996-1997. He managed the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Paul Ince and Javier Zanetti on a run to the UEFA Cup final, where they played FC Schalke 04 in the final. It was the last year where the final was played over two legs and after two 1-0 home victories, the final went to penalties. Schalke triumphed and Inter fans were furious, pelting Hodgson with coins and lighters afterwards. It was his last match in-charge of the Italians and he returned to England for his first crack in the Premier League.

Blackburn downfall

Blackburn Rovers had won the Premier League title in 1995 but had slipped to 13th just two seasons later and Jack Walker had persuaded Hodgson to come to England and attempt to steer the Lancastrians back in the right direction. Things started well. Blackburn were second on Christmas Day 1997 and he won two Manager of the Month Awards in the process. In Chris Sutton, he had a player who knew where the back of the net was and his 18 goals meant he shared the Golden Boot with Dion Dublin and Michael Owen. Blackburn eventually finished in sixth place and qualified for the UEFA Cup.

His second season was unsuccessful. Numerous injuries, talk of unrest in the dressing room and the failure to find a suitable replacement for Scottish defender Colin Hendry, who had joined Rangers in the summer combined to a season of struggle. After a 2-0 home defeat to Southampton in November 1998, Blackburn dropped to the foot of the table. Moments after the game, Walker sacked Hodgson after Roy had refused the opportunity to resign. He later admitted: “To Blackburn’s honour, Jack Walker wanted me to resign; he wanted to still pay for the rest of my contract. I refused to do that, arrogant of course as I was in those days. I thought if they stuck with me I’d save them from relegation. I gave him no choice but to sack me.”

After Blackburn, he returned to Inter Milan as technical director before returning to Switzerland to coach Grasshoppers Zurich for a season. In October 2000, Kevin Keegan resigned as England manager and Hodgson was shortlisted for the job. However, he was ruled out of the running when he agreed to take over in Denmark at FC Copenhagen. In his one season with them, he guided them to their first Danish championship since 1993 and they won the Danish Supercup too. He left them in the summer of 2001 to take up a post with Udinese which lasted less than six months with the club only ninth in the table. He has admitted it was a mistake to leave Copenhagen for Udinese.

After spells managing the United Arab Emirates international team and Viking FK in Norway, he became the national coach of Finland in January 2006. Finland had never qualified for a major tournament and narrowly failed to qualify for EURO 2008, finishing fourth in their group with 24 points and only missing out on automatic qualification by just three points.

Then, it was back to English football in a slightly surprise appointment in west London.

Saving Fulham

In late December 2007, Hodgson accepted the post of manager of Fulham who were sitting 18th in the Premier League table and had mustered just two wins in the entire campaign. His first game in-charge ended in defeat to Chelsea and he immediately looked at strengthening the squad, with Brede Hangeland being one of his key signings. The pair had worked together at Viking FK. Initially, results did not improve. Fulham were dismissed out of the FA Cup on penalties by League One outfit Bristol Rovers and in his first 13 league matches, the Cottagers amassed a meagre nine points.

At half-time against Manchester City in April 2008, Fulham were 2-0 down and seemingly destined for relegation to the Championship but some galvanising words at half-time saw a stirring second half fightback. A late goal from Diomansy Kamara helped Fulham to a 3-2 victory and spearheaded a dramatic recovery. Wins over Birmingham City and Portsmouth in the final two games saw Hodgson’s side achieve unlikely survival at the expense of Reading and Birmingham.

In the summer of 2008, the experienced Mark Schwarzer arrived on a free transfer from Middlesbrough and Hodgson also completed a permanent move for Danny Murphy, signed teenage defender Chris Smalling and strikers Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson. He guided Fulham to a fantastic seventh place in the table which remains the club’s highest-ever finish in the top-flight and ensuring qualification for the new UEFA Europa League.

In 2009-2010, Fulham’s Premier League form was inconsistent throughout the campaign but Roy still enjoyed notable victories over Liverpool FC, Everton and Manchester United, collected two Manager of the Month Awards and a solid 12th place finish, just four points behind Birmingham City in ninth. The main attention of Fulham’s campaign was saved for their historic run in the UEFA Europa League. The Cottagers eliminated holders Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian superpowers Juventus, German champions VfL Wolfsburg and former European Cup winners Hamburger SV in the knockout rounds. The win over Hamburg took Fulham to a major European final for the first time in their 130-year history. They would visit Hamburg’s ground for the showpiece event against Atletico Madrid. The final went to extra time at 1-1 before Diego Forlan scored the winning goal for the Spaniards. It had been an epic run which ended in cruel disappointment.

