In a move that will have shocked absolutely no-one, Frank Lampard is now Chelsea’s head coach. He becomes the latest in a long list of footballers who slipped into the manager’s puffer jacket at a club where they earned legendary status as a player.
How it turns out for Frank remains to be seen, but the path from on-field icon to managerial kingpin is a tough one to tread. For every success, there are many more failures – just look at how Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane got on at Nottingham Forest.
Still, some have pulled it off. So we’ve decided to doff our figurative caps to them while taking the piss out of those who succeeded only in tarnishing a once great legacy.
Here’s a selection of the best and worst club-legends-turned-manager.
Best – Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool
In his first spell as manager, Dalglish was every bit as good in the dugout for Liverpool as he was on the pitch.
What’s more, he did it all under incredibly trying circumstances, stepping in as player-manager after Joe Fagan resigned following the Heysel disaster and later standing tall for the club and city post-Hillsborough.
Across six years as Reds manager, Dalglish won three league titles and two FA Cups. He resigned in 1991 despite his team being three points clear in the league and in with a shot of another FA Cup.
Worst – Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool
King Kenny’s second managerial spell at Anfield didn’t go quite so well.
In January 2011, he filled the void left by the departing Roy Hodgson and took over as caretaker manager. One of the first things Dalglish did was sell Fernando Torres and bring in Andy Carroll for £35m – which was pretty awful business – and Luis Suarez for £22m – which, all things considered, was fairly outstanding business.
By May, Dalglish had earned a three-year contract. He was sacked within one of those years after leading Liverpool to their worst Premier League finish since 1994, though they did enjoy the consolation of a League Cup.
Best – Kevin Keegan, Newcastle United
When Keegan joined Newcastle as a player in 1982, the club was a shambles. They were languishing in the second tier and going nowhere fast – or even slowly.
Keggy soon changed that, bagging 27 goals in the league in his second season and helping his side to promotion in 3rd place. Almost immediately, Keegan retired from football and departed St James’ Park in a helicopter that took off from the centre-circle during his testimonial against Liverpool.
He was back at the ranch eight years later, this time as manager, to embark on arguably Newcastle’s most glorious period on the pitch since the 1950s. No major trophies were won, but Keegan (again) led the club out of the second tier in 1992-93 before putting together one of the most exciting sides English football has seen and very nearly beating Alex Ferguson’s Man United to the 1995-96 Premier League title.
Keegan bid adieu to the Magpies in January 1997 and, in a nice bit of symmetry for this article, was replaced by Dalglish.
Worst – Alan Shearer, Newcastle United
Just over a decade after Keegan’s first departure as manager from Newcastle, he was at it again, this time after re-taking the job for an ill-fated spell beginning in January 2008.
By September that year he was gone amid disputes with owner Mike Ashley. His role was filled by Joe Kinnear, who stepped aside a few months later due to health problems and was temporarily replaced by assistant manager Chris Hughton, who was given six matches as caretaker manager before Alan Shearer took over in April as interim manager. Still with me?
That sequence of events pretty neatly sums up Newcastle at the time, and in truth Shearer was dealt a pretty bum hand that he was brave enough to play. He got eight games at the helm, but couldn’t save his team from the drop and ended up as the man who presided over the club going down to the second tier for the first time since Keegan got them promoted in 1993.
Shearer’s managerial record at his boyhood club reads: Played 8, Won 1, Drawn 2, Lost 5. An unfortunate state of affairs for probably Newcastle’s greatest ever player.
Best – George Graham, Arsenal
Graham’s Arsenal may have been boring, but by God they were effective. They were also iconic in a very specific way: by now, everyone is familiar with the “1-0 to the Arsenal” story; THAT back four; the offside trap; the Tuesday club; Ian Wright Wright Wright; all that jazz.
Funnily enough, while on Arsenal’s books as a player in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Scot was a cultured attacking midfielder, a touch of class during an era of British football when physicality generally trumped technique. All that changed when he took the reins at Highbury, and after he became manager in 1986 he turned the Gunners into a fearsome competitive winning machine built around a defence that took approximately zero prisoners.
Graham’s side won the league in spectacular fashion in 1988-89 and again in 1990-91, as well as an FA Cup/League Cup double in 1992-93 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993-94. But it all ended badly for Gorgeous George when he was sacked by the club in the aftermath of a “bung” scandal in 1994, for which he was banned from the game for a year.
