As former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho settles in at Spurs and his predecessor at Tottenham is being strongly linked with Arsenal it appears to becoming common place for clubs to turn to a former nemesis. But Jose and Daniel Levy are from being football’s first strange bedfellows, here we remember some of English football strangest management appointments that for differing reasons prompted a fan outcry from their first day in the job.
Brian Clough & Leeds United (1974)
When Don Revie departed Leeds United as reigning League Champions, the Leeds board decided to repay his 13 years of service by replacing him with the man who hated him the most.
Revie had recommended Leeds midfielder Johnny Giles for the job but the board got cold feet and decided to go external. Having failed to secure first choice Bobby Robson they seemed set to go with Iain St John, but then Brian Clough surprisingly entered the race.
Clough had been the most vocal critic of Revie and Leeds for years and made it abundantly clear he loathed both. The local newspaper ran a poll amongst Leeds fans on Clough’s suitability and almost 90% were against the appointment and yet still Clough got the job.
The Damned United is largely a work of fantasy, but the scene where Clough tells his new charges to “take all your cups and your medals and your caps and chuck ’em in the biggest f@ckin’ dustbin you can find,” isn’t far from the truth.
According to Giles, Clough barely spoke to anyone after arriving at the club until he agreed to a meeting in the players’ lounge. There Clough committed coaching suicide with a tirade and as Giles put it “he never got off first base with the players.”
It wasn’t just man-management where Clough went wrong either. He spent an eye watering £380,000 on new players in little over a week and he wasn’t exactly committed to the job either, he was frequently late for training despite spending almost his entire stay in Yorkshire at a hotel less than 10 miles from Elland Road.
Everyone knows what followed, the season started badly and Clough was fired after 44 days. Even the circumstances of his departure have been shrouded in rumour, it’s clear the board realised their mistake and wanted Clough out, but they wanted the players to take the blame for it and called the players to a meeting and the player power myth was born.
Don Warters, a journalist who knew Clough well during his early days at Nottingham Forest claimed Clough was privately nervous in his early days at the City Ground, painfully aware that after the debacles at Leeds and Brighton he couldn’t afford another bust.
Of course, Clough became a legend at Forest, but it’s hard to believe his chaotic reign at Elland Road wasn’t a major factor in him never getting the England job.
George Graham & Tottenham (1998)
“Boring! Boring! Tottenham” chanted Arsenal fans when they arrived for a North London derby with their former manager sat in their arch enemy’s dug-out.
Graham as a player was part of Arsenal’s double winning side of ’71, he then managed Arsenal to two League titles with a brand of football that could generously de described as prosaic.
Then came the bungs scandal and an unceremonious end to his reign at Highbury. After serving a ban, Graham returned at Leeds but didn’t settle in West Yorkshire but did retrieved his reputation by guiding Leeds into Europe.
He was however frustrated by Leeds’ lack of ambition and didn’t fancy moving house and a move to Spurs at least solved one of those problems.
Tottenham Chairman ‘Sir Alun’ pointed out in business if a rival makes better electronics than you, you get their guy in to make your product better. He went on to say if that didn’t work maybe Spurs might get Eileen (Drewery) in.
Graham did win the League Cup in 1999 and stayed for three otherwise forgettable years at White Hart Lane before being sacked by the club’s new owners, allegedly for moaning about transfer funds (there’s a pattern emerging here!) Shortly thereafter Eileen’s man Glenn walked through the White Hart Lane door, so maybe Sugar was right after all!
Harry Redknapp & Southampton (2004)
There are some lines you just don’t cross, you don’t cross the Rubicon with an army, you don’t leave Barcelona for Real Madrid and as residents of the English south coast will confirm, you don’t employ a Pompey manager at Southampton.
Redknapp had guided Pompey to promotion and now he was charged with saving the Saints from relegation, having left Portsmouth a few weeks earlier promising not to join their hated rivals.
Still Chairman Rupert Lowe was convinced Redknapp was the man to turn it around and ‘Arry was in. Pompey fans’ mood did improve when they hammered Southampton 4-0 with their new manager proving to be less than a Saints Miracle Worker.
