Kevin Henning takes us through ten sorry occasions when the board was blinded by bad science.
Christian Gross – Tottenham Hotspur
Gross arrived at his press conference down the Lane clutching a tube ticket which he’d bought to travel from Heathrow Airport with in a bizarre attempt to show Spurs fans that he was one of them. He wasn’t. He was sacked within the year after a poor season in which Spurs finished 14th. Alan Sugar blamed the media at the time, claiming Gross was mocked from day one but has since revealed that he’d realised the bald-headed, Swiss was a couple of springs short of a cuckoo clock on that very first day.
Alan Ball – Manchester City
Described as a football genius by the very same Manchester City fans who proclaimed Barry Conlon a hero, the Premier League joined in with the sarcasm and named Ball Manager of the Month in November ‘95. He’ll always be remembered by City fans as the man who played for the draw that relegated the club and swapping livewire striker Paul Walsh for the laziest striker in Europe at the time, Gerry Creaney.
Bruce Rioch – Arsenal
Alright, so Bruce Rioch brought Denis Bergkamp and David Platt to Highbury and had the Gunners playing some attractive, attacking football. It doesn’t hide the fact that this appointment was never going to last though, and after a season spent upsetting club legend Ian Wright by playing him on the left wing, Rioch was sacked and replaced by the man who revolutionised Arsenal, Arsene Wenger. Wright duly withdrew his transfer request and got on with the job of becoming the Gunners’ all time leading scorer.
Harry Redknapp – Southampton
After becoming a true legend at arch-rivals Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp walked out over a dispute with the owners. Weeks later, the unthinkable happened. The Wheeler Dealer of Football Management was appointed at St Mary’s. Harry continued to delight Pompey fans everywhere by ending the Saints’ 27 year unbroken stay at the top table with relegation in his first and only season. He then completed his mission by returning to Portsmouth and winning the FA Cup. Madness!
Chris Hutchings – Wigan Athletic
Occasionally, a true football fan knows that a managerial appointment is going to end in tears before the ink has even dried on his contract. When Hutchings replaced Paul Jewell at the JJB Stadium, fans up and down the country knew full well that he wouldn’t last. Despite topping the league early doors, the Latics went on a six game losing streak and the lame duck that was Chris Hutchings failed to make it past a dozen league matches before being handed his P45.
Gerard Houllier – Aston Villa
Villans were happy with Martin O’Neill and were heading in the right direction. Then the Ulsterman walked and the board decided to replace him with Gerard Hoolahoop. The decision looked a strange one at the time and the Frenchman quickly set about losing the backing of both the dressing room and the supporters. Confrontations with key players, selecting a shadow team in the FA Cup 5th round and the signing of a 37 year old Robert Pires worried Villa fans. Houllier also led the club into the relegation zone for the first time in 9 years. He left the club after medical problems left him unable to fulfil his duties.
Kevin Keegan – Newcastle United (2nd time)
In a move that was an obvious attempt to appease the Geordie nation, Mike Ashley and his cockney mafia brought the Messiah (volume 1) back to St. James’ Park.
Ashley soon began to undo any good feeling that the appointment brought by undermining Keegan at every turn. Players were signed without his knowledge, Dennis Wise was brought in as a Director of Football and it all went a bit sour. Special K resigned eight months into his second reign claiming his position had become untenable.
Howard Wilkinson – Sunderland
The dour Yorkshire man was appointed by the Mackems with the club languishing at the bottom of the league. The abiding memory of his 20 match spell is surely the sight of Sunderland fans attempting to leave the Stadium of Light before half time as their team self destructed with three first half own goals. Upon his dismissal, Wilkinson shook off his miserable reputation by entertaining the press with jokes and anecdotes for a good two hours. I’d like to have witnessed it myself but in truth, this never happened.
Egil Olsen – Wimbledon
Thought of at the time as the perfect man for the job due to his Norway team playing the same brand of hit and hope football as Wimbledon, Olsen arrived at Selhurst Park describing the fleet-footed Ben Thatcher as his favourite player in World Football. More of a mentalist than any of the Crazy Gang, he quickly led Wimbledon towards the drop zone but packed his ridiculous wellies and scarpered in a feeble attempt to avoid having the relegation on his CV.
Steve Kean – Blackburn Rovers
If this man had a scrap of dignity he would have listened to the loyal Blackburn public who bayed for his blood on a weekly basis. A quick severance package, a decent reference and a lifetime’s supply of chicken would have prevented the Ewood Park faithful from enduring this nightmare for longer than was necessary. Now head coach of the Brunei national side. Great things are not expected.