Do good players make good managers?

by Patrick Curry

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Making a successful transition

Alan Shearer returned to St James Park to a hero’s welcome on Saturday.  Not since Kevin Keegan rode back in to town has anyone received such a reception from the Geordie faithful.  But with 7 games remaining and what is generally considered to be the toughest run-in amongst the clubs in the relegation dogfight, is Big Al on a hiding to nothing by going back to rescue his former club?

Shearer opened his account with a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.  After that it doesn’t get a lot easier with away fixtures against Stoke and Tottenham.  His love of the club is well documented but is heart and desire enough when taking the reigns at your former club?  He’s not the first player to go back for a crack at management at his old club.  Hundreds of players have returned to their old clubs, some successful, many not.

When it comes to club success as player and manager in the modern era two names spring to mind.  Kenny Dalglish made a seamless and stylish transition from playing to management.  He brought huge success to Liverpool in the 1980s while George Graham strolled into Highbury and bored his way to a healthy amount of silverware in the late 80s and early 90s courtesy of Tony Adams’ high-armed backline.

Others have fared less well and some have had to swallow the bitter pill of relegation.  Gordon Strachan went back to Coventry in 1996 as player manager where he stayed until taking them down from the Premiership 2001.  Joe Royle represented Manchester City in nearly 100 games as a player but managed them to relegation also in 2001.  However, for relegating two of the three clubs he represented during his career, the worse former player appointed as manager must be Bryan Robson.  After beginning his career at West Brom he came back to manage them in 2004 and by 2006 they were down.  Unfortunately for the Baggies it was not as if they were not warned for Robson had previous form where relegation was concerned.  He took a Middlesborough team containing Juninho, Ravanelli and Emerson to the 2nd tier in 1997 after losing two cup finals in the same season.  Factor in his relegation with Bradford in 2003 and it’s a wonder that Sheffield United appointed him in 2007.

In between the success stories and failures there have been many competent showings.  Kevin Keegan’s first spell at Newcastle, while often considered a failure for chucking away the 1996 title, was notable for stylish football.  Harry Redknapp enjoyed 7 fruitful seasons at West Ham finishing an impressive 5th in 1998 on a limited budget.  Graeme Souness at Rangers had success north of the border while David Moyes at Preston and Stuart McCall at Bradford have had decent returns in the lower leagues.

But for every Howard Kendall at Everton there is a Souness at Liverpool or a Hoddle at Spurs, a returnee proving that a deep love for your club is no guarantee of success.  The northeast is already in danger of having one former employee relegate his club but will Southgate at ‘Boro be joined by Al at Newcastle?

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  • stevie

    Arsene Wenger wasnt the best player, neither was Mouriho or Fergie.

  • Patrick

    Hey Stevie,

    Wenger, Mourinho and Fergie never returned to their former clubs though which is the point of the article. Many great managers were never great players but not that many footballers have been able to make the transition from being a playing hero to a managing hero.



  • Julian

    How dare you suggest that the Great Glenn failed at Tottenham? What utter rubbish. He may not have reached the dizzy heights that he touched as a player. But the idea that the erstwhile King of White Hart Lane actually failed is preposterous. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  • Darren

    The Ratty Rat Rodent captained Newcastle then went on do an excellent job as the Newcastle manager, didn’t they finish 12th under him? Imagine Newcastle finishing 12th these days!

    Harry Redknapp, came through the West Ham ranks, went on be the Hammers most famous manager.

    Hoddle didn’t do that much at Spurs, he’s generally better at bigger clubs. He was superb at Swindon.

  • Tef1on

    Stuart Pearce and Zola excelled at U21 managing and will both be great managers in the future.

  • Matt Quinn

    Brian Clough. Great player. Great manager.

    However, they are few and far between. This is why i think more people from outside football could do jobs as managers/pundits. Just because they didnt play the game, doesnt mean they dont understand it.

    I always make an anology of kids at my school. Martin Wagstaff was the best player at our school by a million miles… but he didnt like football. Didnt support a team. Didnt watch many games. He loved golf instead.
    Malcom Tipp, on the other hand, was 16 stone and could play football for toffee… yet he was the oracle of football. If you needed to know anything about football you went to Malcolm.
    To sum up— you’d want Martin to be on your team but Malcolm to pick it.

