7 Strangest Managerial Appointments

 • by Tom Bodell
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Every football fan has an opinion on managerial appointments and many often believe they can do better than the man in the hot-seat.

This week Deportivo La Coruña caught the football world off guard by announcing former Holland and Milan icon Clarence Seedorf as their new head coach after firing Fernando Vázquez.

Seedorf’s last coaching role was a 14-game stint at Chinese side Shezen, two years after his first sojourn into management ended after just 22 games at Milan. Left field? You could say that.

So that got us at Football Whispers thinking. Who are the strangest managerial appointments of all time? There have been plenty, so we’ve whittled the list down to seven.

Let us know if you agree via Facebook or Twitter.

Joe Kinnear – Newcastle United

“Which one is Simon Bird (Daily Mirror journalist)?”


“You’re a ****.”

“Thank you.”

As ways to build relations with the press go, Kinnear’s approach upon his appointment as interim Newcastle manager in October 2008 was unorthodox. But then so was his appointment. The former Wimbledon boss had been out the game since a short-lived and ill-fated spell with Nottingham Forest four years earlier.

Quite how controversial Magpies owner Mike Ashley settled on Kinnear when seeking replacements for Kevin Keegan, we’ll never know. The former Republic of Ireland international had done his best work with the Dons in the 1990s and (briefly) held just two posts before his appointment at St James’ Park in 2008.

His arrival on Tyneside was met with disbelief and the North East press pack reported that Kinnear had given the Newcastle squad a day off on his first official day in office. The 1994 LMA Manager of the Year took exception to those reports and launched into a ten-minute tirade in which he swore 52 times.

He lasted longer than his initial contract but left in February 2009, having won just four of his 18 games. Replaced by Chris Hughton and then Alan Shearer, relegation, unsurprisingly, followed.

Gary Neville – Valencia

At the other end of the experience scale but no less bizarre was Neville’s ascension to become head coach of Spanish giants Valencia in December 2015. The eight-time Premier League winner’s only coaching experience came as England assistant between 2012 and 2016 – hardly a glowing reference.

However, the former Manchester United full-back was friends with and a business partner of Los Che owner Peter Lim. So when Nuno Espírito Santo left and interim Voro drew his only game 1-1 with Barcelona, the natural step was to appoint the rookie Neville as boss.

Quite apart from his status as a novice manager, Neville was not even fluent in Spanish. No matter, younger brother Phil was already in situ having served as assistant and caretaker at the Mestalla earlier in the season.

Neville Snr’s stint went about as well as could be expected, winning just ten of 28 games – and just three in La Liga – before being sacked at the end of March 2016 with Valencia just six points above the relegation zone.

Edgar Davids – Barnet

One criticism of big-name former players is they are not prepared to take a job further down the league pyramid in order to cut their teeth. That was not an issue for former Dutch great Davids who took that quite literally, pitching up at the club bottom of the entire Football League, Barnet, in October 2012.

The former midfielder, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Pitbull’ by former coach Louis van Gaal, had been playing locally for a Sunday League side after seemingly ending his professional career with Crystal Palace.

What happened next was next plain odd. Davids arrived as joint player-coach, working alongside rookie boss Mark Robson in the Underhill dugout. A power struggle ensued and Robson departed in December of that year leaving Davids in sole charge.

Despite a big upturn in results and performances, the former Milan, Juventus and Ajax legend could not keep the Bees up and relegation to the Conference was confirmed on the final day. To the surprise of most, Davids remained – but very much on his terms.

One of which was that he would wear the No.1 shirt, usually reserved for keepers. The idea was he would start a trend. But he did not. That was just the start.

He also refused to attend away games in the north, saying: “I don’t have to explain anything to anybody. I don’t have to discuss it. There will be matches when I am not there and so be it. This is what I have spoken about with the chairman.”

That left chairman Tony Kleanthous to fudge an explanation: “The thing is we don’t have a manager. We have a completely Dutch set up. There are three coaches, all Dutch, that are involved in our team.”

