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The 26 maddest managerial sackings ever in football

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“Do you want chips with that?”

If they’re going to sack a manager face to face, most chairmen like to do so in private – call him to the office and deliver the news away from prying eyes. Not at Scottish lower-league outfit Cowdenbeath, where Peter Cormack was given his marching orders after being summoned to a roadside burger van near the Forth Bridge.

A two-time Liverpool title-winner as a player, and former manager of Anorthosis Famagusta and the Botswana national team, Cormack had been at the club for only 10 days and not taken charge of a single Blue Brazil fixture, reportedly upsetting his players by trying to change too much too soon.

"A football equivalent of a coup d’état took place and I am at a loss how they can justify getting rid of me," Cormack complained after his exit in 2000. “I’ve been made to look a fool.” On the plus side, though, £3.50 for a burger and chips is very reasonable.

Taking it out on the dugout

Sorin Cartu is a well-respected ex-Romania international with a lengthy CV in football management, but for many will be best remembered for his moment of madness while boss of Romanian champions CFR Cluj.

Deeply vexed to be trailing 1-0 to Basel in a 2010 Champions League clash, Cartu performed some enthusiastic venting on the perspex side panel of the Swiss club’s dugout. 

At first, Sorin indulged in a little light punching with his gloved hands, before realising that would not quite do the job and choosing to punt the damn thing through with his brogues. Resembling a crazy drunk, Cartu was eventually pulled away by his assistant.

“The values and image of our club cannot be associated with the actions of coach Cartu, and that’s why we’ve decided to part ways,” said the club’s board as they axed him the next day, presumably while wearing full suits of armour.

Sheridan lets rip

My kids aren’t going to get any f**king Christmas presents because of you

- John Sheridan

There was a certain jazz scat poetry to the rant at a referee that led to John Sheridan’s sacking as Notts County manager in December 2016. “You’re a f**king disgrace, you’re f**king useless, you’ve not f**king got anything right today, you should be f**king ashamed and you’re f**king s**t,” was his opening salvo to match official Eddie Ilderton.

He moved on to make the extraordinary claim: “My kids aren’t going to get any f**king Christmas presents because of you,” before aiming some more expletives at the fourth official. “You really are a c***,” he told Matthew Donohue. “I’m gonna knock you out, you c***.”

This gloriously despicable verbal volley was given as the reason for the Lancastrian’s exit by the Magpies’ chairman, after a run of nine straight defeats. Oldham Athletic were clearly impressed with his enthusiasm, though, and offered him a job shortly after. No doubt he was f**king delighted.

Norbert the nutter

You’ve seen the video, right? A player fronts up to an opposition boss; the manager pushes his not-insubstantial nose gently into the player’s face like a kitten nudging a ball of wool; and then, face contorted with indignation, the manager falls to the floor, where he’s soon joined by his quick-thinking adversary.

Koln’s Albert Streit was the star of the show in December 2005, hand to brow and collapsing like a Victorian lady experiencing an attack of the vapours, but Duisburg manager Norbert Meier was later punished in accordance with the playground ruling, ‘he started it.’ 

Having taken Duisburg up – though they would soon follow him by going back down – Meier was given his marching orders. And if you think today’s retrospective diving bans are harsh, consider this: the German FA banned him for three months.

Meier complained that they wanted to “set an example” ahead of hosting the World Cup finals six months later, suggesting he somehow knew what Zinedine Zidane had in store for Marco Materazzi.

“We’ll beat them, whoever they are…”

Alex Ferguson once gave his Manchester United charges a three-word team talk, simply saying: “Lads, it’s Tottenham.” Some 60 years earlier, another Scottish manager was similarly dismissive of opponents from north London. 

His fortnight’s tenure brought one victory, four defeats and repeated absences due to ‘flu’

Johnny Cochrane managed Reading in the loosest sense of the word. “Just before a game,” revealed one player, “this man wearing a bowler hat, smoking a cigar and drinking whisky would pop his head around the dressing room door and ask, ‘Who are we playing today?’ We’d all chorus, ‘Arsenal, boss.’

Johnny would just say, ‘Oh, we’ll p**s that lot’, before shutting the door and leaving us to it.”

But while Ferguson remained at Old Trafford for 27 years, Cochrane lasted 13 days. A league and FA Cup winner with Sunderland, he was given a three-year contract by the Royals – ambitious, this being 1939 – worth £1,000 a year, only to be ousted £35 into that for, well, guess. His fortnight’s tenure brought one victory, four defeats and repeated absences due to ‘flu’. Hmm.

Winning isn’t everything

Pressure defined Real Madrid long before Vicente del Bosque learned that winning two La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns in four years couldn’t save him from the sack (something to bear in mind, eh Zizou?).

President Santiago Bernabeu furiously told the players at half-time he wanted to see more balls out on the field

Call them demanding, call them ungrateful, but the most successful club in football didn’t get where they are today by affording their managers time.

Still the youngest ever European Cup-winning manager, at 36, Jose Villalonga lifted Ol’ Big Ears with Real in 1956 and 1957, and probably would have lifted it in 1955 too had the competition existed then. Yet, winning the first two European Cups, plus two La Liga titles, in two and a half years wasn’t enough.

The seeds of Villalonga’s demise were sown in the first round of his 1956-57 European Cup triumph. With Madrid trailing to Rapid Vienna, president Santiago Bernabeu (the very same) furiously told the players at half-time he wanted to see “more balls out on the field”, painful as that sounds.

Alfredo Di Stefano duly delivered, but only by ignoring his manager’s tactical instructions.

Villalonga, undermined, was gone six months hence amid domestic and continental glory. He later led Atletico to derby wins in consecutive Copa del Rey finals and guided Spain to glory at Euro 64. Point taken.

Schumacher gets his comeuppance

What goes around, comes around. Harald Schumacher is forever associated with: A) his horrific foul on Patrick Battiston in West Germany’s World Cup semi-final
win against France in 1982; and B) his unrepentant response.

Told that Battiston had lost two teeth, he replied: “If that’s all that’s wrong, I’ll pay for the crowns.” Boo! Hiss!

So, the people who that year voted ‘Toni’ as the most hated man in France, just ahead of Hitler, no doubt enjoyed seeing him get fired from his only role in management halfway through a match.

Fortuna Koln’s Jean Loring proved to be the impatient boss in 1999, although few would criticise a chairman who had invested to the point of insolvency from 1967 to 2001 and once circumvented a stadium ban by going dressed as Santa.

Fortuna were 2-0 down to Waldhof Mannheim when Löring called Schumacher a “w**ker” and sacked him, before presiding over the second half of a 5-1 loss. He wasn’t any worse, then. 

We need to talk about Nigel

Hangleton Rangers’ Under-10s manager Dave Kinsell had a problem. In March 2009, he needed cash for a new training kit, so asked the local Sussex community for help.

Step forward, South East MEP – and UKIP knight in shining armour – Nigel Farage, who donated £150. The future Brexit crusader’s name was then splashed across the front of the shirts. Ruling the gift was political, not personal, Hangleton sacked Kinsell – whose son played for the team – for ‘contravening club policies’.

“It’s so unfair,” sighed Kinsell, who joined his local UKIP branch the following week. “I love the kids and we’ve been doing really well. All I wanted to do was get the team a new training kit and I’ve sponsored them in the past to pay for kit, goals and all sorts of things.”

Farage added, “Nobody from the club’s had the courtesy to contact me to ask whether it was a personal donation or a political one – the real losers here are the kids themselves.”

A quick look at your record in parliamentary elections might suggest otherwise, Nige.

This feature originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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