Tag Archives: Managers

The Managers: Chris Coleman

Premier League Clubs Managed: Fulham (2003-2007)

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

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

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

Playing days at the Palace

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

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

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

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

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

Flying at Fulham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the wilderness to Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Managers: Gerry Francis

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

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

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

QPR and England hand-in-hand

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

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

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

Lack of consultation

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Tottenham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach time

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

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

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

The Managers: Glenn Roeder

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

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

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

Captain at the cup final

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

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

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

Working underneath Waddle

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

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

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

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

Hammered and under pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Managers: Steve Coppell

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

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

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

A promising career cut short

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

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

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

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

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

Making his mark at Palace

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

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

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

The 33-day experience in Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Record-breaking Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Managers: Avram Grant

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

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

Four decades in Israel

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

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

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

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

Off to Chelsea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping the sinking ship going at Pompey

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

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

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

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

The Hammers nightmare

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

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

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

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

The Managers: Brendan Rodgers

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

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

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

Enforced retirement

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

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

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

The Royal return doesn’t work out

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

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

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

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

Achieving history with Swansea

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

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

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

So close with Liverpool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celtic joy

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

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

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

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

The Managers: Manuel Pellegrini

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

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

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

Attracting Real Madrid’s interest

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

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

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

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

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

Malaga to Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

Unable to build on initial success

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

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

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

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

Unfinished business in the capital

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

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

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

Seasonal Stories: Chelsea (1997-1998)

Sackings and cup glory

Having been a mid-table team in the early Premier League Years, Chelsea were beginning to make an impact on the top-flight in the late 1990s. The 1997-1998 season saw the Londoners record their first top-four finish and experience cup glory, with victories in both the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup under the guidance of Gianluca Vialli.

This was despite having almost as many defeats as relegated Bolton Wanderers and the controversial sacking of Ruud Gullit as first-team manager in February 1998.

Continental knowledge

This was Chelsea’s ninth successive season in England’s top-flight and they went into the 1997-1998 season looking to build on the previous season’s sixth-place finish, as well as victory in the FA Cup final over Middlesbrough.

It was Ruud Gullit’s second season in the dugout at Stamford Bridge and his continental knowledge saw more foreign players recruited in pre-season to add to the depth of the squad. Gus Poyet, who had been part of the Real Zaragoza squad that defeated Arsenal in the 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup final, arrived on a free transfer.

Graeme Le Saux returned to the club after a four-year stint at Blackburn Rovers which had yielded a Premier League title winners’ medal in 1995 with Chelsea paying Rovers £5 million for his services. Nigerian full-back Celestine Babayaro from Anderlecht and a new first-choice goalkeeper in Ed de Goey were among the other new arrivals.

Setting a high standard

Despite an opening day defeat to Coventry City thanks to a Dion Dublin hat-trick, Chelsea made a brilliant start to the season, winning five of their first eight games. This included an excellent 2-2 draw at Old Trafford with reigning champions Manchester United.

In August, they handed Premier League newcomers Barnsley a lesson in how tough life is in the top-flight. Gianluca Vialli, keen to start more matches in this campaign, scored a stunning four goals at Oakwell as the Tykes lost 6-0 on their own patch. By the end of September, Chelsea had already scored 22 goals and were averaging three goals a game.

Expansion to The Shed End and The West Stand meant Chelsea played their first three matches of the league campaign away from home whilst the redevelopment work was completed. Southampton were the first visitors to the modern-day Stamford Bridge and lost 4-2, with all of Chelsea’s goals coming in the first half.

Champions-elect Arsenal were the only side to win on their visit to The Bridge before Christmas and only away form was harming a serious title tilt from Gullit’s men. By the turn of the year, five of Chelsea’s six defeats had come away from home, including disappointing 1-0 defeats to Southampton and Bolton Wanderers. Nevertheless, they still put in some wonderful away performances and the 6-1 humbling they dished out on Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane was one of the best team displays of the entire campaign. Another summer recruit, Tore Andre Flo scored a hat-trick.

29TH DECEMBER 1997 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 21 14 4 3 49 16 +33 46
2 Blackburn Rovers 21 11 8 2 38 21 +17 41
3 CHELSEA 21 12 3 6 46 21 +25 39
4 Liverpool FC 20 11 4 5 36 19 +17 37
5 Leeds United 21 10 5 6 30 23 +7 35
6 Arsenal 20 9 7 4 35 23 +12 34

Gobsmacked Gullit

Although there was a disappointing 3-1 defeat away at struggling Everton in January 1998, Chelsea sat in second position when Gullit took his side to Highbury to face Arsenal on 8th February. The Dutchman was greeted warmly by Chairman Ken Bates when he arrived at the ground and everything seemed rosy in-terms of the relationship between manager and owner.