Sven-Göran Eriksson – Leicester City

Nowadays Leicester are used to having coaches whose CVs read like a who’s who of Europe’s biggest clubs. But when former England boss Eriksson pitched up at the King Power Stadium in October 2010 the Foxes were in the Championship relegation zone.

Four years earlier the Swede had been England manager, presiding over three successive quarter-finals at major tournaments. Good times, eh?

However, Eriksson quit in the aftermath of the 2006 World Cup and embarked on a world tour, following the money. He was Manchester City manager for a season, Mexico boss for a bit, took the Ivory Coast job in time for the 2010 World Cup and was briefly director of football at League Two side Notts County.

But with Leicester floundering, the club’s Thai owners somehow persuaded the former Lazio, Benfica and Roma coach to rescue them. Eriksson did just that, finishing tenth in his first season after brief flirtation with the play-offs.

The next season he spent around £16million – a lot for a second-tier club at the time – but was sacked with Leicester 13th in late October.

Gérard Houllier – Aston Villa

No stranger to Premier League dugouts, Houllier managed Liverpool from 1998 to 2004, doing the treble in 2001 and winning six trophies during his Anfield stay. He returned to France after, winning Ligue 1 with Lyon in consecutive seasons before asking to be released from his contract.

Three years passed without the former France boss returning to club management. However, when Martin O’Neill quit his post at Aston Villa ahead of the 2010/11 season, Houllier was back in business.

Except he wasn’t quite. Owing to commitments with the French Football Federation, caretaker Kevin McDonald remained in his role until Houllier was released to start his new job. A fortnight after being unveiled, the Frenchman finally took charge of his first game – a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup.

But that come-from-behind win was not a sign of what was to come. Villa slumped into the relegation zone for the first time since 2002, leaving owner Randy Lerner with little choice but to spend in the January window. Darren Bent’s arrival from Sunderland appeared to improve matters.

However, Villa continued to struggle even after moving clear of the drop zone. In April 2011 Houllier was admitted to hospital with illness. Unable to take charge of any of the Midlanders’ remaining games, he left by mutual consent that summer bringing to an end a stop-start reign.

Tony Adams – Granada

The saying goes that good footballers don’t make good managers and former Arsenal skipper Adams is evidence of that.

Having retired in 2002 with 13 trophies and more than 500 appearances to his name as a Gunner, Adams’ first coaching role came a year later at League One Wycombe Wanderers. Unable to prevent relegation to the basement division, he had the Chairboys top before they fell away and he resigned.

Similarly short spells with Feyenoord Jong – the club’s second team – Portsmouth and Azerbaijani side Gabala followed. Then, in April 2017, fully five years after his last coaching role, Adams re-emerged at doomed La Liga side Granada.

As good as down, the former England captain was appointed to help oversee the creation of a new structure at the Andalusian club. Part of his role was coaching the side too. But in seven games he failed to pick up a point as El Grana were miserably relegated to the Segunda División.

That was not the end of it. Criticised for his peculiar choice in match-day attire, Adams wore a three-piece suit for the visit of Real Madrid. Mistake. Upon removing his blazer, Real midfielder Isco quipped: “Hey, waiter! I’ll have a Coca-Cola!” Still, he did at least blaze some sort of trail with his bizarre training regime/dance moves

Claude Anelka – Raith Rovers

When you’re the older, less talented brother of former Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool striker Nicolas Anelka you have to do something to stand out. Claude Anelka certainly did that.

In 2004 he put up £200,000 to any club who would take him on in a director of football role. Scottish First Division side Raith Rovers stepped forward and handed the reigns to the Frenchman.

Coach Antonio Caldéron left a few weeks later making Anelka the most ‘eligible’ to step into the hot-seat, despite having no football background beyond being his brother’s agent. Promising a style which married that of Barcelona and Arsenal, he listed Johan Cruyff and Arsène Wenger as his coaching idols.

Best of all, though, he promised to make Raith the third force of Scottish football behind Celtic and Rangers. Having signed 14 players, several of whom had never played 11-a-side football before, it was to no-one’s surprise that he drew just one game and lost nine more before quitting in September 2004.

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