Category Archives: The Managers

The Managers: Sam Allardyce

Premier League Clubs Managed: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2007), Newcastle United (2007-2008), Blackburn Rovers (2008-2010), West Ham United (2012-2015), Sunderland (2015-2016), Crystal Palace (2016-2017), Everton (2017-2018)

Sam Allardyce is one of the great survivors of the Premier League. He is often one of the first bosses that worried owners turn to when their club look to be flirting dangerously with the depths of a relegation battle. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright was the latest in this situation when the Toffees elected to call on his services in November 2017. Everton slipped into the bottom three when they lost 4-1 at Southampton under David Unsworth’s difficult reign as caretaker manager. They were in freefall and needed the expertise of Allardyce to get themselves out of a very sticky situation.

The Merseysiders didn’t have to worry. The football in terms of overall quality was not good but ‘Big Sam’ is one person who doesn’t care about style. The result is vitally more important over substance and that’s why Everton finished in eighth position despite some underwhelming displays. It was another case of mission complete for Allardyce. His reward was the sack 72 hours after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season!

All this and a successful salvage mission at Crystal Palace has come after his ill-fated short spell as England manager in 2016 which seemed to have put him on the managerial scrapheap.

Over 500 appearances

During a 21-year playing career, Allardyce made 578 league and cup appearances. After spending his youth days at semi-professional level with Dudley Town, he joined Bolton Wanderers in 1969 and spent nine seasons as a player with the Trotters. During his time with them, Bolton were promoted to the First Division in 1978. It was the most productive spell of his playing days.

He spent much of the 1980s on the road, playing for no fewer than eight clubs. This included a brief period playing in the North American Soccer League with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and a second 14-game spell with Bolton Wanderers in the 1985-1986 season. A year later, he won promotion out of the Fourth Division with Preston North End, also earning a spot in the PFA Team of the Year.

Early coaching days

Allardyce was hired as a player-coach by Brian Talbot at West Bromwich Albion in February 1989. He spent the rest of the season managing and occasionally playing for the reserves before being promoted to first-team coaching duties. That role ended in January 1991 when he and Talbot were sacked following the Baggies shock FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Woking.

So, ‘Big Sam’ went to Ireland and despite huge financial pressures, he managed to guide Limerick to promotion into the Irish Premier Division. After a year in Ireland, he returned to English shores, coaching at Preston North End. When manager Les Chapman was sacked 10 games into the campaign, Sam had a stint as caretaker manager but despite promise, he was overlooked for the job permanently by the Preston hierarchy. He left after 18 months at Deepdale, frustrated by being forced to work at youth team level after his taste of first-team management.

His first permanent managerial breakthrough came at Blackpool, who appointed him manager in July 1994. In two seasons at Bloomfield Road, he took them to 12th and 3rd place finishes in the Second Division. After narrowly missing out on promotion in 1996, losing in the play-off semi-finals to Bradford City, Allardyce was sacked by Chairman Owen Oyston. Five years after his departure, he said: “I was stunned but it didn’t put me off football management otherwise I would never have returned. Looking back, Blackpool probably did me a favour.”

In January 1997, he returned to management with Notts County, who were struggling in the lower reaches of Division Two. He arrived too late to save them from relegation but earned them instant promotion as Third Division champions in 1997-1998, becoming the first post-war side to earn promotion from any division in the month of March.

He remained at County until October 1999, resigning to return to Bolton Wanderers.

The spirit of Bolton

Allardyce did inherit a talented squad that had just missed out on promotion the previous season via the play-offs. Among the players at his disposal were Eidur Gudjohnsen, Dean Holdsworth, Claus Jensen and Mark Fish. Despite being in the bottom half when he took over, Bolton did reach the First Division play-offs but came up short at the semi-final hurdle, losing to Ipswich Town over two legs.

There were no such mistakes in 2000-2001. After three years in the First Division wilderness, Bolton returned to the Premier League with a 3-0 play-off final victory over Preston North End. Now, ‘Big Sam’ had his chance in the big time.

It was a remarkable start. Bolton won their first three matches to top the table in August, including a 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC, who had won five trophies in the calendar year of 2001. In October, reigning champions Manchester United were added to the list of scalps and Bolton finished in 16th place and avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.

It was at this point when Allardyce was able to use his astuteness in the transfer market, bringing in big European names that seemed to be at the twilight of their careers. They included Bruno N’Gotty, Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha. The 2002-2003 Premier League season was a real struggle but some inspirational displays from Okocha, most notably on the final day saw the Trotters just about avoid the drop at the expense of a much-more expensively assembled West Ham United squad.

That was Bolton’s last season of survival struggle. They enjoyed a real purple patch from 2003 to 2007. Allardyce took them to the 2004 League Cup final although they lost 2-1 in the showpiece event to Middlesbrough. They finished in the Premier League’s top 10 in four successive campaigns, including a stunning 6th place finish in 2004-2005 and fans at The Reebok Stadium enjoyed European football for the first time.

All this success led to Allardyce being shortlisted for the England job in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup finals. He was interviewed for the post but lost out to Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren, who was Sven-Goran Eriksson’s assistant at the time. In 2007, Allardyce’s relationship with owner Phil Gartside became strained when he was refused more money to spend on players to make a bigger push for Champions League qualification. With two games left to play in 2006-2007, he resigned and was replaced by his assistant, Sammy Lee.

Victim of the Venky’s

Just two days after the season finished, Allardyce was confirmed as Newcastle United manager but it turned out to be an unhappy eight months on Tyneside. When he got the contract to manage the team, Freddie Shepherd was chairman but he was soon replaced at the helm by Mike Ashley.

Not the owner’s man, he was on a hiding to nothing and parted company in January 2008 after a disappointing run of results which included a Boxing Day defeat to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic and collecting just one point from a possible six against hapless Derby County.

After 11 months on the sidelines, Sam returned to the dugout in December 2008 as the new manager of Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn were second-bottom and had lost five games on the bounce before his arrival. They went nine games unbeaten immediately on his arrival and guided them to safety in 15th position.

Despite being forced to sell Stephen Warnock and Roque Santa Cruz in the summer 2009 transfer window, Allardyce managed to balance the books and took Blackburn to a 10th place finish in 2009-2010 and a League Cup semi-final, where they lost 7-4 on aggregate to Aston Villa. Owner John Williams put the club up for sale in the summer of 2010 and four months into the 2010-2011 campaign, Blackburn became the first Premier League club to come under Indian ownership when the Venky’s took control.

Although Blackburn were sitting in a fairly secure 13th place in December 2010, he was sacked by the owners 24 hours after a late 2-1 defeat in the Lancashire Derby to his former club, Bolton Wanderers. His departure surprised many, including his great friend, Sir Alex Ferguson. One of Allardyce’s coaches, Steve Kean took over but Blackburn went down in May 2012 and haven’t been back in the Premier League since.

Revitalising West Ham

In June 2011, he was given the task of revitalising West Ham United, who had just been relegated from the Premier League. During the course of his first full season at Upton Park, 25 players left and 19 others arrived. It was mission accomplished as West Ham returned to the top-flight after just one season away, defeating Blackpool 2-1 in the play-off final.

Another 11 players arrived in the summer of 2012 including the likes of Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll and James Collins. West Ham finished in a solid 10th place in 2012-2013 and at the end of the season; he extended his contract by a further two years.

The 2013-2014 season was much tougher and after back-to-back heavy defeats in cup ties in January 2014 at the hands of Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, ‘Big Sam’ received the dreaded vote of confidence from owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who vowed to stick by him despite growing fan pressure. Their loyalty was rewarded when Allardyce won the Manager of the Month award for February 2014 after steering the Hammers to four successive victories. They eventually finished in an uninspiring but safe 13th.

Teddy Sheringham was bought in as an attacking coach in 2014-2015 in an attempt to satisfy annoyed fans and try to give West Ham a more attacking feel to their play. It worked early on and the Londoners sat in fourth place on Christmas Day. However, they fell away dramatically in the second half of the campaign, fading to 12th place. Moments after the final whistle blew on West Ham’s campaign at St James’ Park, it was confirmed his contract would not be renewed by the board. The decision was amicable with Sam deciding to take a break from management.

That pause wouldn’t last long though…

Saving Sunderland…then the England call

In October 2015, he answered the call to help out Sunderland. The Black Cats were second-bottom and without a win from their first eight games. Dick Advocaat had resigned and it was up to Allardyce to keep the survival specialists afloat again in the Premier League.

Although there was an early Tyne & Wear Derby victory, results didn’t come in the early months and going into 2016, Sunderland were seven points off safety and second-bottom. He then made some astute signings in January, bringing in Jan Kirchhoff and Lamine Kone to shore up the backline and adding some creative spark with the addition of Wahbi Khazri.

On 16th April, Sunderland recorded a priceless 3-0 away win at Carrow Road against relegation rivals Norwich City which put survival in their hands. Back-to-back home  victories over Chelsea and Everton in the last eight days of the season secured another Great Escape for Sunderland.

Then, the call came to manage his country, 10 years after his near-miss with the role. England was his biggest challenge. It was an appointment that lasted just 67 days and one match. Adam Lallana scored the only goal of a 1-0 victory in a World Cup 2018 qualification match against Slovakia. It left him with a 100% win ratio but not a record he wants to remember.

In September 2016, The Daily Telegraph began an investigation into bribery within the game, posting a series of allegations about several senior figures. One was a video where reporters posing as businessmen filmed Allardyce allegedly offering to give advice on how to get around on FA rules on player third-party ownership. With searing public pressure growing, he parted company with the FA via mutual consent just over two months after landing his dream role. It looked like his managerial career was in tatters.

Salvation with Palace

He was back though in the Premier League dugout just three months later when Crystal Palace turned to him after firing Alan Pardew. He guided them to survival on the penultimate weekend as they defeated Hull City 4-0, consigning them to relegation in the process. Again, his signings were smart with title-winner Jeff Schlupp, Patrick van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic among the January arrivals. There were victories in the run-in too over Arsenal, eventual champions Chelsea and Liverpool FC.

He resigned in May 2017 and hinted that the job he’d completed at Selhurst Park would be his last club position. However, he was back for his seventh spell at a Premier League side in November, signing a two-year contract to become Everton manager. Victory in Unsworth’s final match as interim boss meant he took over with the club sitting 13th but just a couple of points clear of the relegation zone. He guided them to a seven-match unbeaten run, taking them away from danger.

