Mark Hughes’ managerial career appears to be playing out in reverse to the norm. He started out as a national coach before moving on to a club where he made his reputation (Blackburn) before enduring a period of naïve trail and error at City. Now he finds himself seeking a club – any club – who is willing to take a chance on him. Switch all that around and you get a familiar trajectory experienced by many in his profession.
He remains as good or as bad as he ever was but the respect he garnered at Ewood Park in particular has noticeably diminished of late and it has surprisingly little to do with his abject failure to capitalise upon a dream scenario at City.
First there was the manner of his exit at Fulham, his last club before he found himself on the dole, or ‘gardening leave’ as it’s now known.
Then came his ridiculous defending of Carlos Tevez’s mutinous actions in Munich – forgetting to disclaim that, in Kia Joorabchian, he shares the same agent as the scabby-necked Argentine.
Last week was another fall from grace with his ill-considered newspaper attack on Roberto Mancini, his successor at City. Not only did a 6-1 routing of United at Old Trafford just twenty-four hours later make Hughes look pretty fucking stupid but he had already prompted mockery for admitting at the start of his bitter rant that he had never met the Italian, nor knew anything about his working methods. Solid ground there Mark for laying into someone. Especially someone who is doing the job you couldn’t spectacularly well.
Finally, along came the glorious press release from the eternally unhinged Mohammad Al-Fayed rebuking his former employee for that very same interview. Responding to criticism of Fulham Al-Fayed called Hughes a ‘strange man’, a ‘flop’, and perhaps most cutting of all, alluding to his nickname as a player, someone who has ‘lost his spark’.
You can imagine how forcibly the roses have been pruned this week in the Hughes garden.
As daft as the term is at least ‘gardening leave’ is a vast improvement on the previous phrase, that of a sacked manager being on the ‘scrapheap’, a metaphorical junkyard where you will find the following names below.
With his stock ever-falling the chisel-jawed Welshman is in great danger of joining them – cast adrift in media work and a regular 16-1 shot for any available hotseat vacancy – but in the main a forgotten man(ager).
A baffling case of self-imposed exile this one. Or is there more than meets the eye? Does Curbishley even want to return to the dug-out? It has after all now been three long years since he left West Ham following a disagreement over their transfer policy during which time he has been linked with nearly every club under the sun at one time or another. Even now, with his stellar achievements at Charlton beginning to fade from memory, he remains firmly in the reckoning for each desirable position – he is currently an outsider for the Leicester job.
Curbishley has spent five out of the past ten years out of work. His lawn must be immaculate!
With his tan, arrogance and aptitude for taking on authorities – in his case Doug Ellis – Gregory was like a shit Mourinho. Has spent the past four years in Israel and Kazakhstan after a failed stint at QPR and is probably unfairly regarded as a yesterday’s man. Given the right set-up though he could still do a decent job over here. Gregory illustrates perfectly how a manager’s reputation can plummet but he’s still the same guy – with the same coaching chops – who took Villa to a succession of top six finishes and an FA Cup final.
The undeservably-smug Irishman was sacked in April at UAE side Al-Ahli after losing 5-1 despite having Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro at the back. You can imagine the post-match interview – ‘Fabio is still a boy. They’re all still kids.’ Generally disliked in the UK by fans but that doesn’t make his disappearance off the radar any less baffling considering the splendid work he did at Leeds is still relatively fresh in the memory.
After all Graeme Souness wouldn’t win any popularity contests either yet he was hardly ever out of work despite being arguably the worst manager of all time!
Not matter what you might think of Hoddle as a man – and let’s be honest here he is a first-rate tool – his managerial record stands up against most. Sure each ended badly but unless you’re Alex Ferguson that is very often the case. Glenda is currently running a football academy in Spain and insists he’s had 27 serious job offers since leaving Wolves five years back but won’t return to full-time management until the academy is running itself.
No longer a forgotten man and presently attempting to salvage the damage done by Darren Ferguson at Preston North End, Brown is on this list for several reasons. Firstly he was the guy who brought the concept of ‘gardening leave’ to the public’s consciousness after not being sacked by Hull….but not being employed by them either. He also serves as a welcome reminder to Hughes and co that there is always hope for out-of-work gaffers no matter what your past discretions – in Brown’s case a prolonged dose of arrogance, those stupid fucking headsets, and singing karaoke in front of 25,000.
Ten months in the wilderness was his penance. Will Hughes’ be longer?