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

In the follow-up to our piece on players that had decent starts to their managerial careers, here are five who encountered real difficulty in their first year in management.

David Platt – Nottingham Forest (1999/2000 season)

Destined for management…

Throughout his career, you couldn’t help but look at David Platt and think he’d be the perfect candidate to move into management. After a potential managerial career was scuppered due to his lack of coaching qualifications (though in retrospect, perhaps a convenient excuse), Platt was installed at the City Ground to lift a Forest team just relegated from the Premier League.

A dreadful season saw them labour to a mid-table finish. This was despite being backed financially – Platt was somehow allowed to shell out millions on the Italian Gianluca Petrachi, Salvadore Matrecano and Moreno Mannini based on his extensive knowledge of the Italian leagues. This knowledge turned out to be as solid as his coaching qualifications as all three flopped. He left a legacy of a Forest club that had badly overspent, and was also unable to affect his team on the pitch in the games he played. His frustration spilled into the handful of his appearances on the pitch, seeing red in one match for a horribly late challenge on Sheffield United’s Paul Devlin. A similarly average following season saw him leave for the England U21s and out of club management thereafter.

Tony Cottee – Barnet (2000/01 season)

On paper, Cottee was another ideal candidate for management. A successful career in the top division, a number of medals, and the experience of working for the likes of Howard Kendall, Martin O’Neill, and Harry Redknapp. What’s more, he was prepared to earn his stripes towards the lower ends of the football league.

Unfortunately, Cottee’s one season in charge at Underhill didn’t quite go to plan. When predecessor John Still was “moved upstairs” 3 months into the season, Cottee came in with promotion a realistic aim for the club. And it really was a dream start – a thumping 7-0 win at home to Blackpool and a goal for Cottee himself on his debut. It really couldn’t get any better than this, could it?

Well, no as it turned out. The following month saw a 6-1 drubbing at Hartlepool, and as the wretched results continued, Barnet crept towards the relegation zone. A miserable 4-1 defeat at Brighton proved to be Cottee’s last game in football management, resigning with the club in 18th and 5 points ahead of the drop zone. John Still was hastily moved back downstairs, and Barnet finished bottom of the league. Meanwhile, Cottee signed for Millwall after his Underhill exit, which alonside spells at Leicester, Norwich and Barnet, meant that he played a game in each of the four divisions that season. Truly memorable stuff.

John Barnes – Celtic (1999/2000 season)

The dream team…

Like David Platt, another England legend coming off the back of a glittering playing career. Like Platt, he was appointed the same summer for their first proper managerial job. And ultimately, like Platt, it was a dismal failure.

After replacing evil henchman soundalike and one-time Villain Dr Josef Venglos, Barnes was to set the world in motion alongside newly-appointed Director of Football, Kenny Dalglish. It sounded like an ideal set-up – a promising manager under guidance of the wise old master, coming off a season which couldn’t have been more disappointing. Or so the Parkhead faithful thought.

Barnes was sacked in February following a result labelled the “worst result on 30 years of the club” with their shock home defeat to Inverness. The same defeat that led to the superb headline “Super Caley Go Ballisitc, Celtic Are Attrocious”. He wasn’t helped by tensions in the dressing room (Mark Viduka reportedly refused to appear for the 2nd half vs Caley) and a double leg-break to Henrik Larsson, but it was a truly miserable spell. Barnes’s solution to replace Larsson? 36-year-old Ian Wright – signed from Platt’s Forest team. Inspired.

Tony Adams – Wycombe Wanderers (2003/04 season)

In contrast to the names above, Adams hadn’t really been widely tipped as an future manager. His appointment at Wycombe Wanderers a year after retiring raised some eyebrows. One Director at Adams Park said: “Tony is not the average up-and-coming manager. There is something very different about him.”

Indeed. He just didn’t look at all comfortable in his post-match interviews, and it always looked like the weight of the job at hand was too great. As it proved to be – Adams, presided over a turbulent spell, getting rid of around 18 players and many of the backroom staff in the season. John Gorman lasted two weeks as his assistant before deciding unemployment was preferable to remaining.

In his post-match interview following a 2-1 defeat to Tranmere, he triumphantly declared: “It’s not mathematically over yet so we’ll keep going.” With that kind of determination, perhaps there was a glimmer of hope to the season? Sadly not. Bizarrely unknown to Adams, Wycombe were at that time already mathematically relegated, he’d failed to factor in the fact that two of the teams above them that had to lose their remaining games to give Wycombe a chance were facing each other in the remaining games. A team he took over at the bottom were relegated in the same position with 4 games to go.

Steve Bruce – Sheffield United (1998/99 season)

As Brucey is set to embark on yet another season in the top flight, it’s easy to forget what a damp squib his first job at Bramall Lane was. While United were in the midst of a turbulent spell off the field, Bruce was appointed with a clear aim of promotion, and inherited a squad that at the time was still littered with talent.

In addition to being left on his arse as Michael Bridges secured his first career hat-trick (a game resulting in Bruce’s retirement), Bruce’s team were never serious contenders for promotion, finishing a disappointing 8th. He will be best remembered for mis-managing a number of popular players at the club. Captain David Holdsworth was swiftly moved-on to Birmingham after an alleged bust-up in the dressing room. Worse in the long-run was Bruce’s inability to find a role in the team for the clearly-talented Traianos Dellas. For a 6’4 player that could tackle, pass and shoot, Big Tri’s repeated under-use was mystifying. It led to the frustrated Dellas heading back to Greece in the summer – before embarking on an illustrious career that saw him pick up a winners medal in the European Championships in 2004. As a pundit at those Championships, Bruce was quick to mention he’d been his manager.

Written by @josephclift


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