After winning the LMA Manager of the Year by a record margin, Hodgson left Fulham in the summer of 2010 to take over the vacancy at Liverpool FC following the departure of Rafa Benitez.

Anfield villain turns Baggies hero

When Hodgson turned up at Anfield, it came against the backdrop of an unstable period. The club’s owners had put the Merseysiders up for sale and the takeover went through in mid-October during his reign. Also, news broke that club legend Kenny Dalglish had applied for the vacancy and been turned down. As soon as the faithful found this out, Hodgson was never going to win the supporters over.

Poor results didn’t help matters. Liverpool were knocked out of the League Cup on penalties at Anfield by League Two strugglers Northampton Town and a 2-1 home defeat by Blackpool in early October saw the club drop into the bottom three of the top-flight for the first time since September 1964. He admitted afterwards that Liverpool were potentially facing a relegation battle.

There was a 2-0 victory over league champions Chelsea and progress into the knockout rounds of the UEFA Europa League but more alarming displays and defeats to Stoke City, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers left him on borrowed time. After a 3-1 reverse at former club Blackburn in early January, his ill-fated spell was brought to an end by John W. Henry. He won just seven out of his 20 Premier League matches and left with the club in 12th and just four points above the drop zone.

A month later, he was appointed as West Bromwich Albion boss, replacing Roberto Di Matteo. West Brom had the worst defensive record in the league, lost 13 of their previous 18 outings and were only outside the relegation zone on goal difference. He immediately tightened up the backline and five wins and five draws took the Baggies clear of any danger, finishing in a creditable 11th position.

He went one position better in 2011-2012 with some impressive away performances which included a 1-0 victory at Anfield and a 5-1 thrashing of Black Country rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. Now, his national side was calling him. England needed a manager ahead of EURO 2012 and Roy answered the emergency call.

The England experience

After Fabio Capello had resigned as England manager in February 2012, it was widely anticipated that Harry Redknapp would take the job but FA chairman David Bernstein insisted only Hodgson had been approached for the position. He agreed a four-year contract.

England were just a month away from competing at the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, so expectations were low going into the tournament. However, they won their group with two wins from three matches before bowing out to Italy via a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals.

The Three Lions then produced an unbeaten qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup finals and Hodgson was praised for giving several youngsters and newcomers a chance in the international setup. The likes of Andros Townsend, Adam Lallana, Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Rodriguez all won their maiden caps during his tenure in the international post. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was a major disappointment. Defeats to Italy and Uruguay saw England eliminated before the first week of the competition was complete. A dire goalless draw with Costa Rica ensured England finished bottom of Group D. Whilst the group was one of the toughest, a total of one point was not good enough for all concerned within the England setup.

Worse was to come at the 2016 European Championships. England went into the tournament considered as one of the favourites to go into the latter stages, especially after a stirring friendly victory in Berlin over Germany a few months before the competition got underway in France. However, it never seemed like he knew his best line-up, his best tactical system and he stayed far too loyal to underperforming players. Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling were among those to have a terrible individual tournament. Having been beaten to top spot in the group by Wales, England put in a diabolical performance in the round-of-16 match against Iceland. England led but lost the lead through poor tactics at a throw-in and a goalkeeping error. Iceland won the game 2-1 to provide Hodgson with his biggest humiliation in his career. He promptly resigned shortly after the full-time whistle.

Revival at Palace

After a year on the sidelines to reflect on the Iceland defeat, Hodgson came back from what appeared to be the managerial scrapheap to take charge of his boyhood club, Crystal Palace. Palace were in big trouble, having lost their first four matches without scoring a goal and had sacked Frank de Boer. Although he lost his first three matches by a margin of 10-0, a surprising 2-1 victory over league champions Chelsea in October 2017 started a revival in form.