Despite a horrific away record, Goodison Park became a tougher place for sides to come with just the two Manchester clubs winning on Merseyside after his arrival at the club. Everton finished in eighth place and he had been hoping to build or even match his best-ever top-flight finish with the Toffees in 2018-2019 before being dismissed on 16th May 2018.

If there’s a great survivor of the management game in today’s industry, look no further than Sam Allardyce. Don’t be surprised to see him back in the dugout at a club who need a saviour next season.


The Managers: John Deehan

Premier League Clubs Managed: Norwich City (1994-1995)

John Deehan was a favourite with the faithful at Norwich City. He was one of the club’s common and leading goalscorers and also had a spell as the club’s manager in difficult times during the era when owner Robert Chase seemed more willing to sell star players rather than build on the success during Mike Walker’s tenure with the Canaries.

A Canary goalscorer

Deehan began his playing days as an apprentice at Aston Villa in 1973 and turned professional two years later. He made 110 appearances for the Villans and returned a useful total of 40 goals. After an unsuccessful spell at West Bromwich Albion during Ron Atkinson’s tenure, John signed for Norwich City in December 1981, starting a fruitful relationship with the Norfolk club.

He made a full debut at home to Luton Town and although Norwich lost the game 3-1, he scored on debut. He scored a further nine goals that season and formed a useful partnership with Keith Bertschin as Norwich achieved promotion to the First Division.

He was in the team that won the League Cup in 1985 and scored 70 times across 199 appearances for the Canaries. This puts him in the top 10 of Norwich all-time’s top goalscorers.

Controversially in June 1986, he made the move to Norwich’s East Anglian rivals, Ipswich Town. After scoring 11 times for the Tractor Boys, John finished his playing days with Manchester City and Barnsley before hanging up his playing boots in 1990.

Returning to coach Norwich

Deehan experienced some coaching at both of his last two playing clubs but the man known as “Dixie” to the supporters would return to Carrow Road in June 1992, becoming assistant manager to Mike Walker just two months before the start of the new FA Premier League competition.

The Walker-Deehan partnership was a huge success. Tipped as one of the pre-season relegation favourites, Norwich City defied expectations all season and finished in a fantastic 3rd place in the debut Premier League campaign. Andy Linighan’s late heroics in the FA Cup final for Arsenal also ensured European football for the following season.

Norwich loved their European adventure. They stunned Bundesliga powerhouses Bayern Munich, beating them on their own backyard to send them packing from the UEFA Cup before bowing out gamely to eventual winners Inter Milan. In January 1994, feeling disillusioned with Chase’s lack of ambition, Walker resigned as first-team manager to take the vacant post at Everton. Deehan was appointed as his successor.

The Canaries won just twice after the change in management but still finished in 12th position. One of those victories ironically came against Walker’s new side in March 1994. Flying winger Ruel Fox had been sold to Newcastle United and Chris Sutton would follow him out of the backdoor, joining Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 1994 for a British transfer record fee of £5 million.

Deehan was allowed to bring in some defenders with Jon Newsome arriving from Leeds United and Carl Bradshaw departing relegated Sheffield United but Mike Sheron was the only attacking arrival and for less than 20% of the fee Norwich received for Sutton’s services. A long season beckoned.

However, Norwich continued to overachieve and sat in 7th place on Christmas Day. They weren’t quite as free-flowing as in previous seasons but the results initially were coming. On 27th December, Norwich lost 1-0 at The City Ground to Nottingham Forest but lost goalkeeper Bryan Gunn for the rest of the season due to a serious ankle injury. Young goalkeeper Andy Marshall had to deputise and without Gunn in-goal, the defensive barrier started to creek into 1995.

The club tumbled down the table and after a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United in April, they fell into the relegation zone. Deehan decided to quit and Gary Megson couldn’t stop the slide. Norwich won just one game from New Years’ Day onwards and were relegated to Division One.

Deehan later admitted: “My final days at the club were like I’d been in a car crash and I could either sit there and look at the wreckage of what had happened and dither around or get up and start walking. I got up and started walking.”

He returned to management at the start of 1995-1996 with Wigan Athletic in Division Three and helped them achieve promotion to Division Two in his last full season as a permanent manager.

Within the last 20 years, John has had a variety of different coaching roles at a host of different clubs. This has included assistant manager positions at both Sheffield sides, a scouting spell at Bolton Wanderers and Director of Football stints at Lincoln City, Northampton Town and Plymouth Argyle.

The Managers: Trevor Francis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Sheffield Wednesday (1992-1995)

The name of Trevor Francis will always go down in British football folklore. He became Britain’s first-ever £1 million footballer when he signed for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the 1970s and won the European Cup in 1979 when his header beat Swedish outfit Malmo in the final.

For 15 years, Francis experienced the highs and lows of football management, winning the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991 and taking Birmingham City to the final of the same competition a decade later.

The million pound man

A skilful forward at an early age, Trevor joined Birmingham City as a schoolboy and was in their first-team by the age of just 16 in 1970. In one of the early matches of his career, he scored four times against Bolton Wanderers, showing everyone how good he really could be.

At this point, Birmingham were a regular side in the top-flight during the 1970s but never had the budget or the playing squad to launch a serious challenge to the main sides in the decade – Liverpool FC, Leeds United and Derby County.

In 1978, he went to experience another country as he joined Detroit Express on-loan in the United States and played alongside the great German, Franz Beckenbauer. He scored an incredible 36 goals in 33 matches in two separate off-season spells in the States. After his first period in Detroit, he returned to the Midlands to make the move that would define the history of the football transfer.

Reigning First Division champions Nottingham Forest put in a £1 million transfer bid which was accepted by Birmingham. Francis was famously introduced to the media next to Clough who was keen to wrap the press conference up quickly so he could play a game of squash!

Forest retained the League Cup shortly after his arrival but Francis was ineligible to take part. He could play though in the European Cup from the semi-final stage and he repaid all of the money spent on him just before half-time in the showpiece event in Munich.

Winger John Robertson curled a cross towards the far post. Francis managed to sprint into the perfect position and his low header ended up in the roof of the Malmo net. Forest won the match 1-0 to become Champions of Europe and an iconic photograph of his header is still present on the main entrance to The City Ground today.

Attempting to crack Serie A

An injury to his Achilles tendon meant Trevor missed out on the 1980 European Cup final which Forest defended successfully and in truth, he struggled to show the consistency that Clough really wanted from a player he’d paid plenty of money for (in those days).

In September 1981, he was sold to Manchester City for £1.2 million and although he scored 12 goals in 26 games, his transfer did cause some friction between manager John Bond and the board. Finances were a problem for City and with injuries still a bugbear, Francis moved to Serie A in 1982 for a four-year stint with Sampdoria.

On the international scene, he played 52 times for England across a nine-year period, scoring 12 goals and was part of Ron Greenwood’s squad at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, scoring in group stage games against Kuwait and Czechoslovakia.

He was part of the Sampdoria side that won the Coppa Italia for the first time in their history in 1985; playing alongside former Liverpool FC captain and future Premier League boss Graeme Souness. They’d link-up again in September 1987 when he returned to British shores to play for Rangers via an unsuccessful season with Atalanta. He won the Scottish League Cup in 1988 but management was about to take more of a prime focus in his career.

His first crack at management was as a player-manager at Queens Park Rangers, taking over when Jim Smith departed to fill the vacancy at Newcastle United. He spent a year in the position at Loftus Road but it proved to be a tough baptism in this form of the game. He was replaced by Don Howe in November 1989 and would eventually move away from the capital for what turned out to be a much better experience in Yorkshire with Sheffield Wednesday.

The Sheffield experience

He joined Sheffield Wednesday initially as just a player in February 1990 but couldn’t stop them dropping out of the First Division. Promotion was achieved a year later and Trevor won the League Cup in the same year as the Second Division side conquered Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

He got his opportunity to manage the club when Ron Atkinson left acrimoniously to take the role at Aston Villa. He made a brilliant start, helping an exciting and ambitious Wednesday side finish in third place in 1992 behind Leeds United and Manchester United. He even had the chance to sign Eric Cantona after a trial period but elected against this and Cantona ultimately spearheaded Leeds to win the championship.

The 1992-1993 season turned into a near-miss for Sheffield Wednesday. They experienced one of the best runs of the league campaign and finished in seventh position. The club reached both domestic cup finals, playing Arsenal on both occasions. In the League Cup final, John Harkes put the Owls ahead after just eight minutes before Paul Merson equalised. In the 68th minute, Merson set-up Steve Morrow who scored the winner and ensured Arsenal won the first of three Wembley finals between the teams.

A month later, it was FA Cup final time and this time, a replay was required. The first match finished 1-1 with goals from Ian Wright and David Hirst. Five days later, over 60,000 fans returned to Wembley in driving rain for the third instalment of this gripping rivalry. Again, Wright opened the scoring but the Owls responded again when Football Writers’ winner, Chris Waddle saw his shot deflect off Lee Dixon to beat David Seaman and level the match up. The match went to extra-time and just when it looked like penalties would be needed, Andy Linighan outjumped Mark Bright at a corner and the Gunners had the domestic cup double.

It was desolation for the players, fans and manager of Sheffield Wednesday and it would be as good as it got for Trevor. Another seventh-place finish was achieved in 1993-1994 but 1994-1995 didn’t go well. The club weren’t officially safe until a final day victory over Ipswich Town but finished 13th in the final standings. Francis was sacked shortly after the season concluded.

Trevor moved into the media and was a regular co-commentator for Sky Sports Premier League coverage over the next five years, dovetailing this commitment with a spell in the second-tier as manager of Birmingham City. He took over in 1996 and stayed with them for five years. Birmingham regularly finished in the play-offs but failed to win promotion and lost the League Cup final in 2001 on penalties to Liverpool FC.

His last managerial spell came with Crystal Palace before stepping down in April 2003. He has since worked in media on a regular basis for the Premier League’s world feed service.

The Managers: Roberto Mancini

Premier League Clubs Managed: Manchester City (2009-2013)

Roberto Mancini will always go down in folklore as the man who ended Manchester City’s long quest without silverware. The Italian was a fiery figure as a player and even more so as a manager. It worked though at City and he was the man on the touchline when Sergio Aguero scored that injury-time goal in May 2012 which saw City snatch the Premier League title away from their rivals across the city, Manchester United.