Two Stephen Hughes goals consigned Chelsea to their seventh away defeat of the campaign but they were still leading the chasing pack behind Manchester United and just five points away from the Red Devils too. Discussions were well underway regarding a contract extension for Gullit. Yet, there was to be a sensational story that broke from west London four days after the Arsenal loss.

Chelsea’s hierarchy held a news conference to confirm Gullit had been sacked. Bates said at the press gathering: “We were unable to meet his financial demands.” Managing Director Colin Hutchinson backed this up, adding: “There was no further scope for future negotiations.”

24 hours later, a rather stunned Gullit held his own press conference, claiming he didn’t know why he’d been sacked and demanded to know the real reason for his sudden departure. He dismissed the board’s claims that his wage demands were too high and confirmed he had been ready to sign a new deal to stay on as the club’s manager. Bates later admitted “I didn’t like his arrogance – in fact I never liked him.”

Even more surprisingly, Vialli was immediately appointed as his successor in a player-manager capacity, despite having no previous managerial experience. With Chelsea second in the league and into the semi-finals of the League Cup, plus a European quarter-final, the timing of this managerial change did have a detrimental effect on the rest of the Premier League season.

Hanging onto fourth

Chelsea’s Premier League campaign crumbled after this decision. Vialli lost his first three matches in-charge, including a 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United which saw many bookmakers deciding not to take anymore bets on where the title was going. However, United were about to be humbled by a team from London. However, it was Arsenal who went on a devastating run of form to snatch the Premier League title.

The players had seemed just as surprised as anyone by the board’s decision to dispense with Gullit’s services, plus the fact that one of their teammates was now their boss. Vialli still got the side playing some attractive football and this was demonstrated when Liverpool FC were well-beaten 4-1 on their visit to Stamford Bridge in late April. A final day victory over Bolton Wanderers ensured a fourth-place finish. However, there was a sense from within the fans that an opportunity was missed to launch a serious title challenge. Although they finished second highest goalscorers with 71 goals, Chelsea lost more games in the season than Wimbledon, who finished 19 points adrift and in 15th place. Relegated Bolton only lost one more match than what Chelsea did

There was a silver lining to the season though with double cup glory. For the second successive season, Middlesbrough were beaten in a cup final, losing 2-0 in the League Cup final. Right at the end of the season, Gianfranco Zola came off the bench to score the only goal in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final against VfB Stuttgart.

FINAL 1997-1998 TABLE – THIRD TO EIGHTH

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
3 Liverpool FC 38 18 11 9 68 42 +26 65
4 CHELSEA 38 20 3 15 71 43 +28 63
5 Leeds United 38 17 8 13 57 46 +11 59
6 Blackburn Rovers 38 16 10 12 57 52 +5 58
7 Aston Villa 38 17 6 15 49 48 +1 57
8 West Ham United 38 16 8 14 56 57 -1 56

Iconic Moments: Wenger bids farewell (May 2018)

On Friday 20th April 2018, Arsenal announced that Arsene Wenger was to step down as the club’s longest-serving manager after 22 years at the helm.

Wenger was a revolutionary for the English game, changing the way managers approach training regimes, player diets and data analysis. It was his dream to complete an entire Premier League season unbeaten and that feat was achieved with ‘The Invincibles’ side of 2003-2004. The likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell and Dennis Bergkamp playing a crucial role in the Gunners going through a season undefeated. They eventually went 49 league matches without losing.

In recent seasons, success had given way to frustration and protests which included banners, aeroplanes calling for his departure and eventually, supporters deciding not to turn up to home matches. This was despite keeping Arsenal in the top four for 19 successive seasons and becoming the most successful foreign manager in the history of the FA Cup. The end was near and it was time for a change as Arsenal started to slip further away from the other prime Premier League challengers.

In his final home match as the club’s manager, Arsenal put in a splendid display of attacking football, beating Burnley 5-0 with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Alex Iwobi and two from his final-ever signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A final day victory at Huddersfield meant Wenger finished with three titles and 476 Premier League wins. He has been succeeded by Unai Emery.

Although there were some very awkward moments in the closing years of his reign, Wenger’s legacy should never be tarnished. He has to be considered as one of the most influential figures the Premier League has ever seen.

