Football's managerial pairings: Deadly duos or dead in the water?

It’s often said that two heads are better than one, but is this true of football management? Can two managers effectively occupy the same throne without bickering over everything from tactics to transfer targets? With Grimsby currently flying high under the prolific partnership of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst (see the January 2013 issue of FourFourTwo for more details), Will Taylor delves into the archives to decipher why this isn’t a more common occurrence in modern football.

1986-87: Coventry CityWith time running out on a disastrous league campaign, Coventry turned to John Sillet and George Curtis in a desperate attempt to avoid the drop. The pair manufactured two wins from the final three games, culminating in a memorable escape on the final day of the season.Their last-gasp heroics rejuvenated an ailing squad and the club went on to blossom under the tactical nous of Sillet and the meticulous organisational skills of Curtis. Just a year later the duo shared their finest hour, guiding the Sky Blues up the fabled 39 steps at Wembley to collect the FA Cup after a surprise extra-time victory over Tottenham Hotspur in an upset ranked among the biggest in Cup Final history.Curtis bowed out in the aftermath of the euphoric celebrations, allowing Sillet to take full control and oversee one of the most successful periods in the club’s history, before leaving the club in November 1990.   Verdict: Triumphant

1991-95: Charlton AthleticThe managerial relationship between Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt was certainly a marriage of convenience rather than a pre-arranged affair. In the summer of 1991, both men applied for the vacant post at the Valley and with the board unable to separate the two, they were both ushered into the Addick’s hot seat.After narrowly missing out on a playoff position in their debut season, a prolonged spell of mid-table obscurity followed. With the prospect of progression seemingly becoming ever more distant, the board chose to act, and it was Gritt who found his head on the chopping block.The decision to give Curbishley full control proved a shrewd one, with a famous play-off victory over Sunderland sealing a return to the top flight after an eight-year absence in 1998. Although they were promptly relegated, they bounced back at the first time of asking and only returned to the Football League after Curbishley left the club in 2006.Verdict: Uninspiring

1992-93: Tottenham Hotspur  The power struggle between chairman Alan Sugar and Terry Venables (manager then chief executive) overshadowed all other matters at White Hart Lane in the early 90s.Venables 'moved upstairs' upon the Amstrad man's arrival in N17, with Peter Shreeves taking over as manager for the 1991/92 season, before being replaced by first-team coach Doug Livermore and goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence in the top job (or at least, the highest one below Sugar and Venables).Spurs made a slow start to the 1992/93 season - the first of the Premier League era - taking just three points from their opening five matches. The arrival of Teddy Sheringham saw a slight upturn in their fortunes, but, this being Tottenham in the 1990s, the season was one of inconsistency and a mid-table finish. To make matters worse, their FA Cup run was ended by arch-rivals Arsenal in a Wembley semi-final. When Sugar controversially opted to dispose of the popular Venables at the end of the campaign (yes, yes - "you're fired", etc), Livermore and Clemence were replaced by Spurs hero Ossie Ardiles in the dugout.  Verdict: [shrug]

1995-96: Bolton WanderersAlthough 2012 marked the end of Bolton's 11-year top-flight stay, they weren't always up at the sunny end of the pyramid: by 1995, they had spent just two of the previous 31 seasons in the top flight. Bruce Rioch led them back there but legged it to Arsenal, leaving his assistant Colin Todd to take the reins… which he opted to share with Roy McFarland. As title-winning Derby centre-backs, they had exuded an air of calm confidence and excellence; precisely none of this was evident in a Bolton team which plunged to the bottom of the table and stayed there. By the New Year's Day defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton had gained a pathetic 10 points from 22 games, including just one on the road, and were nine points adrift of safety.McFarland was sacked the next day, but Todd remained. Bolton doubled their pace in the second half of the season but still went down in last position; Todd led them to the second-tier title the following season, then straight back down again. Verdict: Terrible