Mancini is still in management in 2018 and is set to become the new boss of the Italian national team. His most recent club spell was with Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg.

A Sampdoria legend

Mancini made his playing debut in 1981, featuring for Bologna in Serie A. Sampdoria bought him a year later for £2.2 million and he would remain there for the next 16 years, becoming a legend with the club’s supporters.

During his time with them, he helped Sampdoria win the Italian league title in 1991 which is the only time they’ve managed to break the regular dominance of Juventus and the two Milan clubs. There was success on the European stage too with Sampdoria winning the 1990 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Anderlecht 2-0 in the final after extra-time. The two goals came from Gianluca Vialli and Vialli and Mancini struck a super understanding leading the attack for them. In fact, their knowledge and cohesion of each other’s game meant they earned the nickname “I Gemelli del Gol” (The Goal Twins).

Two years later, Sampdoria reached the European Cup final but were beaten in extra-time by Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. By now, Mancini was one of the most influential figures in the dressing room at Sampdoria. He was part of the interview panel when Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed the club’s manager and was often used to help promote the club to new players, including Englishman David Platt.

He wasn’t the easiest person to get on with and if his authority was questioned, he didn’t like it. Mancini had falling outs with the likes of Trevor Francis, Liam Brady and Juan Sebastian Veron during his time in Italian football.

When Eriksson took the Lazio job, he took Mancini with him and Roberto won his second Serie A and Cup Winners’ Cup prizes as a player. He retired from playing in 2000 to become the Swede’s assistant manager but when Eriksson left shortly afterwards to take the England international job, Mancini decided to come out of retirement for one final brief spell with Leicester City in England. He made five appearances for the Foxes before a return to Italy beckoned – this time as manager of Fiorentina.

Coaching success in Italy

When he took the Fiorentina job, he required special dispensation from Italian authorities as he hadn’t yet completed his coaching badges. The club were in serious financial trouble and star assets had to be sold, like Francesco Toldo and Rui Costa. Mancini still managed to win the Coppa Italia before resigning in January 2002 with the club in the Serie A relegation zone.

Five months later, he took over at Lazio and like in Florence; he had to deal with big financial constraints. Yet again, star players had to go. Alessandro Nesta joined AC Milan and Hernan Crespo was sold to Inter Milan but Mancini managed to galvanise the Rome giants to two top-six finishes and another Coppa Italia triumph in 2004.

Next stop was Inter Milan who appointed him in the summer of 2004 after Lazio agreed to release him from his contract. The Coppa Italia was fast becoming Mancini’s specialist competition. He achieved a third victory as a manager in his first Inter season, beating AS Roma 3-0 in the final and he guided them to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals where they lost to bitter rivals, AC Milan.

Inter were to become the dominant force in Italian football after Juventus were stripped of their domestic title and relegated in 2006 because of the Calciopoli scandal. He won three successive Serie A titles, two Super Cups and broke numerous records domestically; including a historic run of 17 successive top-flight victories in 2005-2006 which is one of the best runs ever seen in European football.

However, Inter owner Massimo Moratti was unimpressed by the lack of impact being made by the club in the UEFA Champions League and this would ultimately lead to a separation between the club and Mancini. Back-to-back defeats in the round-of-16 to Valencia (2007) and Liverpool FC (2008) along with disciplinary problems in these losses would seal his fate. He was sacked by the club in May 2008 and replaced by Jose Mourinho. He wouldn’t manage again for nearly 18 months.

Checking in at City

Six days before Christmas in 2009, Mancini checked into the Premier League as the new boss of Manchester City, replacing Mark Hughes. He immediately made it clear that his target was for the oil-rich Citizens to finish in the top four and qualify for the following season’s UEFA Champions League.

Four straight wins followed but there was a late semi-final defeat in the League Cup to Manchester United and they were pipped to fourth spot by Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs defeated City 1-0 in early May at The Etihad Stadium to leave the most expensive squad in the club’s history in fifth and with the meek consolation prize of playing in the UEFA Europa League.

The first signs of success came in the Italian’s first full season at Eastlands. He spent heavily in the summer transfer window, bringing in the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov. City moved into fourth position in mid-September after a victory away at Wigan Athletic and never surrendered a spot in the top four from that point onwards.

There were moments where things didn’t go to plan. Mancini had a bust-up with Carlos Tevez just before Christmas as the skipper submitted a transfer request citing personal reasons for a desire to move back to Argentina. Those differences were eventually resolved and the manager came in criticism for negative tactics on home soil in successive goalless draws with Manchester United and Birmingham City.

However, not many teams finished the 2010-2011 season in better form than Manchester City. They secured UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time when they beat Tottenham Hotspur in early May and two further victories on the final week of the campaign ensured a top-three finish above Arsenal. There was further success with victory in the FA Cup final over Stoke City, with Toure scoring the only goal. It was the club’s first major honour since the League Cup in 1976.

Taking the main prize

In the 2011 close season, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri were added to the squad, along with Gael Clichy. The target this time was to take the main prize and land the Premier League title.

Manchester City made an outstanding start to the season, staying unbeaten until mid-December when they lost 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea. During this run, Mancini’s side won 6-1 at Old Trafford and also dished out heavy defeats to Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City. There were still issues. He had another public row with Tevez, claiming he refused to come off the bench during a UEFA Champions League match with Bayern Munich. In the post-match press conference, he told journalists that Tevez would never play for the club again. Never say never though and the temperamental forward would return to the fold in March 2012.

The Champions League campaign ended in a disappointing group stage exit and Manchester United ended their FA Cup defence at the first hurdle but this season, it was all about the Premier League. The two Manchester giants were locked together for much of the season. It was a new experience for the club and there was a major wobble in March. Defeat at Swansea and a home draw with Sunderland gave the Red Devils the advantage in the title race. When City lost 1-0 at Arsenal and had Balotelli sent off, an eight-point gap had been opened up. Mancini insisted in public the title dream was over but an extraordinary turnaround was about to follow.

City would win their next five matches, including a second victory over United in the season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were stumbling to defeat at Wigan and threw away a two-goal lead to draw 4-4 with Everton. Now, it was the Citizens who had the advantage on goal difference going into the final day of the season. They had a home fixture against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers whilst Manchester United travelled to Sunderland.

United won 1-0 so as long as City matched that result, they would become champions. In true fashion, they made incredibly heavy weather of this routine scenario. Despite QPR being reduced to 10 men, they took a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. However, injury-time produced the most dramatic finale to a Premier League match. First, Edin Dzeko’s header levelled the scores before Balotelli poked the ball through for Aguero to score the title-winning goal with seconds remaining. Cue pandemonium around The Etihad Stadium. Mancini had just become the second Italian manager to win the Premier League title.

No happy conclusion

There would be no happy conclusion though for the relationship between the manager and club. A quiet summer transfer window, coupled with another timid showing in the UEFA Champions League put Mancini back under pressure. City went into 2013 seven points off top spot and further poor showings away at Southampton and Everton allowed Manchester United to romp into a sizeable advantage in the table which they were never going to throw away this time around. In his final season as a manager, Sir Alex Ferguson regained the Red Devils’ superiority and the title was back at Old Trafford by the end of April.

Two days after being beaten by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, Mancini was sacked as Manchester City manager with relations with the board and players reported to be at its lowest ebb. With Manchester City, Mancini achieved the fourth-best win percentage in Premier League history.

Since then, he has had spells as manager of Galatasaray, a second stint at Inter Milan and Zenit Saint Petersburg, where he was trying to guide them to become the dominant force in Russia again before moving into international management in May 2018.

Despite having been a support striker during his playing career, Mancini places great emphasis on building from the back and his approach, whilst not always popular, ensured he will always go down as one of Manchester City’s greatest managers.

The Managers: Frank Clark

Premier League Clubs Managed: Nottingham Forest (1994-1996)

Succeeding the legend that was Brian Clough was never going to be easy at Nottingham Forest but Frank Clark did it his way and enjoyed a fairly successful spell as manager of the former European Cup winners. His excellent man-management skills saw him get the best out of players like Steve Stone, Ian Woan and Bryan Roy. Forest flourished under his guidance, finishing in a brilliant third place in the Premier League table in 1995. He returned to the club in the 21st century for a brief spell as the chairman at The City Ground.

A European Cup winner

Clark’s playing days started at Crook Town in 1961 as an amateur before making the professional breakthrough at Newcastle United. He spent 13 years as a player on Tyneside, featuring 464 times for them in all competitions. He never scored for the club but did experience victory in the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final against Hungarian outfit Újpest.

In July 1975, his links with Nottingham Forest began when Clough signed him on a free transfer. He was an ever-present at full-back for the next two campaigns as Forest were about to embark on the most golden period of their existence. He won promotion to the top-flight in 1977 and a year later, they won both the League Cup and the Football League championship title. In 1979, the Midlands side beat Malmo 1-0 in the European Cup final with the only goal coming from the £1 million man, Trevor Francis.

This was to be Clark’s final game as a professional player. He retired shortly afterwards.

A tough act to follow

Frank’s first steps in coaching were at Sunderland, where he served as their assistant manager for three years. In 1982, he became manager of Leyton Orient, taking a position later on as managing director of the Londoners.

He took charge of over 400 matches as Leyton Orient boss before stepping down in the summer of 1991. Two years later, he would return to Nottingham Forest as Clough’s successor. Clark astutely used some of Clough’s players, rekindling the careers of Steve Chettle, Mark Crossley and Stuart Pearce by adding a fresh impetus with the arrivals of David Phillips, Lars Bohinen and of course, Stan Collymore.

In his first full season in the dugout at The City Ground, Clark guided the club back to the Premier League at the first attempt, finishing second in the First Division behind Crystal Palace. Clough would congratulate him for the achievement but added: “If he wants to emulate what we did in the late 1970s he’ll need to be bloody good.”

It was a tough act to follow but he was doing it his own way. Nottingham Forest started the 1994-1995 season with an 11-game unbeaten sequence that left them flying high in second position in the table. They were playing some breathtaking football. Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield Wednesday were both beaten 4-1 and Wimbledon lost 3-1 as the likes of Roy, Collymore and Bohinen flourished spectacularly. Clark won the Manager of the Month award for September 1994. Forest’s title challenge did fade in the winter months but they never dropped out of the top five and they rallied in the closing weeks to pip Liverpool FC and Newcastle United to third spot in the table.