  • Darren

    Darren I, great player, great manager. 6 defeats in 36 league games for UCF. 9 defeats in 63 for Wycliffe FC. Surprised he hasn’t been snapped up yet!!

  • Matt Quinn

    Malcolm Tipp would do a better job for Wycliffe FC. I’ll see if he’s available.

  • Darren

    he’s a sensational talent. Knows how to mix experience with youth.

    He’s like the Arsene Wenger of the grass roots world.

    His team talks are legendary! Come on lads, this lot are crap, lets absolutely batter them. 10 mins gone, 2-0 down.

  • Patrick

    Not playing the game at the top level certainly doesn’t mean that you cannot become a top manager. Mourinho is evidence of that as is Wenger. Being a hero at a club as a player and subsequently managing the same club to success is a whole other story. Hence the mention of Daglish and of Graham as two rare examples of guys who acheived success at THE SAME club as player then manager.

  • Kenny Shankly-Paisley

    If only Robbo would go back to Man Utd! Gazza to Everton and Tony Adams to Arsenal would be handy too. As for Shearer, if success means he stays in the dug out and away from MOTD, good luck to him.

    It’s interesting to ponder if many modern players will give it a go, now that they’re financially secure by their early twenties. I suppose the ego-trip will prove too much for some. That said I can see Carra being a successful manager, hopefully in the Dalglish mould (if Rafa eventually fancies stepping down a few rungs and joining Real).

  • Finn

    Julian, if that’s your real name, you’re chatting rubbish. Hoddle obviously failed because he won no trophies and then got the sack. I love him as much as the next Spurs supporter but I’d have to say his reign, whilst not always a failure, definitely ended as one.

    Good article – it’d be a miracle if Bryan Robson ever got employed as a manger again.

  • Finn

    Also, it seems to me that the title of this article is misleading. Surely the author is asking whether players who were idols when playing for clubs are wise to come back to the same club as managers. I think we can see that the answer is generally no. Good article.

  • Darren

    come on, only 2 Spuds managers have won them a trophy in last 20 years, and one of those was a Gooner!!

    Say no more!

  • Patrick

    The key for Spurs is keeping this current squad as intact as possible. Modric is top class and Wilson Palacios has added steel and style where before there was only Zokora’s unique brand of comedy footballer impressions. The defence, Gomes’ (now) occasional flapping aside, looks stronger though could do with the addition of another top class centreback (Cannavaro perhaps) and I think that a better striker than Bent needs to be added though maybe Defoe can get a decent run. Wonder what he is thinking after returning only to get injured and see himself back behind Keane and A.N Other.

  • Duncan

    Talking of former players who’ve become managers, Newcastle could have gone for Gazza….Perhaps Shearer has no expectation of staying up this season, and (despite stating that he’s only staying for 8 games) is looking for the glory of bringing the Toon back up to the Premier League in 2010?

  • Darren

    Gazza? Are you having a laff? Look what happened to him in China, he went mental!

  • Duncan

    I was having a laff! But his Kettering league record of won 2, drawn 2, lost 2 wasn’t bad.

  • Den Clawfrod

    good article and some good points. Well, apart from the numpty that said Roeder was a good manager. . . I think shearer is in a no lose situation here. For the last 7 games he could simply hold a banner about his head saying ”you’re all fools, get a life and get realistic you nob ‘eds” and they will still love him. I think if he had a full season he would do well as he seems to have a good, yet slightly dull and boring, head on his shoulders. I can’t see too many of todays players making a return into management mind you. One interesting point, is that is does seem like a fair amount of spurs old boys have come in and failed. Add Ossie Ardiles to that list too!

  • Darren

    it was tongue and cheek mate. The Rat was an awful manager who took a bite out of some nuts every time Newcastle & West Ham conceded a goal. I was just saying he did a good job compared to the last 37 you’ve had!!

  • Green

    Finn, it wouldn’t be any kind of surprise if Robson got hired again. Some of the dumbest people in football are the chairmen who pay the managers…

  • Steve KL

    What about Failed players that failed as managers!

  • Darren

    next article perhaps?

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