Relegation was quickly confirmed, their cause not helped by midfielder David Prutton picking up a 10 match ban! Things didn’t improve in the off season as Lowe, presumably taking the advice offered by the Daily Mail decided to bring in Sir Clive Woodward as Director of Football.
Sir Clive had won the Rugby World Cup with England so naturally was equipped for football, we can only assume England Cricket Coach Duncan Fletcher was busy that week!
Redknapp tried to put a positive spin on things my describing Sir Clive as ‘A good bloke’ but nobody bought it and by December 2005 Redknapp had resigned, a few weeks later he resurfaced, guess where?
Joe Kinnear & Newcastle (2008)
After a bitter parting of the ways with Geordie Messiah Kevin Keegan, Mike Ashley should have listened to the St James’ Park PA system on match days when hunting a replacement.
But instead of a local hero, the Toon Army got Londoner Joe Kinnear. The former Wimbledon boss started his reign with a bang with his first press conference turning into a potty mouthed tirade against the assembled journalists.
With the fans baying for blood, Kinnear started with a couple of draws and his short-term appointment was quickly upgraded to the end of the season.
In December Kinnear got himself sent off and a 5-1 thrashing from Liverpool had fans worrying about relegation. Then the January transfer window arrived and Kinnear was sure he could save the day by selling Charles N’Zogbia whose name he’d mispronounced Charles Insomnia.
Unsurprisingly the signings of Peter Lovenkrands, Kevin Nolan and Ryan Taylor didn’t turn the club’s fortunes nor did the sale of Shay Given.
By February Kinnear was feeling the pressure and found himself hospitalised with Alan Shearer charged with saving the club from relegation.
Shearer couldn’t refloat the sinking ship and Newcastle were down. However, Kinnear wasn’t done and returned to Newcastle four years later as Director of Football, where he attempted to sign a player already on Newcastle’s books, ho hmm.
Roy Hodgson & Liverpool (2010)
Clubs usually want to make a statement of intent when announcing a new manager, Liverpool’s owners in appointing Hodgson made their ambitions perfectly clearly- to stay solvent.
Liverpool were in trouble after the departure of Rafa Benitez and the clubs cost cutting owners weren’t about to loosen the purse strings to dig them out, so they decided to appoint Hodgson a manager best known for doing well with limited resources.
Liverpool fans weren’t pleased when the former Fulham, Blackburn, Switzerland manager arrived, expectations went down even further when Hodgson unveiled his new signings – Fabio Aurelio, Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky and a barely mobile Joe Cole. It’s not that these were terrible players, they just clearly weren’t Liverpool players.
But the pessimism looked misplaced when Liverpool lead Arsenal on the opening day of the season and were only denied a win by a late own goal.
But things soon unravelled and Liverpool briefly found themselves 19th in the League, leading to the amusing photoshopped image of John Lennon Airport sporting the amended moniker ‘Above Us Only Sky’… ‘Below us only West Ham!’
Things reached a new low with a League Cup exit to the mighty Northampton Town and Hodgson responded by claiming he was “one of the most respected coaches in Europe.”
Off the pitch Liverpool’s ownership crisis ended in October when John W Henry bought the club and publicly backed the manager. It was never likely to last and the new regime swiftly made a populist move and sacked Hodgson in favour of Kenny Dalglish.
Roy licked his wounds at West Brom before answering the call from another moribund institution needing to let the air out of fan expectations.
Rafael Benitez & Chelsea (2012)
As Vito Corleone said “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” and we can assume Roman Abramovich agreed when he appointed ex Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
Whilst at Anfield, Benitez had twice masterminded Chelsea’s Champions League downfall and entered into a bitter war of words with Jose Mourinho.
Yet in November 2012 with Roberto Di Matteo struggling the Chelsea owner pressed the ejector button on a club hero only to suddenly realise he’d already sacked every high calibre manager available, bar one.
So, Benitez arrived to outright boos from the Stamford Bridge faithful. With that endorsement ringing in his ears, things didn’t start well for Rafa with a defeat in the World Club Cup Final.
But from a difficult start he actually won over Chelsea fans delivering a third place finish in the Premier League and won the Europa League.
But mutual respect appeared to only go so far when he didn’t partake in the end of season lap of honour and with his contract up he made way for the second coming of Jose.