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10 managers who only ever had one job – and how it went

Edgar Davids Barnet

Bobby Charlton – Preston North End

Bobby Charlton Preston

When the World Cup winner was appointed in the summer of 1973, there was a tangible sense of excitement – especially as Nobby Stiles and David Sadler pitched up at Deepdale with him. Any delusions of grandeur, though, were swept aside as quickly as the remaining hair on Charlton’s head, with the club relegated during his first season in charge. He came out of playing retirement for his second, but it made no difference.

When the club’s board told him they were planning to sell captain and centre-back John Bird in August 1975, he told the player that “if they sell you, I’m resigning”. He was as good as his word.

Alan Shearer – Newcastle

Alan Shearer Newcastle

Hailed as a saviour when he ditched Match of the Day settee for St James’ Park dugout, his appointment as manager of his hometown club in April 2009 was too little, too late for the relegation-bound Geordies. “We don’t deserve to be where we are,” he said at his unveiling.

The problem was that he was powerless to do anything about it, with Newcastle winning only one of his eight games in charge. Off the pitch things were more entertaining; a dressing room flare-up with Joey Barton lived far longer in the memory than his managerial reign. Barton showed there were no hard feelings in 2012, when he called Shearer a “prick” on Twitter and claimed he had better hair.

Chris Sutton – Lincoln City

Chris Sutton Lincoln

The motor-mouth pundit was a hero at Blackburn and Celtic as a player, but didn’t prove quite so popular at the rather more earthy surroundings of Sincil Bank, home of Lincoln City. Sutton had arrived with former Rovers’ team-mate Ian Pearce, after the pair impressed the board with their “enthusiasm”.

Sutton, though, soon found that keenness will only get you so far with players vastly inferior to those you shared a pitch with during your playing career. He lasted 51 matches, and the straight-talker hasn’t strayed into management again.

"To be honest, I won’t rule anything out," he told FFT about a potential return (opens in new tab) in February 2018. "I had a year at Lincoln and enjoyed coaching the players. I moved on, but would I go back? I enjoy what I’m doing now, but you never know further down the line."

Paul Gascoigne – Kettering Town

Paul Gascoigne Kettering

You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see how this one was going to work out – but, hey, if you never try you never know (for sure). Gazza turned up full of his trademark bullishness, and the hangover from his initial appointment didn’t take long to arrive as the England hero claimed chairman Imraan Ladak interfered constantly during his time in charge. Ladak, meanwhile, said that he had to deal with an astonishing 37 separate incidents involving Gascoigne during the tumultuous 39 days he was at the club.

“I am now looking to buy the football club,” said Gascoigne. He didn’t... and hasn’t managed again.

Billy Wright – Arsenal

Billy Wright Arsenal

“He had neither the guile nor the authority to make things work and he reacted almost childishly to criticism.” That was how Brian Glanville described Billy Wright’s rather negligible contribution to Arsenal as a manager between 1962 and 1966.

It appears a pretty accurate summation of a man who succeeded in making Stewart Houston look like Pep Guardiola. Arsenal’s record was dismal under a man who had, in the previous decade, become the first player to win 100 international caps. That may have shut up the “show us your caps” brigade, but it did little change the view that as a manager, Wright was basically just a bit crap.

Stanley Matthews – Port Vale

Stanley Matthews Port Vale

Stoke fans didn’t take to the Vale Park toilets mob-handed wielding pitchforks when their favourite son decamped to Burslem, but they must have been more than a little miffed at the move. Potters legend Matthews was appointed as Port Vale’s general manager in 1967, alongside his good mate Jackie Mudie, just two years after his final appearance for the team down the road.

Unfortunately for the former England wing wizard, the club were about to be engulfed by an unpleasant storm that would result in a fine of £4,000 and expulsion from the Football League for breaking five FA rules involving illegal payments. Matthews, who was innocent of any involvement, walked away from the job with the club still owing him £9,000. He said he would welcome the money when the club were on a firmer financial footing.

He never received a bean. Once bitten, twice shy.

Chris Waddle – Burnley

Chris Waddle Burnley

Listening to Waddle going off on one following England’s exit from the 2010 World Cup remains one of radio’s most memorable rants. If only his time at Turf Moor conjured up such warm, fuzzy memories. Waddle had famously begun his career working in a sausage factory and it took him no time to make a dog’s dinner of his Burnley role during the 1997/98 season.

“It didn’t take long to say yes,” he said at his opening press conference. No goals in their first six matches and no wins in their opening 10 was hardly the start he was looking for, though, and although things perked up towards the end of the season, the former Newcastle great walked away at the end of the campaign. And that was that.

Tony Collins – Rochdale


The former Rochdale boss became the first black manager in English football history in September 1960. “We are aware that some eyebrows will be raised because of his colour but that made no difference and we sincerely hope it will make no difference in his career as manager,” said Freddie Ratcliffe, the club’s chairman.

By 1962, Rochdale were in the League Cup final and this football pioneer had carved out another piece of history. Dale, though, would be his only job in management.

Despite the players demanding his reinstatement when he left the job in 1967, he applied for 13 managerial vacancies post-Spotland and didn’t get an interview for any of them.

Paul Merson – Walsall

Paul Merson Walsall

Life was rarely dull for Merse throughout the 1990s and early noughties, and a fraught managerial spell with Walsall was typically eventful. He once admitted to attempting to breaking his fingers so he could no long phone his bookie – and most Walsall fans found his reign similarly painful.

Despite almost keeping the Saddlers in the Championship against near-impossible odds after assuming the role from Colin Lee in April 2004, Merson then nearly succeeded in securing back-to-back relegations for the Midlanders, with only a late unbeaten spell saving them. A 5-0 mauling to Brentford finally settled his fate the following season.

“I was friends with a lot of the lads from the year before [when he was a Walsall player] and I wasn’t a great trainer,” he would later say. “I didn’t set the right example if I’m honest.”

Edgar Davids – Barnet

Edgar Davids Barnet

Most Barnet fans couldn’t believe it when the Dutch superstar announced he was coming out of retirement to play for and joint-manage the north Londoners. The Bees were bottom of League Two when he arrived during the 2012/13 season, but most disbelieving fans were buzzing at the prospect of their fortunes being transformed.

Those who thought it would be a disaster could take a running jump – er, and then come back a little later in January 2014, with the club now in the National League, to say “I told you so”.

Davids inexpicably took the No.1 shirt off Graham Stack upon his arrival, refused to travel to matches for which he had to stay overnight and picked up six bookings and three red cards from his nine matches as player-gaffer. An unmitigated disaster. 

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