No repeat performance

Hopes of a repeat performance in 1995-1996 were hurt by Collymore’s summer departure to Liverpool FC for a British transfer record fee of £8.5 million, whilst league champions Blackburn Rovers activated a clause in Bohinen’s contract which saw the Dutchman leave for Ewood Park in the season’s early weeks. However, they remained unbeaten again until mid-November before suffering a 7-0 pasting at Blackburn. Forest finished ninth in the table but upheld British honour in continental competition, going the furthest. They reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup before bowing out to eventual winners, Bayern Munich.

The momentum though couldn’t be maintained. There was turmoil in the boardroom with rival parties attempting to buy the club and form drastically disappeared on-the-pitch. After a 3-0 opening day win at Coventry, Clark failed to win another game in the Premier League and desperate moves such as changing tactics and dropping senior players didn’t work.

After a 4-2 loss at Anfield in December 1996, he left the club with them propping up the Premier League table. On his departure, he said: “I have just about run out of things to do so I’ve done the ultimate. Sometimes, a manager leaving a club can be a help.” Pearce took over as caretaker manager until the end of the season but couldn’t prevent them from sliding out of the top-flight in May 1997.

10 days later, Clark took over at First Division side Manchester City but couldn’t galvanise them and left in February 1998 with the club struggling to stay in the second-tier. That was to be his final job in management. He spent a decade as vice-chairman of the LMA (League Managers Association) but Nottingham Forest was always his club. In 2011, he took over as chairman after Nigel Doughty stood down and remained as a club ambassador after a takeover by Kuwaiti owners. That role ended in 2013.

The Managers: George Burley

Premier League Clubs Managed: Ipswich Town (1994-1995, 2000-2002)

George Burley’s club is most definitely Ipswich Town. A full-back during Sir Bobby Robson’s heyday at the club, Burley made nearly 400 league appearances for the Tractor Boys over 12 successful years which saw glory on both the domestic and European stage.

He then became the club’s manager in late 1994 and spearheaded them to their best-ever Premier League finish of fifth place in 2000-2001. Burley has managed several other clubs and also had a largely unsuccessful year as manager of the Scottish national side.

An FA Cup winner

Ipswich was not only Burley’s main club, it was his first team. Joining as an apprentice in 1972, his first job in his first senior game was to man-mark the great George Best at Old Trafford.

Six years later, he was a senior member of Robson’s squad that were the underdogs in the FA Cup final but continued the tradition in the 1970s of favourites being upset by the outsiders. Ipswich defeated Arsenal 1-0 in 1978 to win the famous trophy for the first time in their history.

In 1981, Ipswich enjoyed their best-ever top-flight campaign, finishing runners-up to Aston Villa in the First Division. They only missed out on the title on the last day of the season. There was glory in the UEFA Cup, as Robson’s side defeated AZ Alkmaar in the final. However, injury meant Burley missed out on the opportunity to play in the showpiece event.

Robson left in 1982 to take the England international job but Burley stayed for another three seasons before moving to Sunderland in 1985. He would experience both relegation and promotion on Wearside before finishing his playing days with Gillingham, Motherwell in two separate spells, Ayr United, Falkirk and Colchester United.

By this point though, he was firmly planted into a long and fairly useful coaching career.

Initial frustration

George’s first taste of management came in Scotland when he succeeded Ally MacLeod as player-manager of Ayr United in 1991. He took the team to two consecutive Scottish Challenge Cup finals but was unable to steer Ayr into the top-flight of Scottish football.

Dismissed in 1993, he resumed his playing career for a year before being appointed Colchester United boss in June 1994. He was only in-charge for 20 games, winning eight of them and was still registered as a player at the time.

In November 1994, John Lyall stepped down as manager of Ipswich with the club firmly rooted in the bottom four of the Premier League. Without Colchester knowing, he held talks with Ipswich and eventually, a compensation package was reluctantly agreed between the two East Anglian sides. Burley became Ipswich boss and once Colchester had sorted out their managerial vacancy, he took the late Dale Roberts with him as assistant manager. The pair had worked together at Ayr too.

There was early success with a fantastic 1-0 victory at Anfield over Liverpool FC with Adam Tanner scoring the only goal. However, there were few victories. The squad was ageing and relegation was confirmed to Division One in April 1995. Among the losses was a record-breaking Premier League 9-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Burley was already building for the future though but the Suffolk side’s stay in the second-tier of English football was to be much longer than hoped. Ipswich were always a promotion contender and never finished lower than seventh for five successive campaigns. There was agony in three play-off semi-finals before finally achieving promotion at the fourth attempt of asking. Barnsley were defeated 4-2 in the final at Wembley Stadium and Ipswich Town were returning to the top-flight.

A stellar return to the top-flight

Tipped by many to go straight back down to Division One after winning promotion, Ipswich quickly wowed the Premiership with an unlikely challenge for not just the top six, but the top three and a place in the UEFA Champions League.

There were impressive away victories along the way at Southampton, Everton, Leeds United and Liverpool FC and Marcus Stewart finished second to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the race for the Golden Boot. In the end, a 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic in April meant a Champions League position would be just beyond Ipswich with two games left.

However, they finished a fine fifth and just four points adrift of Arsenal in second spot. It meant qualification for the UEFA Cup for the first time in 19 years. Burley’s fantastic effort saw him voted the LMA Manager of the Year by his fellow colleagues.

After the highs of 2000-2001, the 2001-2002 season was very disappointing. Only two wins were achieved before Christmas in the Premier League which meant this was going to be a completely different campaign and a battle against relegation. There was an upturn in fortunes with seven wins in eight games taking Ipswich clear of the bottom three. However, a 6-0 home defeat by Liverpool FC started another drastic slide down the table. Ultimately, a 5-0 beating by the Reds at Anfield on the final day saw Ipswich relegated back to the First Division.

Burley was sacked in October 2002 after a 3-0 defeat to Grimsby Town as Ipswich started poorly on their return to the second-tier. They haven’t been back in the Premier League since.

Burley took over at Derby County in 2003 after their manager, John Gregory had been suspended. He did take them to a fourth-place finish in 2005 before resigning after strained relations with the board following the sale of Tom Huddlestone to Tottenham Hotspur. He then went on to have spells with Hearts which did see them briefly threaten the Glasgow clubs dominance of the Scottish game, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Apollon Limassol where his 2012 reign ended there after just two games in control.

Between 2008 and 2009, he was given the honour of managing his country with the remit to try and take Scotland to the World Cup finals in 2010. It didn’t work out. He won just three of his 14 matches as manager and a 3-0 friendly defeat in Cardiff to Wales in November 2009 spelt the end of his difficult reign as an international manager.

The Managers: Ray Wilkins

Premier League Clubs Managed: Queens Park Rangers (1994-1996)

One of football’s all-round nice guys, the game has been left in mourning after the tragic death of Ray Wilkins. Wilkins passed away on Wednesday 4th April 2018 in hospital after suffering a massive heart attack. He was just 61-years-old.

A much-loved coach, well-respected pundit and talented player, Ray represented all of his clubs with class and dignity. You simply couldn’t say a bad word about him. He won many friends in the game and this has been made further evident by the tributes that have pouring in for him since his sad passing.

In the Premier League era, Wilkins will be always associated with Queens Park Rangers. He was a much-loved character at Loftus Road but his most enjoyable times were with Chelsea, the club where he made his first significant breakthrough.

A young skipper

Born in Middlesex, he made his name at his boyhood club in the 1970s. At just 17, Wilkins made his debut in the Chelsea first-team, appearing as a substitute in a 3-0 home victory over Norwich City. Just over two years later, he was given the captain’s armband by manager Eddie McCreadie. Still in his teenage years, this could have overwhelmed many players but it just made Ray a stronger presence.

He skippered the club for the next four seasons, helping them win promotion to the First Division. By now, he was already a regular in the England international set-up but in the late 1970s, Chelsea were not one of the English superpower clubs. When they were relegated in 1979, they were going to have to sell Wilkins to help soothe the financial hit from their relegation out of the top-flight.

He signed for Manchester United for £825,000, becoming one of the most expensive players at the time in British transfer history. He made 160 appearances for the Red Devils across five years and won his first major honour too. In 1983, Manchester United defeated Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup final, although they needed a replay to get the job done. In the first match, Wilkins scored his most iconic goal – a curling long-range strike which just highlighted what an excellent midfielder he was.

His performances at Old Trafford caught the attention of Serie A giants AC Milan and in 1984, he moved to Italy for £1.5 million. Like Chelsea and United, Milan weren’t enjoying their most wonderful time in terms of results. They’d actually experienced relegation to Serie B as recently as 1982 but it was still a glamorous city and a historic club to be a part of. He played 105 times for Milan between 1984 and 1987 and won plenty of praise for the way he could control the tempo of a game and his ability for an eye-catching pass.

England highs and lows

On the international stage, Wilkins won 84 caps for England and captained them on 10 occasions. He was part of the squads at the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals and won caps from Don Revie, Ron Greenwood and Sir Bobby Robson.

He scored just three goals but one of them was an inspirational individual goal against Belgium in the 1980 European Championships. He first lobbed the ball over the entire Belgian defence and then, when clear on-goal, he lobbed the ball again over the advancing goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was a wonderful goal in England’s first major international competition in a decade.

The lowest point of his international career came at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. England were enduring a frustrating tournament, having lost their first match to Portugal and were drawing 0-0 with outsiders Morocco. Wilkins showed a rare piece of frustration when he threw the ball at referee Gabriel Gonzalez after feeling he had been unfairly flagged for being offside. Gonzalez took no-nonsense and promptly dished out the red card. It made Wilkins the first England player to ever be dismissed at a World Cup.

He was suspended for two matches and Robson left him out of the quarter-final defeat to Argentina. His last appearance came against Yugoslavia a few months later. His international career ended on a rather sour note.

Beginning his coaching days

In 1987, Ray left behind Milan and joined Paris Saint-Germain but it was an unsuccessful spell. After just 13 appearances for the Parisians, he left them behind and moved back to the British Isles, joining Graeme Souness at Rangers. He had two excellent seasons with the Glasgow giants, winning the League Cup once and two championships.