No team had previously survived relegation from the top-flight after losing their first seven games but a revitalised Palace achieved this feat fairly comfortably. Leicester City were beaten 5-0 for the club’s biggest-ever Premier League victory and they eventually finished 11th, just one place below their best Premier League finish of 10th, achieved during Alan Pardew’s tenure in 2014-2015.

It looks like the Eagles will be involved again in a relegation battle in 2018-2019 but recent home victories over Burnley and Leicester City suggest the club are finding their best form at Selhurst Park again and with Hodgson’s experience in the game, they will always feel confident of achieving the minimum target every season which is survival and plenty more top-flight football to come in south-east London.

The Managers: David O’Leary

Premier League Clubs Managed: Leeds United (1998-2002), Aston Villa (2003-2006)

It has been seven years since David O’Leary has held down a position as a manager and over 12 years since his last Premier League job. It is rather unlikely now that a man who still holds the record for most-ever appearances for Arsenal as a player will return to the dugout.

O’Leary’s playing career saw him win two league championships with Arsenal and also play a key role in the Republic of Ireland’s run to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals in Italy. As a manager, his best achievement was getting Leeds United to a UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2001 and equalling a successive wins record in his first season as Leeds boss, set by Don Revie’s all-conquering side of the 1970s.

An Arsenal stalwart

As a player, O’Leary played as a no-nonsense central defender and was a heartbeat of the Arsenal sides throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He made his league debut for the Londoners in 1975 and would go on to make a club-record total of 558 league appearances and 722 in total.

His first major honour as an Arsenal player came as part of the winning FA Cup squad in 1979 when they beat Manchester United in a thrilling conclusion to that final. He actually featured in three successive cup finals as the Gunners made the showpiece event in English football at the time in 1978 and 1980, losing to Ipswich Town and West Ham United respectively.

In November 1989, he surpassed George Armstrong’s all-time record of club appearances. By now, the new generation of central defenders was coming through and O’Leary was playing the back-up role to Tony Adams and Steve Bould. Nevertheless, he was still very influential in the dressing room at Highbury as Arsenal ended Merseyside’s dominance of the league championship to win the crown in 1989, beating Liverpool FC at Anfield in that unbelievable climax to the 1988-1989 season.

A second league title followed in 1991 and his last honours came with the FA Cup and League Cup double of 1993. That summer, he ended his 19-year association with the club, joining Leeds United on a free transfer. He made only 10 league appearances before an Achilles injury was sustained which he never recovered from. David announced his retirement from professional football in 1995, having not played for nearly two years.

On the international scene, O’Leary will always be remembered for one of the most important strikes of a football in the history of the Republic of Ireland. It was his decisive goal in the shootout victory over Romania in Genoa that took the Irish to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990. It was their maiden World Cup campaign. He won 68 caps for his country, scoring just once in a European Championship qualifier against Turkey.

Getting George’s job

O’Leary’s first break arrived in September 1996 when Leeds United sacked their 1992 title-winning manager, Howard Wilkinson. Former Arsenal boss George Graham was installed as his successor and he immediately put O’Leary on his coaching staff as his assistant. O’Leary learned a lot from the master and when Graham left for the Tottenham Hotspur job in early October 1998, he had a chance of getting George’s job.

Leeds’ preferred candidate at the time was the Leicester City boss Martin O’Neill. However, he elected to stay loyal to his current employers and turned the job down. Having not managed to attract the big name, the hierarchy decided to upgrade O’Leary to the managerial role on a full-time basis. There was a lot of trust placed in him and David didn’t disappoint. He allowed the likes of Jonathan Woodgate, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith to blossom in the first-team and kept the experienced personnel of Lucas Radebe and Nigel Martyn around to help the young chargers out.

Leeds went on a stunning run of seven successive league victories in the Spring period of 1999, equalling a record set by Revie’s championship-winning sides of the 1970s. Only a goalless draw with Liverpool FC in mid-April stopped that sequence but Leeds finished an excellent fourth and qualified once again for the UEFA Cup.

In 1999-2000, Leeds led the table into the New Year, despite selling star striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to Atletico Madrid. Although Manchester United successfully overtook them, Leeds went into April in second place in the table and a UEFA Cup semi-final. Then, the club was struck by tragedy.