The Managers: Steve Kean

Premier League Clubs Managed: Blackburn Rovers (2010-2012)

Blackburn Rovers were relegated from the Premier League under the guidance of Steve Kean in 2012. Kean was never a popular figure with the Rovers supporters who constantly chanted for him to step down as first-team manager. His two years at the helm at Ewood Park were very difficult to say the least.

Coaching apprenticeship alongside Coleman

Kean grew up on the outskirts of Glasgow and upon leaving school; he signed professional forms with Scottish giants Celtic. He was hoping to make the grade with the Bhoys but it didn’t work out. Celtic had powerful midfielders in the 1980s like Murdo MacLeod and Tommy Burns. He failed to make a single first-team appearance for the Glasgow side.

He joined Swansea City on-loan in 1987 and formed a friendship with his teammate Chris Coleman which would grow into a later coaching apprenticeship alongside the Welshman. Like at Celtic, the winger made little impact on the team at Swansea and likewise at Alloa Athletic back in Scotland. In fact, his best time as a player was in mainland Europe with Portuguese side Academica Coimbra. He learned the Portuguese language and scored his one and only goal in his senior career during his time there.

Realising that playing wasn’t working for him, Steve retired in 1994 and became a coach. He began his coaching days with Reading but became Coleman’s assistant manager when he became permanent Fulham boss in the summer of 2003. He spent four seasons as Coleman’s no.2 at Craven Cottage and would also work with the Welshman during management spells with Real Sociedad and Coventry City.

In 2008, it was rumoured that Kean might land a coaching job with Chelsea following the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari as the club’s manager. This was because of his Portuguese speaking background. There was interest but nothing ultimately materialised.

Learning, then succeeding Big Sam

Just over a week before the start of the 2009-2010 Premier League season, Kean was appointed first-team coach by Sam Allardyce at Blackburn Rovers. He succeeded Karl Robinson, who was making his first steps into management with Milton Keynes Dons. Allardyce would later say in his autobiography that he took Kean on following a strong recommendation of his coaching skills from Coleman.

In December 2010, Blackburn lost late on in a Lancashire Derby at Bolton Wanderers, beaten 2-1 by Stuart Holden’s winner. They were still sitting comfortably in mid-table, so everyone was stunned when Blackburn’s new owners, the Venky’s decided to sack Allardyce. Kean was put in temporary charge initially but just one month later, was given a two-and-a-half year contract.

The fans were unimpressed, not only with the decision to dispense with Big Sam’s services but for the owners to appoint a manager with no managerial experience whatsoever. It became clear that it was more than being given a chance behind this decision. Kean’s agent Jerome Anderson had played a major role in advising Venky’s during their protracted interest in taking over the ownership of the club.

He actually started well in the job and a 2-0 triumph over West Bromwich Albion in mid-January took Blackburn into 7th spot in the table. However, a 10-game winless sequence followed and Rovers were still not guaranteed safety before the final day of the season. A final day 3-2 victory at Molineux over Wolverhampton Wanderers ensured their Premier League status but it left for plenty of worries from the supporters about the club’s future. Sadly for them, they were to be proven right.

Losing faith

Blackburn made a dreadful start to the 2011-2012 season, losing their first three matches and although there was a 4-3 victory over Arsenal, it was the only win in the opening three months of the campaign. Protests by large sections of the Ewood Park faithful for the manager to be removed from his post continued throughout the autumn and the problems continued to mount. They were in big trouble and defeat to Bolton Wanderers just before Christmas ensured Blackburn would spend Christmas Day at the foot of the table.

A shock 3-2 victory on New Years’ Eve over Manchester United at Old Trafford offered a faint glimmer of hope and form did improve in the second half of the campaign. However, the unrest between supporters and manager continued. They had lost total faith in what they were seeing on a weekly basis. Five successive defeats in April dragged them back into the bottom three and having recorded a meekly 12 wins from his 55 games as a top-flight boss, Blackburn were relegated on a rain-soaked evening at home to Wigan Athletic in May 2012. Their 11-year stay in the top-flight was over.

14 points from the first seven matches of the Championship season hinted an immediate return could follow but the fans were now beginning to boycott home matches until the Scot had parted company. Days after the club’s first loss of the season – a 2-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough which was watched by a paltry crowd of 13,405, Kean resigned from his position.

A statement through his lawyers read: “For reasons that I cannot discuss on legal advice, it is with deep regret, given my hard work and service for the club for a number of years, that I have been forced to resign as manager of Blackburn Rovers Football Club with immediate effect, due to my position as team manager becoming untenable.”

In total, he won 21, drew 16 and lost 37 of his 74 matches’ in-charge of the Lancastrians.