In August 1988, he scored one of the most memorable goals in the history of the Old Firm Derby as Rangers enjoyed a 5-1 victory over Celtic at Ibrox. He returned to London in 1989 and joined Queens Park Rangers which is where he spent the bulk of his latter playing days.

In the summer of 1994, he joined newly-promoted Crystal Palace in a player-coach role under manager Alan Smith. He made his debut against Liverpool FC on a horror day for Palace, who lost 6-1 at home to Roy Evans’ young chargers. Wilkins played over 80 minutes but broke his left foot in the match and he wouldn’t play again for the Eagles.

That was because in November 1994, he got the opportunity to return to Loftus Road as player-manager of QPR following Gerry Francis’ resignation. He appeared another 21 times as a player and focused more on a management style that was initially successful. Under his guidance, QPR finished eighth in 1994-1995 and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals. However, star striker Les Ferdinand was sold in summer 1995 to Newcastle United and not properly replaced. Although they still played an exciting brand of football, QPR struggled and on the final Saturday of the season, they were relegated.

Ray’s long association with the club ended in September 1996 when he parted company following a change in ownership. He continued playing after his departure from west London, experiencing brief periods with Millwall, Hibernian and Leyton Orient before hanging up his boots for good at the end of the 1996-1997 season.

Two stints with Chelsea

He returned to management with Fulham in 1997-1998, working alongside Kevin Keegan but Keegan’s influence saw him take over at the end of the campaign. After two decades away, he returned to Chelsea in his first coaching spell, serving as Gianluca Vialli’s assistant following the imprisonment of Graham Rix.

After leaving Chelsea following Claudio Ranieri’s appointment as first-team manager in 2000, Wilkins went on to have spells as assistant manager at Watford and Millwall, assisting Dennis Wise when the Lions were shock FA Cup finalists in 2004. He also returned to the international spectrum, serving as Peter Taylor’s assistant on the England Under-21 coaching staff between 2004 and 2007.

In September 2008, Ray returned to Chelsea as assistant manager after Steve Clarke’s defection to West Ham United to work with Gianfranco Zola. He served as no.2 to Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti. He played an important part in Chelsea winning the league and cup double in 2009-2010.

In his autobiography, Ancelotti wrote: “Ray is one of those select few, always present, noble in spirit, a real blue-blood, Chelsea flows in his veins … without him we wouldn’t have won a thing.”

He was mysteriously axed by the club in November 2010 just days before a 3-0 home humbling by Sunderland. Ancelotti would be dismissed himself at the end of the season.

Later experience

Wilkins finished his coaching days with brief spells at Fulham and Aston Villa, as well as a spell as head coach of the Jordan international football team. His last stint in a Premier League dugout ended in October 2015 when he was sacked by Villa alongside their manager Tim Sherwood after a home loss by Swansea City.

Throughout his coaching days, he was a fantastic pundit and someone who you could listen to for constructive advice on how to improve your game. Wilkins was a regular commentator for Channel 4’s coverage of Football Italia in the 1990s. He also worked as a pundit for ITV at the 1994 World Cup finals and was a regular analyst for both talkSPORT and Sky Sports over the years.

In 1993, he was made an MBE for services to football.

Despite all his success, Wilkins did fight a battle with alcohol. In March 2013, he was stopped whilst driving and found to be four times over the legal drink limit. This led to a four-year driving ban and in 2016, he admitted to his battle with the bottle on talkSPORT.

On Friday 30th March, Wilkins suffered a massive heart attack and had a fall. He was placed into an induced coma at St George’s Hospital and was reported to be in a critical condition. On 4th April 2018, news came through that he had passed away in hospital. One of football’s good guys had been taken far too soon.

Ray Wilkins was a wonderful man, a gifted footballer and a top coach. Football is a poorer place without Ray Wilkins around. My thoughts are with his wife Jackie and the rest of his family.

Ray Wilkins – 14th September 1956 – 4th April 2018

The Managers: Micky Adams

Premier League Clubs Managed: Leicester City (2002, 2003-2004)

In a 19-year professional playing career, Micky Adams made 438 league appearances and experienced the Premier League as a player with Southampton. He made the step into management with Fulham in 1996 and has earned four promotions during his career. Unfortunately, his only full season in the Premier League as a boss ended with Leicester City suffering relegation in 2003-2004.

A Premier League player

Raised from the steel city of Sheffield, Adams made his playing breakthrough with Gillingham in 1978. He came through the playing ranks at the same time as fellow Premier League manager of the future, Steve Bruce and made nearly 100 appearances for the Gills before moving into the top-flight of the Football League, joining Coventry City in 1983. Again, he featured almost 100 times for the Sky Blues but he wasn’t well-appreciated by the supporters or the coaching staff and eventually moved to Leeds United in 1987. He left Coventry before their FA Cup final victory and it was actually the Midlands side that ended Leeds’ hopes of the famous trophy that season in the semi-final stage.

His most productive league spell of his playing days came at Southampton. Operating as a full-back, he joined the Saints for £250,000 in March 1989. It took him 18 months to earn himself a regular place in the team at The Dell. In the inaugural season of the Premier League, he played in 38 of the club’s 42 matches but is in the record books of the league for the wrong reasons. For dissent, he was given the red card in Southampton’s second match of the season against Queens Park Rangers. This meant he became the first-ever player in the Premier League to receive a red card.

His career in the top-flight ended when Alan Ball replaced Ian Branfoot as Southampton manager in January 1994. Ball elected to start Simon Charlton ahead of Adams and he was shipped out on-loan to Stoke City in March. Fulham signed him on a free transfer in the summer of 1994, reuniting him with Branfoot who would help Adams out with his first steps into coaching. However, it would be a real baptism of fire in which he would get the Fulham job as a manager.

91st out of 92

When Branfoot stepped down in March 1996, Fulham were sitting 91st out of 92 clubs in the top four divisions of English football. Relegation to the non-league looked like a distinct possibility so it was to be a real test of Micky’s managerial credentials straightaway.

He kept them up and in the following season, guided the Cottagers back to Division Two as they finished runners-up in the Third Division. His work won him Manager of the Season honours with limited resources to work on in west London.

In September 1997, his reward for starting Fulham’s charge up the divisions was the sack. Owner Mohammed Al Fayed decided to replace him with a higher-profile appointment as Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan moved into the dugout at Craven Cottage. That was four months after he had signed a five-year contract to stay on as Fulham boss.

He dropped down a division to join Swansea City but his reign there was short and not positive. He lasted a mere 13 days and oversaw just three games. Adams claimed money that had been promised to reinvest in the playing squad was not forthcoming. Before the season was out, he also had a go at managing a struggling Brentford side in the Second Division but couldn’t prevent them from being relegated. He was dismissed following their relegation with owner Ron Noades deciding to make himself the manager instead.

It is fair to say 1997-1998 was not a good season for Micky Adams.

From Brighton to Bassett

After a short break from management, Micky returned with Brighton & Hove Albion in April 1999. He arrived with the club in financial trouble, having been forced to sell their ground just to keep afloat. The only transfer fee he invested on during his time as Brighton boss was to sign Bobby Zamora for £100,000.

After leading Albion to a mid-table position in his first full season on the south coast, he led them to the Division Three title in 2000-2001 by 10 points. This led to him collecting a second Manager of the Season award. He felt though he had taken Brighton as far as he could and was disappointed to be overlooked for top-flight positions in the summer of 2001 at both Southampton and West Ham United.

In October 2001, he left Brighton to become Dave Bassett’s assistant manager at the Premier League’s basement side, Leicester City. The pair had worked together for six months at Nottingham Forest in 1998 and were brought in to try and rescue the Foxes precarious position. They had mustered just one victory in eight games at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.

Bassett couldn’t save Leicester. The squad simply wasn’t good enough or confident enough to stay up in the Premier League. Days before their top-flight demise would be confirmed by a home defeat to Manchester United, Leicester confirmed Bassett would move into a Director of Football role and Adams would succeed him as manager. He was in-charge of the club’s final-ever match at Filbert Street which saw them defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on the final day of the season.

Despite Leicester propping up debts of almost £30 million on their relegation which led to a transfer embargo, Adams guided the club back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. Leicester finished runners-up to Portsmouth in the 2002-2003 First Division.

His work received praise from the man who replaced him at Fulham, Keegan. In November 2003, he said: “I have a lot of respect for Micky Adams, who has proved himself at all levels. He has gone into clubs with little or no money to spend and shown he is not afraid of taking on tough jobs.”

A testing Premier League spell

With Leicester’s financial issues, Micky had to rely on loans and free transfers to bring players in ahead of their top-flight return. He did bring the likes of Les Ferdinand, Craig Hignett and Marcus Bent into the club but things were always going to be tough for the Foxes.

A second half collapse at Molineux in October saw them throw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Wolverhampton Wanderers and it would be the story of Leicester’s campaign. They scored plenty of goals but conceded too many. Despite drawing at home with unbeaten Arsenal, winning 1-0 away at Birmingham and 3-0 at Manchester City, Leicester’s prospects of avoiding relegation always looked grim.

In March 2004, the club made the headlines for the wrong reasons when nine players were arrested for various offences related to an alleged sexual assault on three German tourists in La Manga. Three players; Keith Gillespie, Paul Dickov and Frank Sinclair were all charged but all allegations were later proved to be false. Adams even offered his resignation over the unsavoury incident but this was rejected by the Leicester board.

In his autobiography ‘Micky Adams, My Life in Football’ published in 2017, he admitted: “There is no doubt in my mind that it had an adverse effect on my career. Even though the players did not suffer in the same way, they had other issues that were never brought to light.”

Leicester were relegated in early May after a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic and after a poor start to the 2004-2005 campaign back in the Championship, Micky quit the club despite the board again attempting to change his mind. This time though, they had to accept his decision.

Since then, Adams has managed several clubs in the Football League, including Sheffield United, Coventry City, Port Vale and a second spell at Brighton. He ended his football management career in 2015 with Irish side Sligo Rovers.

Since then, he has his own football consultancy business, which has led to him lecturing on the Wales FA pro-licence course and does some part-time coaching for an Under-18 side close to his home in Leicestershire.