Keeping Leeds together

24 hours before the European semi-final with Galatasaray, two Leeds United supporters were stabbed following altercations in Istanbul and both lost their lives. Leeds lost the semi-final over two legs and were united in grief. It took a lot out of the players who struggled through the remainder of the campaign, winning just one further match. However, they did enough to claim third place and a spot in the 2000-2001 UEFA Champions League after drawing on the final day at Upton Park. It was the least they deserved for a stunning year of football.

O’Leary kept Leeds together in such a tough time and with the added cash for the Champions League adventure, began to splash it out. Rio Ferdinand joined from West Ham United for £18 million and other big arrivals would follow, including Olivier Dacourt, Robbie Keane and Robbie Fowler. Leeds enjoyed their maiden adventure in Europe’s premier club competition. The likes of AC Milan and Deportivo La Coruna were beaten and Leeds went further than any other English side, reaching the semi-finals before bowing out 3-0 on aggregate to Valencia.

Premier League form dipped though. European distractions left Leeds in a lowly 13th place in the table going into 2001 and despite a strong second half of the campaign; they were pipped to third spot on the final day thanks to Liverpool FC’s resounding 4-0 victory at The Valley. It wasn’t known at the time but this would be the start of Leeds’ decline. Peter Risdale had sanctioned transfer fees and spending believing the club would continue qualifying for the Champions League every season. It turned out to be a bad misjudgement.

In 2001-2002, Leeds topped the table again on New Years’ Day but they couldn’t sustain the pace set by Arsenal, Liverpool FC and Manchester United. Newcastle United’s remarkable improvement under Sir Bobby Robson pushed Leeds back into fifth position and another season of UEFA Cup football. Some Leeds fans were losing faith with O’Leary’s lack of silverware despite an enthusiastic approach to the football they were seeing. Risdale agreed and sacked the manager in June 2002.

Onto Villa

After a season on the sidelines, O’Leary returned to management in June 2003, succeeding Graham Taylor as manager of Aston Villa. Villa had finished the previous season in an underwhelming 16th position and were hoping for much better. However, they didn’t have a huge budget as Doug Ellis had rained in the spending. Only the relegated Sunderland duo of Thomas Sorensen and Gavin McCann were acquired in pre-season.

It was a slow start and Villa sunk to 18th in the table when they lost 4-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford in December 2003. Yet, they went on a wonderful run in the second half of the season and only narrowly missed out on UEFA Cup qualification after a final day defeat to the Red Devils. Villa finished in sixth position, keeping O’Leary’s impressive record up of never finishing outside the top six as a Premier League boss.

The next two seasons afterwards were unremarkable and disappointing for all connections. Villa dropped to 10th in 2004-2005 and 16th in 2005-2006. The signings of Milan Baros and Kevin Phillips didn’t quite work out and with Ellis about to sell the club to American businessman Randy Lerner, O’Leary departed in the summer of 2006 by mutual consent.

His only managerial appointment since was a short spell with Al-Ahli in the United Arab Emirates. He won just six of his 15 matches’ in-charge and was sacked in April 2011. A messy two years followed with a financial dispute between the club and O’Leary which was eventually settled with David winning £3.34m in compensation through the FIFA players’ status committee.

O’Leary still lives in Yorkshire today and does some work for Arsenal as a club ambassador.

The Managers: Andre Villas-Boas

Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur (2012-2013)

Still only 41, Andre Villas-Boas harbours the desire to get back into management, although whether that will be back in the Premier League remains to be seen. AVB’s most recent commitment though was away from football. Following one of his other main passions, he quit his role managing in China to compete in the 2018 Dakar Rally, though it didn’t end in glory.

One of Jose Mourinho’s disciples, Villas-Boas has experienced tricky times with both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur but has won honours as a manager in both Portugal and Russia.

Learning from a master

Unlike many of his former colleagues, Villas-Boas didn’t actually experience a playing career. He did his learning at FC Porto under the tutorage of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. It was Robson who arranged for AVB to begin his FA coaching qualifications, as well as to do some observational work at Ipswich Town and how they trained.

At the age of just 21, he was appointed technical director of the British Virgin Islands national team before continuing his development under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. He was one of Mourinho’s assistants during his first spell at Chelsea and also followed him to Inter Milan for Jose’s first campaign in Serie A.

