With Jose Mourinho recently getting the sack at Chelsea and rumours surrounding the futures of Van Gaal, Mancini and Wenger, the Premier League could see a whole host of managerial changes. And with talk of Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager, potentially moving to Manchester United, it could be one of the most unexpected employments of recent seasons. Brian Clough’s appointment at Leeds United is perhaps the most famously controversial decision of the football age but there’s been a fair share of surprising employments in recent times and here’s just a few of the best…
Roy Hodgson – England
When the search for the next England manager began, following Fabio Capello’s resignation in February 2012, there was a whole host of names put forward ahead of Roy Hodgson’s. Harry Redknapp was the most obvious choice after impressive work with Tottenham helped give him the name of one of the most in-form managers in the Premier League. Guus Hiddink, who had experienced time as Chelsea boss just some time before, was a candidate favoured by those in Europe. Louis Van Gaal, the current Manchester United boss, had led the Netherlands to the World Cup final two years before and was another candidate for the job.
Redknapp had already appeared to become the people’s choice and as the FA had stated they wanted to look to their own countrymen to take the helm, the candidate’s list was quite short. It was another ‘Brian Clough moment’ – Harry Redknapp was the best English manager at the time so it was expected that England should employ the best English manager at that time. However, when it eventually came about that it was in fact the less attractive Roy Hodgson that was to be named the next manager of the national side, it was welcomed with a serious lack of enthusiasm.
Hodgson, who had previously taken charge of Switzerland and Finland on the international stage, had proven an effective manager of Fulham and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. It was questioned whether or not he had the ability to manage top clubs and when presented the challenge at Liverpool, it could be described as nothing short of a disaster. But nevertheless, he became England manager and Harry Redknapp was sacked by Tottenham four months later. Hodgson is still in charge of the national side and currently holds one of the best records as an England boss, having recently guided the team through World Cup qualification with a 100% record.
Rafa Benitez – Chelsea
When Chelsea sacked Roberto Di Matteo just 6 months after winning the Champions League, it came as a shock to many fans when Rafa Benitez was named as interim boss in November 2012. The Spaniard had a great history of rivalry with Chelsea during his years as Liverpool manager and had often come out on top – defeating Mourinho’s Chelsea in the semi-finals of the 2005 and 2007 Champions League campaigns.
He was famously quoted saying ‘I will never manage Chelsea, ever’ whilst at Liverpool so it came as no surprise when fans of the London club furiously argued against his appointment. So much so, he was welcomed to Stamford Bridge with banners displaying the words ‘Not wanted, Never wanted, Rafa out.’ However, he didn’t do all that bad, guiding Chelsea to Europa League glory, a third place position in the league and two cup semi-finals. He was eventually released from his contract early at the end of the 2012-13 season, just six months after his appointment, to become the manager of Napoli.
Edgar Davids – Barnet
One of the strangest employments ever, was back in October 2012 when former Barcelona, Ajax and AC Milan star Edgar Davids began his managerial career at League Two side, Barnet. He was initially employed as joint head coach alongside a playing career with the Bees but was made solely in charge in December 2012.
The former Netherlands international had represented some of the biggest clubs in Europe including two spells with Ajax and three spells in Italy with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Before joining Barnet, he had experienced English football with Tottenham and Crystal Palace but wasn’t prepared for the challenge he’d face at the bottom tiers of the football leeague. He made a total 38 appearances for Barnet, scoring one goal and receiving five red cards before resigning as head coach the season after his side were relegated to the Conference Premier.
Diego Maradona – Argentina
One of the greatest footballers of all time, Diego Maradona, was controversially announced as manager for his national side in November 2008. The Argentine legend wouldn’t usually be such a strange choice but given his background with cocaine addiction and his time in the limelight for instances including the ‘hand of God,’ it wasn’t a routine appointment.
Argentina hoped their former hero could inspire the side to World Cup glory in 2010 but it didn’t start as well as they’d hoped when Maradona gained a reputation of using abusive language towards the media. With his integrety in question, and a rocky road to the World Cup finals in Germany, Argentina needed to impress but they were thrashed 4-0 by the home nation in the quarter finals and Maradona was sacked shortly afterwards with his contract termination.
It was a sour end as Maradona claimed he’d been ‘betrayed’ by the AFA, believing he was going to be offered another four year deal following the World Cup finals. Their former protege had presented himself as an over-weight, aggressive and uninspiring manager to the world’s spectators and his legacy as a manager wasn’t to be.
Alex McLeish – Aston Villa
The former Birmingham City manager joined arch rivals, Aston Villa just five days after leaving the Blues. The fans saw this as an act of utter disgrace and he was ‘welcomed’ to Villa Park with mass protests and anti-McLeish banners and graffiti outside the stadium.
He didn’t win over the players either and after a poor start to the season, he was put under immense pressure to change things around. Defensive tactics, disharmony amongst the players and the fans and a near relegation saw McLeish sacked at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Avram Grant – Chelsea
Roman Abramovich’s arrival to Chelsea in 2003 has since seen continuous changes at the club. The Russian billionaire has poured money into the London side since joining – turning Chelsea into European champions and Premier League title holders.
The Blues have gone through their fair share of managers since his arrival too and after Jose Mourinho’s first stint as the Chelsea boss, Avram Grant surprisingly succeeded him in 2007. They could’ve employed almost any manager on the planet with unlimited investments, a vision of football domination and stars like Shevchenko, Ballack and Robben on the books. However, it was Avram Grant, a manager unknown to any region except Israel, that was given the honour.
Grant had previously managed the Israeli national team as well as a series of Israeli clubs but was appointed purely on the basis of being a personal friend of Abramovich’s. The gesture was admirable, but foolish, and Grant lasted less than a year in the position. His stint wasn’t a complete disaster though as he led Chelsea to three competition finals, including the Champions League in 2008, but he never looked capable of taking them to the heights.