The Managers: Alan Pardew

Premier League Clubs Managed: West Ham United (2005-2006), Newcastle United (2010-2014), Crystal Palace (2015-2016), West Bromwich Albion (2017-2018)

Life has been very tough of late for Alan Pardew. The 2012 LMA Manager of the Year hasn’t been able to arrest the slide at West Bromwich Albion and the Baggies’ relegation looks set to be confirmed in the coming weeks. A run of eight successive defeats saw him part company with the club in April 2018.

Pardew has attracted headlines for the wrong reasons and got himself into trouble with the senior authorities on a number of occasions. He is a confident manager who has always believed he can turn around difficult outcomes. He’s often been able to string together a lengthy run of successive victories but at the same time, can be in control of teams who go on worrying runs of consecutive losses too.

His best achievements as a player and manager have been to reach the FA Cup final three times. However, it has been a case of three times unlucky as he has lost on all occasions.

Wonderful winner against mighty Liverpool

Born in the Wimbledon area of London, Pardew started his career as a part-time player in non-league football whilst working as a glazier. His most prolific spell came with Crystal Palace. He joined them in 1987 for a fee of just £7,500. Two years later, he helped them win promotion to the First Division and in 1990, came the greatest moment of his career.

The midfielder scored the winning goal in extra-time of a fantastic FA Cup semi-final against mighty Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The Eagles won 4-3, just seven months after losing 9-0 to the same opposition in a league fixture at Anfield. They were through to the final where they played Manchester United. Despite leading, the game ended in a 3-3 draw and Alex Ferguson’s side won the replay to earn their first major honour as a partnership.

In 1991, Crystal Palace finished a surprising but deserving third in the First Division table before Pardew moved to Charlton Athletic in November 1991. He was the Addicks top goalscorer in the 1992-1993 season with 10 goals and was part of the squad that made a triumphant return to The Valley after several seasons playing at neutral venues across the capital.

He played four times for Tottenham Hotspur during the 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup, being part of a squad that lost 8-0 to German side 1. FC Köln which remains the club’s heaviest-ever defeat. After a spell with Barnet, he ended his playing career on the books of Reading in 1998, although he never played a first-team game for the Berkshire outfit.

A controversial departure

It would be Reading where Alan would make his first steps as a manager, taking over in a couple of caretaker spells before getting the job permanently in 1999. Reading were toiling in the Second Division at the time and often fighting off relegation but he managed to guide them to serial play-off contenders during his time with the Royals. The likes of Jamie Cureton flourished under his management and in 2002; he won promotion to the First Division automatically.

There were no issues with stepping up to a higher level. In his maiden season as a boss in the second-tier, Pardew’s Reading side finished a stellar fourth but were beaten in the play-offs by Wolverhampton Wanderers. His impressive time with the club attracted the interest of West Ham United and it would be a controversial departure too.

In September 2003, West Ham approached Reading for permission to speak to Alan. Reading rightly refused but Pardew decided to force the hand by tendering his resignation. A compromise was eventually reached and he would take over at Upton Park but it was a sour ending to an excellent first job in management.

Denied by Gerrard

Having been relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the 2002-2003 campaign, West Ham United were firm favourites to make an instant return but the going was much tougher than anticipated. The Hammers had to settle for a place in the play-offs as Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion won the two automatic promotion spots. The play-offs ended in defeat in the final to his old club Crystal Palace.

The 2004-2005 season was just as hard proving that no matter how talented your squad is, getting out of the Championship is very tricky. Yet again, West Ham had to settle for a spot in the play-offs. Pardew was coming under scrutiny from some sections of the Boleyn Ground faithful and failure again would probably cost him his job. This time he prevailed, as Bobby Zamora’s strike defeated Preston North End 1-0 in the final. After two seasons in the wilderness, West Ham were back in the Premier League party.

Their first season back was very impressive. Pardew’s side always posed a threat on the counter-attack and played some enjoyable content which pleased the supporters. They finished ninth in the Premier League and beat Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season to deny Spurs a chance in the Champions League. There was also a 3-2 success on the club’s final trip to Highbury – Arsenal’s iconic ground.

The main highlight though was a run to the FA Cup final with the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and Middlesbrough being defeated on the road to Cardiff. In the final cup final to be played in the Welsh capital, West Ham took on red-hot favourites Liverpool FC and came within a few moments of winning the cup for the first time in 26 years. They led 2-0 and 3-2 but Pardew was to be denied by Steven Gerrard’s stoppage-time heroics with an exhilarating equaliser. Liverpool would win the penalty shootout leaving the Londoners heartbroken.

It felt like the cup defeat had a negative effect on the dressing room dynamics and despite signing world stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, West Ham went on an alarming run of defeats which was their worst run in 70 years. This included a shock League Cup exit at the hands of Chesterfield and UEFA Cup failure at the first hurdle to Palermo.

The new Icelandic owners gave their public backing but a horrible performance and 4-0 loss to Bolton Wanderers in mid-December was the final straw. Pardew was sacked two days later but he would be back in management just over two weeks after this axing.

Charlton woe

On Christmas Eve 2006, Pardew returned to Charlton Athletic, succeeding Les Reed in the job. The Addicks were in the bottom three and struggling to maintain their grip on their Premier League status. Pardew’s first match nearly drew instant success late equaliser from Fulham in controversial circumstances. It would be the story of his reign at The Valley.

Charlton’s form improved, including a 4-0 victory over his former employers in February but it wasn’t enough to avoid the drop. A 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the club’s final home match of the season saw Charlton’s seven-season stay in the top-flight come to a sudden end.

The spark seemed to have gone from Pardew. He couldn’t motivate the club to a sustained push for an instant return to the Premier League. Charlton finished a distant 11th in the Championship in 2007-2008 and after slipping into the bottom three of that division in November 2008, he parted company with the club by mutual consent.

His next role was down in League One as he tried to revive Southampton’s fortunes. Despite a points deduction for entering administration, he did bring in plenty of firepower with the likes of Lee Barnard and Rickie Lambert arriving on the south coast. Southampton did win the Football League trophy under his stewardship in April 2010 but with low morale within the staff, he was sacked five months later by owner Nicola Cortese.

It looked like his top-flight days were numbered until Newcastle United came calling.

Defying the critics

In December 2010, Chris Hughton was dismissed as Newcastle United manager and three days after his departure, Pardew was confirmed as his successor. Many Magpies supporters did not want him as their manager and a poll on the Sky Sports website confirmed this. He received just 5.5% backing.

He won his first match in-charge though, defeating Liverpool FC 3-1 and was manager when Newcastle produced one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history, storming back from 4-0 down at half-time to draw 4-4 with Arsenal in February 2011.

Newcastle finished 12th in 2010-2011 and that summer; they recruited very well, using contacts from France to bring in the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and on a free transfer from West Ham United, Demba Ba. Ba’s goals in the first half of the season, combined with a solid defensive line-up and the qualities of Cabaye meant he would defy the critics throughout the 2011-2012 season.

Newcastle remained unbeaten until mid-November and were a fixture in the top seven all season. The January arrival of Papiss Cisse from Sport-Club Freiburg added more firepower to the striking ranks and the club enjoyed their best season since Sir Bobby Robson’s final full term in 2004. The Magpies were in the mix for a UEFA Champions League qualification place until the final day when defeat at Everton ensured they’d miss out on a top-three spot. Nevertheless, fifth place in the final table, ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool FC was a stunning achievement. Pardew’s work was recognised and he was awarded LMA Manager of the Year honours.

Crazy moments

In September 2012, he signed an eight-year contract extension but the 2012-2013 season was a major disappointment. Newcastle finished 16th in the table and suffered some damaging defeats, including a heavy 3-0 loss to local rivals Sunderland in April 2013. They did reach a UEFA Europa League quarter-final before losing to Benfica.

The 2013-2014 campaign went better and Alan won the Manager of the Month award for November after four successive victories. The club won at Old Trafford in December and sat sixth in the table going into Christmas. However, Cabaye was sold to Paris Saint-Germain in January and he got into hot water twice in quick succession which put his position in severe jeopardy.

First, he was caught by television cameras using foul and abusive language towards Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini during a 2-0 home loss in January. Two months later, he was sent to the stands after head-butting Hull City’s David Meyler following a touchline confrontation. It was an extraordinary incident which saw him fined £160,000 combined by the FA and his own club and given a seven-match ban, three of these games saw him barred from entering the stadium.

There was a tumultuous start to the 2014-2015 season and the relationship between manager and supporters seemed to be at an all-time low. Newcastle sank to bottom in the Premier League after four games and disgruntled fans set-up a website called in an effort to convince Mike Ashley to dispense with his services. He survived this storm and a run of five successive victories saw the club rocket up the table from 20th to 5th. However, there was always a feeling in the closing weeks of his reign on Tyneside that his time was coming to an end.

After not fulfilling media commitments following a 3-2 home victory against Everton, speculation grew on whether Pardew would leave Newcastle to take the vacancy at Crystal Palace. Two days later, compensation was agreed between the two clubs and Alan was leaving the north east behind to return to a club that was still dear to his heart.

A sound start at Selhurst

When Pardew took over at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace were in the relegation zone but immediately showed a revival in fortunes. In his first match in-charge, Palace beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 and would beat both Manchester City and Liverpool FC before the season’s end. Crystal Palace finished the 2014-2015 campaign in 10th place which remains their best-ever Premier League finish. In doing so, he became the first manager to take over a side in the drop zone and guide them to a top-half finish.

It was a sound start and the first half of the 2015-2016 campaign went swimmingly too, helped by acquiring Cabaye again after he fell out of favour at Paris Saint-Germain. After 19 games, Palace sat in fifth position and looked set to launch a serious challenge for a European spot in the most unpredictable Premier League season.

However, a dismal run followed. Crystal Palace went 14 league games without a victory and plummeted down the table into the bottom five. Late season victories over Norwich City and Stoke City removed any late threat of a relegation battle but finishing 15th at the end of the season was not what anyone hoped for. Alan’s salvation was another excellent run in the FA Cup and another final which ended in another agonising defeat. Manchester United came from behind to defeat the Eagles 2-1 after extra-time in the Wembley showpiece. It was the third time he’d experience FA Cup final heartache as a player/manager.

