Andy Dawson: When assistants become managers and it all goes wrong

Andy Dawson wonders if it's wise to go after someone who has excelled at being a number two and expecting them to automatically become a success as the boss


Football has been rocked on its imaginary heels by the rumours that Arsenal are actively pursuing Jurgen Klopp’s assistant Zeljko Buvac as their replacement for Arsene Wenger. Crazy name, crazy situation.

But is it wise to go after someone who has excelled at being a number two and expecting them to automatically become a success as the boss? After all, the skill sets are somewhat different for each job. A manager must endeavour to build a winning team by fusing like-minded players of top-notch ability while developing tactical strategies that are second to none.

Meanwhile, his assistant puts the cones out for training.

If history has taught us nothing else, it’s that the leap from number two to number one in the job ranking is more often than not the leap of absolute doom. Remember these lads…?

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After bossing it as Alex Ferguson’s right hand man during the early golden years of the Premier League, Kidd decided that bossing it for real was his destiny, and fled Old Trafford for nearby Blackburn Rovers in 1998.

Six months and £20m in transfer spend later, Rovers were relegated and Kidd’s reputation was ablaze.


We remain at Blackburn for another managerial catastrophe. Relatively unknown Kean was hand-picked by Sam Allardyce to be his assistant during a prosperous spell at Ewood Park, and when Big Sam was sacked in December 2010 by the chicken people that had bought the club, Kean hung around, making it known that he’d fancy taking over from his burly mentor.

In what proved to the first of many tragicomic decisions by them, Venky’s took him up on his offer.

As Rovers slumped to the bottom of the Premier League in the following months, fan protests about him increased, so obviously, Venky’s gave him a new contract. Amazingly, Kean survived the inevitable relegation and when he did go, Rovers were third in the Championship. But it should never have been allowed to get that far…


Spells as national managers of Portugal, United Arab Emirates and South Africa were impressive enough for Alex Ferguson to recruit Queiroz as his new number two in 2002, and so mesmerising was his work in just one season at Old Trafford that he was poached by Real Madrid to take over as head coach. Yes, it seems completely bats**t when you look back it now.

Fast forward ten months and the expensively-assembled Real side finished fourth in La Liga with the crappy Super Cup their only piece of silverware. Out the door went Queiroz, straight back into the forgiving arms of Ferguson.


Another graduate of Fergie’s school of number twos, and another massive disaster. Same procedure as Kidd and Queiroz, but this time at Fulham. Sadly, it got even worse after his departure from Craven Cottage – remember Felix Magath? Weird.


How do you replace the manager who brought you an unexpected Premier League trophy? If you’re Leicester City, you simply promote his number two, seemingly because the players think he’s a great guy (which of course is part of the job description for any successful assistant manager).

Shakespeare’s short reign was a comedy of errors which saw him do a stint as caretaker, get a three-year permanent contract and then get sacked as Leicester floundered in the bottom three just 17 months after lifting the Premier League trophy.


You’d think that working under Carlo Ancelotti at such distinguished clubs as Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would have provided Clement with all the requisite tools for managerial success on his own.

Fans of Derby County and Swansea City would probably disagree, and although the jury is out at his current home of Reading, four losses in his first seven matches in charge could be a good indicator of how it’ll all end up.


The former Liverpool star has made a decent career out of being in the shadow of Sam Allardyce but when Big Sam decided that his time at the Reebok Stadium was up, Little Sam stayed behind and accepted promotion in to the vacated hot seat.

It is not known whether the seat even had time to cool down before Lee was turfed out, after winning just one of his 11 matches in charge.

Since then, the Big Sam/Little Sam partnership has been restored, with the pair currently annoying a large percentage of Everton fans on a weekly basis.

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