In October 2009, Villas-Boas elected to go alone, taking the managerial job with Portuguese club Academica. It was a challenge as Academica were sitting bottom of the table in the Portuguese top-flight. He guided them to a comfortable mid-table finish and also the semi-finals of the domestic cup, winning plenty of admirers for an attractive style of football.

In the summer of 2010, both FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon were looking for new managers and AVB was immediately linked with both positions. He elected to choose Porto and the 2010-2011 season was a dream for him. They won the league championship by 20 points, conceding only 13 goals in 34 matches during the season. Porto were unbeaten through the league season for only the second time in their history and there was also great success in Europe. They won the UEFA Europa League; defeating country rivals Sporting Braga in the final. The success made Villas-Boas the youngest-ever manager to win a European trophy, at the age of just 33 years and 213 days. Chelsea liked what they saw and having sacked Carlo Ancelotti after a season without a trophy, he would be their next boss. 

A sour experience at Stamford Bridge

It wasn’t cheap to get Villas-Boas. Chelsea had to pay FC Porto over £13 million in compensation to release him from his contract. He won all of his pre-season fixtures and managed to attract the likes of Juan Mata and Raul Meireles to the club.

However, he preferred to use creative players and started to alienate the senior core of players. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were often left on the bench and weren’t happy with their reduced playing time, whilst Nicolas Anelka left for the riches of the Chinese Super League. Despite a decent start to the Premier League season, Chelsea’s form dipped in the autumn, losing games in quick succession to Queens Park Rangers (1-0), Arsenal (3-5) and Liverpool FC (1-2).

Under his reign, they did end Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the domestic season but the pressure was starting to increase, especially when the Blues dropped out of the top four after a lacklustre display in a 2-0 loss to Everton in mid-February. A 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie added to the problems and when the Blues lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion in early March, he was sacked and replaced on an interim basis by his no.2, Roberto Di Matteo. It was the first major setback in his still young managerial career.

Time for Tottenham

In July 2012, Tottenham Hotspur were looking for a new manager after deciding to part ways with Harry Redknapp and they decided to hire Villas-Boas on a three-year contract. He was excited and ambitious about the plans he had for the club.

It took him four games to get his first league victory for the club but a 3-1 away win at Reading started an improved run of form, which included him becoming the first Tottenham manager to win at Old Trafford in 23 years. A run of five victories in six December games pushed Spurs into third position going into 2013 and hopes were high for a top four finish. When they defeated nearest rivals Arsenal 2-1 in March at White Hart Lane, they looked set to achieve this goal. However, back-to-back losses to Liverpool FC and at home to Fulham saw them throw away a decent points advantage. Arsenal clawed back the initiative and despite Gareth Bale’s best efforts, it was the Gunners who claimed fourth place and the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot on the final day of the season.

The season had ended in disappointment of not achieving the ultimate goal but the final points tally of 73 was the highest in Spurs’ Premier League history and was a record still held until the runners-up position in 2016-2017 achieved under Mauricio Pochettino. It was also the highest total of points achieved by a team not to finish in the top four in a 38-game season.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League meant Bale was virtually certain to leave and so he did, joining Real Madrid for £85.3 million. Tottenham spent big in the summer of 2013 in an effort to strengthen their resources. The likes of Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado and Christian Eriksen were among the new recruits.

However, league form was disappointing and two demoralising defeats, 6-0 away against Manchester City and 5-0 at home to Liverpool FC left Spurs trailing in seventh position in the table. Daniel Levy decided to sack AVB just over a fortnight before Christmas 2013. This came after intense scrutinising of his coaching methods and integrity from several of the football journalists reporting on the Lilywhites at the time.  

From Russia to the Dakar

Following his English troubles, AVB tried another country, taking over at Zenit Saint Petersburg, winning the Russian Premier League title in 2015 and the domestic cup a year later. VfL Wolfsburg offered him the position as their boss in October 2016 after the departure of Dieter Hecking but he turned down the job for a lucrative position as boss of Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League. He spent one season with them before deciding to take a break from management. He decided to try his luck in the 2018 Dakar Rally, driving a Toyota Hilux. A keen motorsport fan, his experience didn’t last long, crashing four stages in and damaging his back. Two months later, he competed in another off-road rally and this hobby is certainly something that is keeping him busy away from the trials and tribulations he has experienced in his football management career.