The poor league form continued throughout the first half of the 2016-2017 season. Despite a three-game winning sequence in September that did have them briefly upto seventh and above eventual champions Chelsea, another dire sequence of results followed. One win in 11 saw the south Londoners slip down to 17th in the table and a few days before Christmas 2016, Pardew was sacked after a 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

After a stint working as a TV pundit for Sky Sports, Pardew returned to the managerial dugout at West Bromwich Albion in November 2017. He replaced Tony Pulis at the helm but his record was nothing short of disastrous. He won just three matches in all competitions from 20 games, earning him a grim win ratio rate of just 15%. West Brom won only once in the Premier League during his reign – a 2-0 success over Brighton & Hove Albion in January and a run of eight successive losses means relegation from the Premier League at the end of the campaign is now just a mere formality. In early April, he parted company with the Baggies by mutual consent.

Alan Pardew has always tried to play football the right way and encourage an expansive style but his recent spells in management since leaving Newcastle United haven’t gone to plan. With the nightmare he has recently experienced at West Bromwich Albion, it is more likely he will be a TV pundit than a manager in future seasons to come.

The Managers: Jim Smith

Premier League Clubs Managed: Derby County (1997-2001)

Jim Smith was an experienced-hand in football and managed in every single main division in English football. He spent four relatively successful seasons as a Premier League manager with Derby County and served as Harry Redknapp’s assistant at both Portsmouth and Southampton. Now aged 77, Smith earned himself the nickname “The Bald Eagle.”

Toiling as a player

Smith grew up in Sheffield and was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter as a youngster. In terms of his playing career, he toiled around in the lower leagues but he did make over 370 league appearances between 1959 and 1973.

Although he was a Wednesday fan, it was Sheffield United who signed him up as a professional, though he didn’t make a first-team appearance for the Blades. He was transferred to Aldershot Town in 1961 and would go on to play for Halifax Town, Lincoln City, Boston United and Colchester United.

By the time he’d retired as a player, Jim was already making his first strides into management. He took charge of both Boston and Colchester, guiding the Essex club to promotion from the Fourth Division in 1974.

A year later, he left Colchester for Blackburn Rovers which would be the first of seven clubs he’d take charge of on a permanent basis over nearly 30 years. Blackburn were a Second Division side at the time and Smith consolidated them initially before leading them to a promotion push in 1978. However, he wouldn’t see the season out as a new challenge awaited in the top-flight.

Being a part of transfer history

In March 1978, Birmingham City were struggling near the foot of the First Division table. England’s World Cup winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey decided to step down, not fancying relegation on his CV. Smith accepted the challenge but couldn’t keep the Blues away from the drop.

He would eventually take charge of 182 matches at St. Andrew’s and was part of football transfer history as he allowed Trevor Francis to leave and join Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest. In doing so, Francis became the first £1 million player in transfer history. Smith was allowed to re-invest the money in the rest of the playing squad and guided Birmingham back at the first attempt to the First Division.

In early 1982, Ron Saunders controversially walked out on Aston Villa; the team he’d led to the First Division title a season earlier. Birmingham sensed an opportunity and decided to sack Smith and replace him with Saunders at the end of the 1981-1982 season. Smith would later say in his book that he believed the decision to axe him was made on the team coach on the way home from the last game of the season.

Oxford United picked him up and he led them to the Third Division title in 1984 and actually achieved back-to-back promotions as they won the Second Division crown a year later. In most cases, that should give you a job for life but unfortunately for Jim, the owner of Oxford at the time was the controversial media mogul, Robert Maxwell. Maxwell refused to enter discussions for a new contract, so Smith left after the consecutive title success to take the job at Queens Park Rangers.

Maxwell got his revenge on his former boss in 1986 as Oxford beat QPR 3-0 in the League Cup final. After three years in west London, he made the move to manage Newcastle United in December 1988. Like many before and after him, he found the going very tough on Tyneside and by March 1991, with little progress being made and a power struggle in the boardroom at St. James’ Park, he resigned. Later, he claimed Newcastle United are “unmanageable.”

Near-miss with Pompey

In the summer of 1991, his next port of call was Portsmouth where the 1991-1992 season saw a near-miss in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition. Pompey reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup before losing a penalty shootout to eventual winners Liverpool FC.  A year later, they came within an inch of automatic promotion to the Premier League but missed out to West Ham United on goal difference, then losing in the play-off semi-finals.

Star player Guy Whittingham was sold to Aston Villa in the summer of 1993, following the likes of Darren Anderton and John Beresford who were transferred away from the club a season earlier. No money was made available for adequate replacements and in January 1995, he was sacked and briefly had a spell as chief executive of the LMA (League Managers’ Association).

In the summer of 1995, he returned to the dugout as manager of Derby County, bringing in Steve McClaren as a first-team coach. He finally made it to the promise land of the Premier League. Derby beat promotion rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 in April 1996 to secure the runners-up spot in the First Division behind champions Sunderland.

He added the likes of Croatian defender Igor Stimac, midfielder Aljosa Asanovic and the unheralded forward Paulo Wanchope and Derby finished a comfortable 12th in their first Premier League season, beating Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford along the way.

Even better was to come for the Derby faithful as the 1990s drew to a close.

Feeling Pride at Pride Park

1996-1997 was Derby County’s final season at The Baseball Ground and they would move that summer into a new stadium. Jim would feel great pride at being the first Derby manager to coach at Pride Park. The first game against Wimbledon was abandoned due to a floodlight failure but he made them very difficult to beat at home.

Derby beat Arsenal 3-0, held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw and crushed Southampton 4-0. They remained unbeaten on home soil until Leeds United picked up a 5-0 victory in mid-March. That loss did take the life out of the Rams season but they still finished a creditable ninth in the table.

They improved a season later to eighth, with another scalp being a 2-1 triumph at Anfield over Liverpool FC. Smith had made Derby an attractive side to watch, with the creative talents of Wanchope, Dean Sturridge, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio matched by the grit of goalkeeper Mart Poom, defender Chris Powell and midfielder Lee Carsley.

The next two seasons were a much bigger struggle, with the club finishing near the lower reaches of the Premier League table. After winning just one of his first seven games in 2001-2002, Derby decided to make a change. They offered Smith a Director of Football position but he turned it down and as a result, tendered his resignation in October 2001. Colin Todd would replace him.

He said: “I appreciated the chairman offering me the position of Director of Football, but felt I had more to offer the club. I will always appreciate Derby County and their magnificent fans for everything they have done for me and my family.”

Becoming a no.2

After his exit from Derby, Jim Smith became an assistant manager for the majority of the rest of his time in football. In January 2002, he was made assistant to Roland Nilsson at Coventry City but was sacked three months later as the Sky Blues failed to launch a challenge for a play-off place.

Harry Redknapp added him to his staff at Portsmouth and Jim played an important part in the south coast’s side promotion as First Division champions in 2003. The pair remained together until November 2004 when Redknapp resigned following a row with owner Milan Mandaric over the appointment of a Director of Football. A month later, Smith would rejoin Redknapp a few miles down the road at Southampton but they couldn’t save the Saints from sliding into the Championship. He was made redundant in a round of job cuts following their failure to preserve their top-flight status, much to Redknapp’s chagrin.

He returned to the main hotseat of one of his former clubs, Oxford United in March 2006, holding the role for 18 months as Oxford struggled in non-league football. He also took a seat on the board before severing his ties with the club in 2009.

With 34 years’ experience in the game, Jim Smith was one of the most respected and well-liked personalities in football and put Derby County well and truly on the Premier League map in the late 1990s.

The Managers: Steve McClaren

Premier League Clubs Managed: Middlesbrough (2001-2006), Newcastle United (2015-2016)

Steve McClaren is hoping to follow in the footsteps of managers like David Moyes, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce, all considered being past their sell-by-date as top-flight bosses but who have managed to return to the Premier League dugout in 2017-2018.

McClaren is currently out of work but is hoping this will change. His most recent role was as a coaching consultant with Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv. He guided Middlesbrough to a UEFA Cup final in 2006 and took FC Twente to a surprising Dutch title four years later. However, his dreadful reign as England manager seems to have scarred his reputation with both chairman and the media for good.

A loyal assistant

His playing days were nothing special to write home about. He played for Hull City, Derby County, Lincoln City, Bristol City and Oxford United before injury forced him to retire in 1992.

After retiring from playing, McClaren began his coaching career as a youth and reserve team coach at Oxford United, before moving back to Derby County in 1995, where he served as assistant manager to Jim Smith. Together, they won promotion to the Premier League and they established the Rams as a consistent top 10 side in the Premier League.

In early 1999, Manchester United were looking for a new assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson as his long-time no.2 Brian Kidd had elected to take the managerial post at Blackburn Rovers. McClaren got the role and his first game next to Ferguson saw the Red Devils win 8-1 away at Nottingham Forest. It was a wonderful first few months in the role with United winning the treble, consisting of the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Another two Premier League titles followed in 2000 and 2001 and he was one of the first to embrace the new technologies of using sports psychologists and video analysis to enhance player performances.

In 2000, he combined his Manchester United role with a position on the coaching staff with the England international team. McClaren served as assistant to Sven-Goran Eriksson from November 2002 all the way until his departure after the 2006 World Cup finals.

Boro breakthrough

In the summer of 2001, Steve elected to move into management, realising his chances of succeeding Ferguson as Manchester United manager as slim. Southampton and West Ham United both approached him but he turned both clubs down and was appointed Middlesbrough manager after impressing owner Steve Gibson in an interview.

His first two seasons at The Riverside Stadium are solid, if unspectacular. Middlesbrough finish 12th and 11th in the table respectively and make the FA Cup semi-finals in 2002 before losing at Old Trafford to Arsenal.

The big breakthrough came in the 2003-2004 season. Despite another mid-table finish in the Premier League, Middlesbrough claimed silverware for the first time in their 128-year history. They knocked out Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal before defeating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup final.

This meant European football would follow in 2004-2005 and McClaren was able to attract the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mark Viduka and Michael Reiziger to the club in the close season. Middlesbrough made the last-16 of the UEFA Cup before bowing out to Sporting Lisbon, who will go on to make the final. There is progress in the league too. Boro finish in seventh position which is their best finish in the top-flight in 30 years.

His most dramatic season at the helm was his last one on Teeside. Middlesbrough struggled to 14th position in the league with some disastrous results; including a 7-0 beating at Highbury away to Arsenal. However, they achieved far better success in the cup competitions. They reached the FA Cup semi-finals before losing to West Ham United and enjoy some stunning nights in the UEFA Cup. Both FC Basel and FCSB of Romania hold four-goal leads during the two-legged ties and will be eliminated in dramatic conclusions to these matches. For the first time in their history, Middlesbrough reached a European final but they are no match for Sevilla in the showpiece event, losing 4-0.

