A fateful eight of England’s maddest ever football managers

With Marcelo Bielsa confirmed as Leeds United manager, Andy Dawson looks at eight of the most unhinged coaches the English game has known...

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Leeds United fans are not exactly strangers to out-and-out madness when it comes to the recent history of their beloved club. Be it the steady stream of ‘charismatic’ owners or the revolving door on the manager’s office, they might not be in the top flight any more but it’s never dull at Elland Road.

Now though, they could be about to experience a whole new vista of insanity. Peak Leeds madness might be here in the shape of their new boss Marcelo Bielsa. Loved by greats such as Maradona, Guardiola and Pochettino, his methods are uncompromising and his temperament akin to a defective firework. This is going to be absolutely brilliant.

But will he be the nuttiest boss we’ve ever seen on these shores? Only time will tell if he can match up to the madness of this lot…

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PAOLO DI CANIO

There was outrage among Sunderland fans when the Italian was appointed manager and his sympathetic comments about fascist dictator Benito Mussolini were dug up. This was back when fascist sympathisers weren’t everywhere, a dim and distant five years ago.

There was also outrage among the Black Cats squad when Di Canio banned ketchup in the canteen, and following other accusations of excessive discipline along with some rotten results, he was shown the Stadium of Light door, and hasn’t managed a club since. Funny that.

JOE KINNEAR

Included here for his spectacular spell at Newcastle. Kinnear found it easier if he gave his players alternative names such as Ben Afri (Hatem Ben Arfa), Yohan Kebab (Yohan Cabaye), which was bound to work wonders for their morale.

Other highlights included an expletive-fuelled press conference and a rambling radio interview where he wrongly claimed he had been Manager of the Year on four occasions.

His heart brought the story to an abrupt end, by deciding that it needed a bypass operation.

NIGEL PEARSON

He’s much missed from the top flight, is Pearson. His Leicester City ‘great escape’ laid the foundations for their Premier League win the following year, but Pearson had a unique managerial style. Among his best bits were repeatedly accusing a journalist of being an ostrich and wrapping his hand around the throat of Crystal Palace’s James McArthur on the touchline during a match.

Is currently in charge at OH Leuven, which may or may not be a club that exists entirely in his own mind.

FELIX MAGATH

Came with a reputation for weirdness when he pitched up at Fulham, and some of his previous players had awarded him the nickname ‘Saddam’. Magath failed to reverse the Cottagers’ slide towards relegation and was later accused of suggesting Brede Hangeland treat a thigh injury by rubbing cheese on it.

Full back Sascha Riether later played down the claims, insisting that Magath had actually suggested using a traditional topfen curd. That’s okay then.

JOHN BECK

A proper, hardcore manager, who enjoyed his best spell at Cambridge United, almost guiding them into the Premier League in the early 1990s. An advocate of no-nonsense long ball football, Beck’s methods included growing the grass longer in the corners of the pitch so that the ball would hold up better and hurling buckets of water over his players before they went out to kick off.

CHRISTIAN GROSS

Literally no one had heard of this curious Swiss bloke when he was given the Spurs job back in 1997. Jaws dropped when he arrived for his first press conference, pulled out a London Underground ticket and proudly announced, ‘I want this to become the ticket to the dreams!’

Amazingly, it took another whole nine months before he was binned by Alan Sugar. In the style of his subsequent TV show, ‘You’re binned’ he might not have said.

RUUD GULLIT

There’s no questioning his playing credentials but when it came to managing, the Dutchman’s thinking tended to get a bit skewed when the pressure was really on.

The end of his reign at Chelsea came after a meltdown while 2-0 down against Arsenal. Gullit had to be talked down from sending his team out to chase the game with just two defenders, as he stood in the showers, banging his fists off the wall.

The culmination of his later spell at Newcastle ended more calmly, with Gullit leaving Alan Shearer on the bench for a home defeat against Sunderland, picking 20-year-old Paul Robinson instead.

BRIAN CLOUGH

The daddy of the mad managers, mainly because (a) he won trophies and (b) he was incredibly funny. You can go away and search the net for his greatest quotes (and there are many) but let’s not forget the time he punched a pitch-invading Forest fan, only to later apologise and give the bemused lad a kiss, or the time he got involved in a trans-Atlantic beef with Muhammad Ali.

Punching players such as Roy Keane in the stomach to see if they had the mettle required to play for his Nottingham Forest side was an occasional tactic, and he oversaw the first ever million pound transfer signing (Trevor Francis, from Birmingham City) by standing over the player and twiddling a squash racket in a slightly menacing fashion.

Quite simply, he was the guv’nor, and his deranged 44-day spell in charge of Leeds might now be about to be repeated by Marcelo Bielsa… if we’re lucky.

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