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Does giving caretaker managers a permanent job pay off?

 • by Matt Gault
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Being caretaker manager is a strange gig. Tasked with steadying the ship after upheaval in the dugout, interim bosses can have less pressure to deal with than their predecessors.

However, while the fans may not expect great things from a number two stepping into the hot seat, many find themselves in the position of having to steer a club away from relegation while lifting a deflated squad.

It’s far from easy but it has had the desired effect for a number of clubs. And several caretakers have impressed sufficiently that they have been given the job on a full-time basis.

But while some have fared well others have struggled. Here we take a look back at nine interesting caretaker reigns in the Premier League.

Craig Shakespeare

Shakespeare served as assistant to Claudio Ranieri during Leicester City’s triumphant Premier League campaign and was appointed the interim boss when the Italian was relieved of his duties in February 2017.

Although Shakespeare had overseen just one Premier League game in his coaching career – with West Bromwich Albion in 2006 – he edged out high-profile names after his instalment in the dugout triggered a dramatic upturn in fortunes.

Under Shakespeare the Foxes won four straight league games and reached the last eight of the Champions League with a 2-0 second leg win over Sevilla, having lost the first leg 2-1 in what proved to be Ranieri’s swansong.

Following such an impressive victory, Shakespeare was rewarded with a four-year contract in the summer, but it did not pan out as the club had hoped. Following a dismal start to the current campaign, the Englishman’s contract was terminated after his side picked up just six points from eight games.

Despite a sudden impact following Ranieri’s departure it became increasingly evident that Shakespeare was finding managerial life to be every bit as demanding and exhausting as it looked.

Roberto Di Matteo

Caretaker managers

In possibly the most spectacular job audition of all time, Di Matteo etched his name into Chelsea history when he guided the Blues to Champions League glory in 2012.

Having been a fan-favourite as a player, there would have been uproar had Roman Abramovich overlooked the Italian for the full-time job after delivering the prize he’d coveted since buying the club in 2003.

However, it doesn’t take long for Abramovich to move on from a honeymoon period, as Di Matteo soon found out. He was axed four months into his first full season.

While he rescued Chelsea’s 2011/12 campaign after André-Villas Boas’ disastrous tenure, not even clinching the Champions League and FA Cup bought Di Matteo a full season in charge.

After initially starting the 2012/13 season well, defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United increased the pressure before a 3-0 defeat to Juventus proved to be the last straw.

Eddie Howe

At the tender age of 31, Howe was appointed Bournemouth manager in January 2009 following the sacking of Jimmy Quinn. Howe’s two games as caretaker boss were both defeats but it didn’t deter the club from placing their faith in the young coach.

Howe turned out to be a huge hit, managing to keep the Cherries in the Football League before securing promotion in his first full season at the helm. Howe’s exploits didn’t go unnoticed and he took over at Burnley in January 2011, spending 21 months at Turf Moor before re-joining Bournemouth.

In the five-and-a-half years since, Howe has transformed Bournemouth, establishing them as a Premier League entity while cementing his status as the brightest English coaching talent.

Garry Monk

Caretaker managers

Stepping into an unenviable situation at struggling Swansea City following the dismissal of Michael Laudrup, Monk was tasked with galvanising a disillusioned group of players and securing the club’s top-flight safety.

He managed to do just that and was appointed Laudrup’s permanent successor in the summer of 2014. Monk’s tenure got off to a flyer, too, beating Manchester United at Old Trafford and notching further victories against Burnley and West Brom.

The Welsh side kept up their steady progress under their former captain and finished the 2014/15 season in eighth, with a record points tally.

But Monk’s reign plunged into despair the following season and he was sacked in December 2015 following a run of just one win in 11 Premier League games.

He’s now at Birmingham City, having had relatively brief spells at Leeds United and Middlesbrough.

Chris Coleman

The Welshman succeeded Jean Tigana at Fulham in April 2003 having served as the Frenchman’s assistant, with Coleman securing the Cottagers’ Premier League status for another season.

Despite his inexperience, Coleman led Fulham to ninth in his first full season but the majority of his time in charge at Craven Cottage was spent in the bottom half of the table, eventually being sacked in April 2007 following a seven-game winless run.

However, with a respectable 34 per cent of games won, Coleman represents one of the more successful entries on this list. With the exception of Howe, he was also in charge the longest after being appointed on a permanent basis.

Coleman’s managerial career has been a rollercoaster since then, guiding Wales to the Euro 2016 semi-finals before joining Sunderland in November 2017, failing to rescue the club from relegation to League One.

Ricky Sbragia

The former Manchester United reserves boss joined Sunderland in November 2007 as part of Roy Keane’s backroom staff and was appointed interim boss when the Irishman left in December 2008.

With the Black Cats in serious danger of being relegated, Sbragia led the club to impressive wins over Hull City and West Brom before a run of poor results saw a slide down the table and a nervous final day’s action as the club circled the drain.

However, with Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Hull all losing to confirm their relegation, Sunderland survived by the skin of their teeth. Sbragia resigned immediately following a meeting with Niall Quinn, saying the club needed a ‘bigger name’ to carry it further.

Sbragia has since roles with the Scotland Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-21s before rejoining United as the Under-23s boss in July 2017.

Joe Kinnear

Whereas Kevin Keegan’s return to Newcastle United proved disappointing, Kinnear’s stint turned out to be disastrous and controversial. Initially given a one-month contract following Keegan’s resignation, Kinnear was eventually appointed until the end of the season, his spell now being remembered as comically inept.

The former Wimbledon boss regularly clashed with referees and reporters while his cringe-worthy attempts at trying to pronounce Charles N’Zogbia’s name ultimately drove the player from the club.

Kinnear was taken ill and required a heart bypass operation in February 2009, with Alan Shearer assuming managerial duties until the end of the season. The legendary striker failed to steer the club away from relegation to the Championship, however.

Tim Sherwood

He’s become a widely ridiculed figure but Sherwood’s time at Tottenham Hotspur was far from a catastrophe. Following Villas-Boas’ sacking in December 2013, the former Spurs midfielder assumed coaching duties and led the club to a sixth-placed finish, one higher than when he took over.

Sherwood had earned a stellar reputation as Spurs’ technical co-ordinator and chairman Daniel Levy had noted his progress with the junior sides before handing him an 18-month contract two days before Christmas.

Caretaker managers

Sherwood had a top-flight win percentage of 59 per cent, the best of any Tottenham boss in Premier League history, but it was not enough as Levy sacked him in May 2014 before turning to Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino.

Given the club’s progress under the Argentine, the decision to part company with Sherwood is now universally regarded as a shrewd one by Levy, especially considering Sherwood’s subsequently unsuccessful stints at Aston Villa and Swindon Town, the latter being a director of football role.

Kenny Dalglish

A Liverpool legend, both as player and manager, Dalglish returned to the club on an interim basis following Roy Hodgson’s departure in January 2011. Getting the job permanently in May, Dalglish’s second spell as Liverpool boss proved eventful.

The Scot clinched the League Cup but was criticised for defending Luis Suárez following the striker’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, with Dalglish eventually admitting regret over his handling of the situation.

Dalglish won 35 of his 74 games in charge between January 2011 and May 2012, giving him a win percentage of 47.3. He hasn’t managed since but did rejoin Liverpool in October 2013 as a non-executive director.

Looking at those nine examples, hiring a manager on the basis of a few games as the interim boss is certainly a risky option.

As proven, particularly with Shakespeare, Di Matteo and Sherwood, a fast start does not guarantee long-term stability.

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