Hanging up the boots for the bench: 5 of the best starts

With James Beattie (Accrington Stanley) and David Weir (Sheffield United) stepping into their first managerial roles this summer following successful recent playing careers, this week we consider the best and worst starts for those fresh from their playing careers that have headed into the chaotic world of football management. First up, here’s our list of five managers had very decent starts to their careers – initially at least…

1. Kenny Dalglish (1985/86 season)

Big expectations met with two trophies – beat that

While his recent stint at Liverpool is best forgotten, Dalglish enjoyed six very successful years at Anfield during his first spell, winning three league titles and two FA Cups.

Following Bob Paisely and Joe Fagan, Dalglish was the third managerial appointment from Liverpool’s legendary ‘boot room’. With the club having won 4 European Cup titles in the past 8 years, expectation on Dalglish to deliver was sky high. He duly served up a league & FA Cup double, made all the sweeter for Reds fans as Dalglish’s men pipped deadly rivals Everton to the title before beating the Toffees in the FA Cup final.

2. Steve Coppell (1984/85 season)

After injury cut his career at Manchester United short at the age of 28, Coppell went straight into an eventful managerial career that saw success at both Palace and Reading – and a bizarrely brief spell at Maine Road where he lasted just 33 days.

Coppell arrived at Selhurst Park with a clear task of ensuring survival for a Palace team with little funds or grander expectations. A strong finish in the last two months of the season saw Palace sail clear of the relegation zone and finish a comfortable 15th. Importantly, in his first season Coppell had put down the foundations for the long-term, ensuring that unlike some on this list this was the start to a period of success rather than a lull before ignominious failure.

Coventry stayed up in dramatic fashion. The points deduction for Middlesbrough also helped…

3. Gordon Strachan (1996/97 season)

Long tipped to go into management, the pint-sized Jock was added to the coaching staff at Highfield Road by the then manager Ron Atkinson, with an agreement that he would become boss in 1997. But with the club struggling early on in the season, Big Ron’s move upstairs was accelerated, and in November 1996 Strachan took full control as player-manager.

An excellent run of form saw Coventry soar to 11th and Strachan gain a manager of the month award, with new signing Darren Huckerby proving a deadly foil for a resurgent Dion Dublin. However, a poor run of form saw them slip back into the relegation zone going into the final day. A final day win at Spurs though, coupled with favourable results elsewhere, saw a survival secured in dramatic fashion.

4. Roy Keane (2004/05 season)

Unable to get a job in management and reduced to staring daggers at Adrian Chiles as an ITV pundit, it’s easy to forget that Roy Keane’s first season after retiring from Celtic was a managerial triumph. Recently-relegated Sunderland were struggling early on under the direction of chairman/manager/overlord Niall Quinn. After four defeats in the opening league fixtures, Quinn voluntarily relinquished his totalitarian grip by standing down as manager, to allow Keane to take over a club now propping up the league.

What followed was a remarkable turnaround. After a flurry of activity at the end of the transfer window, including signing ex-teammates Dwight Yorke, Ross Wallace, and Stanislav Varga, Keane’s team began a rapid ascent. After the New Year, they went on a superb run, winning 16 of their 20 games, losing just once, securing the title in imperious fashion by thumping Luton 5-0 on the last day of the season.

5. Eddie Howe (2008-09 season)

Has any manager had a tougher start to their career than Eddie Howe?

Relegated from League 1, a financial crisis at Bournemouth had seen the Football League almost bar their entry to League 2. Instead, the club were hit with a 17 point deduction before a ball had even been kicked.

After the sackings of first Kevin Bond and then his successor Jimmy Quinn, Bournemouth looked to be in complete disarray. The appointment of their 31-year old youth team coach seemed only further evidence that the club was fatally doomed.

Taking over at the end of the year, Bournemouth were on 7 points and still 7 away from safety. Howe re-signed club legend Steve Fletcher – then languishing in non-league – and led the team on a near miraculous run of results including wins against ultimately promoted sides such as Wycombe and Exeter. In a crucial end to the season, Bournemouth won first at fellow strugglers Chester, before securing safety at home to the similarly relegation-threatened Grimsby, with Fletcher in true fairy tale style scoring the crucial late goal.

Written by @josephclift


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