Worst – Ossie Ardiles, Tottenham Hotspur
Ah, Ossie. What a superb footballer – and what an utterly terrible manager.
He may have won the cup for Tott-ing-ham – and the World Cup for Arg-en-ti-na – while still a player, but the only trophies he ever held aloft as a coach were the 1996 Nabisco Cup with Shimizu S-Pulse and the 2004-05 Emperor’s Cup with Tokyo Verdy.
To be fair to Ossie, in the early 1990s he led Swindon to their then highest ever second division finish and won them promotion to the top tier for the first time. But Ardiles soon jumped ship to Newcastle with the Robins bottom of the league. He promptly guided United to bottom spot in the second tier and lasted just 12 months at St James’ Park before being replaced by… Kevin Keegan.
After a year with West Brom, next up for the Argentinian were Spurs, a club where he’d become a hero alongside compatriot Ricky Villa in the 1970s and 1980s. But it just wasn’t meant to be.
Ossie could only lead Tottenham to 15th in his first full campaign, 1993-94, and was sacked by October of the following season with his team rooted in the bottom half of the league.
Best – Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea
This might be a controversial one, as Di Matteo didn’t even last a year as Chelsea manager. At any other club, that’s a pretty sure sign of a disastrous reign.
But Di Matteo remains the only Blues boss (he was caretaker manager at the time) to win the Champions League, a trophy hunted desperately by Roman Abramovich and a succession of high-profile, highly paid gaffers. And yet, it’s good old Bobby Di Matteo who delivered the silverware so dearly coveted by the club and its oligarch owner.
That alone is enough to include him in the “Best” portion of this list. We will simply gloss over the fact he was sacked seven months after being awarded the manager’s gig permanently following a group stage elimination from the 2012-13 Champions League.
Worst – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Man United
Sure, it’s not over yet. But this one is going to end in tears, you can tell.
It all began so well for OGS, but perhaps that was as much down to the Jose Mourinho-shaped cloud being lifted from above Old Trafford as it was with anything Solskjaer did. Which, from what we can tell, was simply to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But there’s a limit to how far living off past glories can take you, and that limit is 6th place in the Premier League. The tide has turned for Ole, and its dragging him into a choppy sea full of angry YouTubers and star players determined to manoeuvre their way out of a club quite patently struggling to remain afloat.
Best – Harry Redknapp, West Ham
To be perfectly honest, you could make an argument for Harry going into either category here.
In the 1990s, he transformed West Ham into a slick, attacking side who finished 5th in the Premier League in 1998-99, which remains their second-highest ever placing in the top tier. His management stabilised the Hammers as a Premier League side during that period, and he also brought through several academy graduates like Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.
That Harry era is one of the most evocative managerial spells in the modern history of the league, but it also had its downside. Redknapp loved a transfer and it was partly his insistence on signing player after player and his demands for more funds that led indirectly to West Ham’s relegation to the Championship in 2003.
Ultimately, Harry was sacked before that occurred, so he escapes the “Worst” classification and goes down in memory as perhaps West Ham’s best manager since the Premier League’s inception.
Worst – Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace
It’s hard to imagine Alan Pardew as a “club legend”, unless you’re referring to that time he spent a summer living above Wayne Lineker’s bar in Ibiza.
But that’s exactly what he was at Crystal Palace in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He famously scored a winner against the mighty Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final, having played a key role in Palace’s promotion to the top level the previous season. In 1990–91, Pardew’s final season at Selhurst Park, the Eagles romped to their highest-ever league finish, third place, with the future grey fox an integral part of the side.
It would take 24 years for Pardiola to return to Palace, by which time he’d already established himself as probably the greatest English manager of the 21st century.
Initially, it went well. Very well, in fact.
Pardew guided Palace out of the relegation zone to a 10th-place finish after taking charge in January 2015. The following campaign also started well, with Palace in 5th at Christmas. That’s when Pardew, having talked confidently of European qualification, popped up with a 14-game winless run in the new year. Magic stuff, Alan.
Next season started badly and then continued badly. By December 22nd 2016, Palace had played 11 matches and won just one of them. That was the date of his sacking and he departed with his team having won just six of 36 matches in the calendar year.