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.
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.