He left at the end of the season with the biggest job in international management ready for him.

The England nightmare

When Luiz Felipe Scolari elected to turn down the position of becoming England manager, McClaren got the job in May 2006, edging out Sam Allardyce to the position. Many England fans were unconvinced by the FA’s choice and that was further outlined when he decided to leave national treasure David Beckham out of his early international plans. John Terry was appointed captain.

Qualification for EURO 2008 was meant to be straightforward but the first signs of problems occurred when England were held to a goalless draw at home by FYR Macedonia. Days later, the Three Lions lost 2-0 to Croatia and another defeat in Moscow to Russia left England’s qualification firmly in the balance. He didn’t help his relationship with the press after walking out of a press conference following an unconvincing 3-0 victory over Andorra, saying: “Gentlemen, if you want to write whatever you want to write, you can write it because that is all I am going to say. Thank you.”

Victory at Wembley Stadium over Croatia in their final match would guarantee qualification. Anything else would likely lead to elimination as on the same night, Russia were playing no-hopers Andorra. It is a night Steve McClaren will probably never be able to erase from his memory.

First, he was photographed on a filthy, wet evening in an umbrella to protect him from the elements. This earned him the nickname; “The Wally with the Brolly!” Secondly, he dropped experienced goalkeeper Paul Robinson for rookie Scott Carson and this backfired when Carson allowed an early Niko Kranjcar shot to spill through his fingers and into the net. Lastly, England lost the game 3-2, despite recovering a two-goal deficit in the second half. Russia beat Andorra, so England failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup.

A day later, McClaren was sacked. His tenure is the second shortest in history of managing the England national team. His reputation and creditability had been completely destroyed.

Rebuilding himself

Steve moved abroad and took a job in Dutch football with FC Twente. He spent two seasons with them, making them a strong force in the domestic game. In 2010, Twente saw off challenges from perennial title winners Ajax and PSV Eindhoven to become Dutch champions by just one point. He became the first Englishman to win a league title abroad since Sir Bobby Robson had won the Portuguese league title with FC Porto in 1996.

He admitted this was his best achievement in football, saying: “Winning the Carling Cup with Middlesbrough was special but this is pretty much right up at the top of anything I’ve ever done. To win a championship in a foreign country with foreign coaches, I think it’s made me stronger.”

He left after his achievement and tried his luck in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg; it didn’t work out as well as he hoped. Poor results saw him dismissed by the 2009 German champions in February 2011. After an unsuccessful spell at Nottingham Forest, McClaren returned to FC Twente for a second time in January 2012. However, he couldn’t rekindle the spirit of his first stint there and resigned a year later.

Following a stint in-charge of Derby County, McClaren returned to the Premier League in 2015; nine years after he left Middlesbrough. He succeeded John Carver as manager of Newcastle United. He was on the backfoot from the outset. Newcastle went eight games without a win at the start of the season and although there were brilliant victories in December 2015 over Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur, it always looked like he was fighting a losing battle on Tyneside.

With the club in the bottom three, a damaging 3-1 home defeat to AFC Bournemouth in March 2016 left him firmly in the firing line with the Geordie supporters. He was sacked five days after this loss to the Cherries.

He had a brief second spell as Derby County manager and is aiming at returning to management in the near future. Whilst he waits, he is currently working as a pundit for the EFL television coverage on Sky Sports. Hopefully, he won’t react as dramatically as he did when working for Sky after England’s shock loss to Iceland at EURO 2016!

The Managers: John Gregory

Premier League Clubs Managed: Aston Villa (1998-2002), Derby County (2002)

In 2015, it looked like John Gregory’s managerial career would be cut short when health reasons forced him to step down from his position at Crawley Town. Happily, Gregory has made a full recovery and is back in management over in India, currently as manager of Chennaiyin.

Recently, 20 years have passed since his appointment as Aston Villa manager where he took them to a title challenge tilt in his first full season and an FA Cup final appearance before an ill-fated spell at one of his playing clubs in Derby County that ended with Premier League relegation in 2002.

Playing in his teens

Gregory made his professional debut as a player at the age of just 18 in 1972. His first club was Northampton Town, scoring eight times in 187 league appearances before earning his big chance with Aston Villa in 1977.

It was a big step-up for John from his time with the Cobblers but he handled the pressure very well, even if his spell with the Villans was restricted to just two seasons. Gregory became the only player to play in every outfield position, wearing every number from 2 to 11 over his two seasons with the club, which remains a record.

After two years on the seaside with Brighton & Hove Albion, Gregory moved to Queens Park Rangers in 1981, enjoying the most successful period of his playing career at Loftus Road. In his first full season in west London, he was part of the team that reached the FA Cup final but experienced the agony of losing that final to Tottenham Hotspur. It was a pain that John would also experience as a manager a full 18 years later.

He helped QPR qualify for the UEFA Cup in 1984 but after Terry Venables left to accept the position as Barcelona manager, their form dipped and Gregory elected to move to Derby County in 1985.

Derby had been champions of England twice in the 1970s but by 1985, had dropped into the Third Division. With Gregory’s guile and experience, the Rams returned into the limelight with back-to-back promotions. After helping them survive their first campaign back in the top-flight, he announced his retirement as a player in 1988, although he did briefly come out of retirement two years later for very brief spells with Plymouth Argyle and Bolton Wanderers.

Cutting his apprenticeship

It would be six years between the end of Gregory’s playing career and his first steps into permanent management. His apprenticeship as a coach was during Brian Little’s days as manager with Leicester City and Aston Villa. He joined Little’s team in 1991 and followed him to Villa Park three years later.

In September 1996, he got the opportunity to go his own way with Wycombe Wanderers. At the time, it was one of the toughest jobs to make your mark. Wycombe were bottom of Division Two but he stabilised them and took them to a solid mid-table finish.

He had turned Wycombe into a play-off challenger in Division Two when Little resigned as Aston Villa manager in February 1998 after a 2-1 loss to Wimbledon left them floundering in 15th place in the table. Although big names were linked to the post, including Dutchman Ruud Gullit, Gregory was given the opportunity to return to Villa Park to revive their fortunes.

He revealed recently: “Villa had a group of players that should not be, under any circumstances, be worried about the threat of relegation.”

A wonderful honeymoon

His first match was a home game with Liverpool FC. Villa had lost five of their previous seven matches and Gregory had inherited a squad that he knew greatly from his days of being on Little’s coaching staff. The only exception was Stan Collymore and their relationship would be destructive.

It started well. Collymore put in an unstoppable performance against the club that had sold him the previous summer, scoring twice in Villa’s 2-1 victory. It was the high point of a very tempestuous relationship.

Collymore was involved in a highly-publicised bust-up with his girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson in the summer of 1998 and was never the same player after that. He struggled with depression and stress and it was something the manager struggled to help him with. He eventually loaned him out to Fulham and would release him in 2000 to join Leicester City.

Insults have been traded over the years but Gregory accepts mistakes were made on his behalf. He said: “It pains me to admit that I failed miserably in showing any kind of compassion to his long drawn out periods of depression. I still cannot understand how someone so young, fit, handsome and wealthy can suffer from such an illness.”

Aside from Collymore, the rest of the playing squad looked revitalised under his coaching. Villa rallied to seventh place at the end of the 1997-1998 campaign and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Despite selling Dwight Yorke to Manchester United, the momentum continued for the rest of the 1998 calendar year.

Aston Villa stayed unbeaten until mid-November and were top of the table on Christmas Day, losing just three times in the first half of the season. Going into 1999, Gregory’s team looked like a serious title challenger alongside Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. It had been a wonderful honeymoon period but it wasn’t to last.

Second suffering at Wembley

The Villans form crumbled after an FA Cup exit in January 1999 to Fulham. They folded in the title race and didn’t even qualify for Europe, finishing sixth in the final 1998-1999 standings.

A run to the FA Cup final in 2000 was the highlight of John’s next two seasons at the helm, guiding them to the final-ever final before Wembley would be demolished and redeveloped. They met Chelsea but the occasion seemed to get to the better of the players on the day. Roberto Di Matteo’s scrappy second half winner saw Chelsea claim the cup and produced a second final suffering for Gregory after his pain as a player with Queens Park Rangers.

In 2001-2002, the club had a brief taste of top spot in the table again, hitting the summit at the end of October after a 3-2 success at home to Bolton Wanderers. However, only three wins in 13 games followed which dropped them to seventh and two-goal leads were blown in the Premier League away to Arsenal and in the FA Cup at home to Manchester United.

In late January 2002, Gregory walked away from Aston Villa and was immediately linked with the vacancy at his former playing club, Derby County.

A Derby disaster

His first game as Derby manager came less than 10 days after exiting Aston Villa and Lee Morris scored the only goal in a 1-0 success over Tottenham Hotspur.

An away victory at already doomed Leicester City followed and only a controversial disallowed goal stopped them beating Manchester United at Pride Park. Unfortunately, seven defeats from the Rams last eight fixtures saw their six-year stay in England’s top-flight come to an end.

Gregory stayed on but couldn’t buy any players due to financial restrictions and Derby struggled back in Division One. He was sacked in March 2003 for alleged misconduct and took the club to court for unfair dismissal.

The protracted legal action meant he was out of the game for three years but he was successful in his case, winning £1 million in compensation. Needless to say, his Derby spell was a disaster.

Since then, John has been globetrotting with spells as a manager in Kazakhstan and Israel along with stints at Queens Park Rangers and Crawley Town.

With Crawley struggling in the League One relegation zone in December 2014, Gregory stepped down with the club revealing he needed open heart surgery in January 2015. After a long period of recuperation, he made a full recovery and is currently in India, adding to his managerial CV.

Passive was not a word to use about John Gregory. He had a good reputation for working with difficult characters and getting the best out of them. He was good also with soundbites for the media. When Yorke left Villa for Manchester United in August 1998, he jokingly said in a media conference: “Dwight came into my office a couple of weeks ago and stated he wanted to play for Manchester United and he didn’t want to play for Aston Villa. If I’d had a gun at the time, I think I would have shot him!”

One thing he does know after his health scare is he knows the true meaning of life and it being more important than management.