1998: LiverpoolThe luckless coupling of Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier is the highest profile, and arguably least successful example of joint-managers to date. The Frenchman’s arrival should have signaled a new era on Merseyside, but the move saw the club begin to drift further from the top of the Premier League. The Liverpool board were clearly caught in two minds, eager to inject a splash of European flair without neglecting the valued tradition of appointing from within the Anfield ‘boot room’. Evans’ 33 years of service meant he was entwined into the very fabric of a club that hadn’t appointed an ‘outsider’ since 1959. They simply didn’t have the heart to sack him.The seemingly incompatible duet lasted four uncomfortable months before Evans handed in his notice, with the Anfield side languishing in eighth place. Houllier beautifully illustrated the contrasting emotions at the time, stating; "The passion of this game is that it is traditional, it is orthodox. But at the same time you have to be adventurous; you have to do something that is more forward thinking.”Despite his stuttering start, Houllier eventually won over the fans and steered the Reds to a memorable treble of League, FA and UEFA Cups in 2000.Verdict: Poor


1998-2000: MillwallTheo Paphitis was eager to breathe life back into a Millwall side anxiously trying to claw their way out of Division Two. After a demoralising campaign under Billy Bonds, Paphitis opted for the sentimental appointment of Keith ‘Rhino’ Stevens and Alan ‘Macca’ McLeary and tasked them with emulating the success they enjoyed at the Den during their playing days.Stevens, was originally at the helm on his own with McLeary acting as his assistant and the duo marked their first season with a trip to Wembley. However, 47,000 fans failed to inspire the Lions to victory, watching in despair as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Wigan in the legendary Auto-Windscreens Shield Final.The following season saw McLeary elevated to ‘co-manager’ and the change helped inspire a promotion charge that saw the club finish fifth. Sadly, there was a whiff of déjà vu for Millwall, who failed to reach the playoff final after a 1-0 aggregate defeat…to Wigan.Sadly, it wasn’t a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the unfortunate twosome, who were sacked in September following a dismal start to the 2000/01 season. Mark McGhee was bought in and had the club top by Christmas, sealing the title with a 5-0 trouncing of Oldham in May.Verdict: Mediocre

2000-01: MiddlesbroughAs the cracks began to appear across the hull of the good ship Boro, troubled helmsman Bryan Robson sent out a distress signal. Although the Riverside Stadium side were bottom of the Premier League as the season approached the halfway stage, this was a bizarre cry for help, especially as he requested the lifeboat be manned by Terry Venables.Initially, ‘El Tel’ was thought to act merely as a personal assistant rather than a puppet master, a nightlight to help combat this ongoing nightmare. Yet, it became worryingly apparent that there wasn’t room in the dugout for both men, with Venables declaring, ‘I will pick the team and have major input into preparing for games.’Robson was shuffled into the shadows and placed in charge of a proposed ‘£20m transfer budget’. Was he the first inadvertent Director of Football in the English game? Regardless of the confusion, Middlesbrough avoided the drop with relative comfort, finishing the season in 14th place.Verdict: Awkward success

2003-05: Partick ThistleIn spite of a recent history littered with co-manger cock-ups, Partick Thistle ignored the overwhelming evidence and appointed Gerry Britton and Derek Whyte.However, this was a unique scenario, as both men were still on the playing roster at Firhill Park. Sadly, neither their exploits on the pitch or the touchline could prevent the Jags plummeting out of the Scottish Premier League. The pair were sacked as Thistle continued on their downward spiral, with the incoming Dick Campbell unable to prevent a second successive relegation. Verdict: Abysmal

2012–present: BarnetEdgar Davids may rival Ryan Giggs on the age front, but he shows no intention of hanging up his boots anytime soon. In October, he was appointed player, captain, co-manager and just about every other title Barnet had at their disposal, joining Mark Robson in the dugout.Davids’ debut was marked with an impressive 4-0 annihilation of Northampton, but although the 13 points accrued in the ten League Two matches since Davids’ arrival are a vast improvement on the meager three they collected in the 11 beforehand, Barnet are still at the foot of the table.Verdict: Jury’s out

2012-present: St Albans CityOn Tuesday, the Evo-Stik League Southern side confirmed James Gray and Graham Golds as full-time joint-managers, after an impressive spell as joint-caretakers.  Verdit: Jury's not even been selected yet

The January 2013 issue of FourFourTwo goes behind the scenes at Arsenal, speaking to the men that matter as they reveal their master plan for success at home and abroad, including Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis, Thomas Vermaelen, Santi Cazorla, Kieran Gibbs, Ken Friar, OBE and Liam Brady. Former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder Juan Veron also answers your questions, while we reveal our annual Top 100 Players in the World list and meet Grimsby Town's managerial double-act. Subscribe! or download it digitally