Less than three months after his departure, a recording emerged of him drinking at a bar on a Blackburn pre-season tour to Hong Kong claiming Allardyce had been sacked as manager because he was “a crook.”

Allardyce sued him and eventually accepted damages after Kean accepted the allegation he made was completely untrue, withdrew it and agreed to pay an undisclosed sum. Blackburn apologised to Allardyce for the embarrassment this caused.

Since then, Kean has been coaching in Asia and won the Singapore professional league championship with DPMM FC in 2015. He left the club in November 2017, one year earlier than the end of his contract with them.

He is contemplating a return to British football despite the hostility he received at Blackburn but seems to have found a coaching base in Asia and looks set to build on his recent success on the continent.

Iconic Moments: Koeman axed by Everton (October 2017)

After a seventh-place finish in his first season in the hotseat at Goodison Park, expectations were high at Everton for Ronald Koeman to mount a serious challenge for a top-four finish in pre-season. By the end of October, his managerial reputation looked destroyed and his club management career was over – for the time being at least.

Everton were forced to sell star striker Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2017 after the Belgian marksman turned down a new contract. They cashed in on Lukaku and earned £75 million from Manchester United with Wayne Rooney making an emotional return to his boyhood club as part of the deal. However, it became clear that Rooney was a signing for the fans and not really a player Koeman wanted.

There were other big arrivals for hefty sums of money, including Icelandic international Glyfi Sigurdsson, future England no.1 goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and centre-back Michael Keane from Burnley. However, Lukaku wasn’t replaced and that was a costly decision. Koeman even had to swallow his pride and bring back Oumar Niasse from the doldrums. He did give the Dutchman a priceless victory with two goals off the bench against AFC Bournemouth in September but by then, Koeman was already in big trouble.

Heavy back-to-back defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, coupled with a humiliating display in a UEFA Europa League group stage game in Atalanta put Koeman on the backfoot. Another European defeat at home to Lyon which saw an ugly brawl started by Ashley Williams put him on the verge of the sack when Arsenal visited Merseyside on Sunday 22nd October.

Rooney did give Everton the lead but Arsenal’s dominance in the game was so one-sided. Idrissa Gueye was sent off and only a brilliant display from Pickford stopped the scoreline creeping towards double figures. When Alexis Sanchez scored his first Premier League goal of the season to make the scoreline 5-2, the look on Everton chairman Bill Kenwright’s face said it all. Everton finished the evening in the bottom three. Koeman was sacked a day later. He has since become the manager of the Netherlands international team.

The hunt for his successor became messy and eventually, they sacrificed all principles and turned to Sam Allardyce just to steer them away from relegation danger after David Unsworth’s character-building month as interim boss. Allardyce did what was required and guided Everton to comfortable safety with an eighth-place finish but the fans never took to his style of football and he was sacked at the end of the season, replaced by the manager the Everton board always wanted as Koeman’s ultimate successor, Marco Silva.

The 2017-2018 season was a scrappy one for everyone connected with Everton Football Club.

Iconic Moments: Palace’s gamble backfires (September 2017)

After guiding another club to survival in May 2017, Sam Allardyce elected to step down as Crystal Palace manager, insisting his time as a club manager was over. Of course, ‘Big Sam’ wouldn’t be finished just yet. Owner Steve Parish turned to Frank de Boer to fill the vacancy at Selhurst Park.

As a player, de Boer’s CV is really impressive. He won league championships with Barcelona and Ajax and was part of Louis van Gaal’s squad at the latter that won the UEFA Champions League in 1995. In management, he’d enjoyed title success at Ajax too but had a dismal time in Italy, lasting less than three months in the Inter Milan job in 2016.

His appointment at Selhurst Park was a gamble that spectacularly backfired. The Eagles were woeful on the opening day, being heavily beaten 3-0 by Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town. Further losses followed to Liverpool FC and Swansea City and the pressure was already on the Dutchman. His ambitious style of football he wanted his players to play wasn’t working. They had been used to Allardyce’s style and the methods between the pair were vast to say the least.

After the August international break, Crystal Palace tumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Turf Moor against Burnley. With four games played, no points and not even a single goal scored, Parish decided to admit to his error in judgement. De Boer was dismissed after just 10 weeks in the job. His reign is the shortest in Premier League history. Jose Mourinho later labelled him as “the worst manager in Premier League history.”

With statistics like de Boer achieved, it’s hard not to disagree with this sentiment but the story had a happy ending for Eagles supporters. Roy Hodgson came in and steered the club comfortably to safety. They finished a commendable 11th, considering they lost their first seven matches without scoring a single goal.