Follow that! How the replacements for managerial greats have fared

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How do you follow a true great? With Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United, Tom J Doyle analyses those who have had big acts to follow

And with that, an era ended. Yes, the curtain is finally coming down on Sir Alex Ferguson’s epochal reign at Manchester United. After 26 years and 38 trophies (including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues) the Scot is finally leaving Old Trafford, a place so much like home that the North stand has even been named after him. With increasing commercial revenue and a squad finely balanced between the promising youth of Rafael, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and David de Gea and seasoned heads such as Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick, Ferguson could not be handing the baton over at a more appropriate time.

And yet… just how do you replace a man like Sir Alex Ferguson? That is the unenviable task facing the new arrival, and rightly or wrongly, they shall be judged by the great Scot’s achievements. It looks increasingly likely that David Moyes will be asked to have a crack at the most tantalising job in world football, but we live in a world littered with tales of managers trying – and failing – to replace successful men before them. Anybody hoping to step into the incumbent’s shoes to try out their own little awkward victory jig would do well to heed these lessons of the past…

No Brucie Bonus here
Scotland captain Bruce Rioch played for clubs such as Aston Villa, Derby County and Everton before impressing as a manager at Middlesbrough and Bolton, leading both up two divisions to the top flight with swashbuckling football. In June 1995 he arrived at Arsenal as the permanent replacement for George Graham, whose trophy-strewn Highbury career had ended in the ignominy of a bung scandal.

Straight-laced sergeant-major Rioch led the Gunners to fifth place (they had finished 12th the year before), helped by the signing of legend-in-waiting Dennis Bergkamp for a British record £7.5m. However, in September 1996 he was summarily sacked after clashing with the board over transfers – not helped by Ian Wright's transfer request after being dropped by Rioch, who unfavourably compared the terrace hero to Bolton forward John McGinlay. Arsenal hired Arsene Wenger, leaving Rioch as a prime example of a manager sandwiched in between reigns.

The not-so-Neilly men
A double European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, Martin O'Neill managed his way up through Grantham Town, Shepshed Charterhouse, Wycombe Wanderers and Norwich City before joining Leicester in 1995. In five fabulous years he led the Foxes to two League Cup triumphs and four successive top-10 Premiership finishes before leaving for Celtic in 2000.

Since then, Leicester have made 13 managerial appointments, with much less success. Peter Taylor (pictured) was the first, lasting little over a season, and City dropped from the top flight two years after O'Neill's departure. Although Micky Adams took them back up in 2003, they went straight down and by 2008 were in the third tier. O’Neill’s current unemployment shows that while sides often suffer from the departure of a charismatic leader, a close relationship between club and manager can suit both parties. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and all that jazz.

A Clough act to follow
What more can you say about Brian Clough that the man hadn’t already said about himself? Perhaps the only manager to rival and even out-do Ferguson for controversy and ruthless desire, he led Nottingham Forest to the First Division title and two consecutive European Cups. However, Clough’s time with Forest came to a sorry end in 1993 with relegation in the inaugural Premier League season.

His immediate replacement, former Forest full-back turned Leyton Orient manager Frank Clark, led the club straight back into the top flight and finished third in the Premier League – but two seasons later Clark was gone and so were Forest, eventually landing in the third tier. They're now pushing for promotion back to the Premier League but they have made 14 'permanent' managerial appointments since Clough, whose shadow still looms large over the City Ground.

Big Sam, Little Sam
Replacing Sam Allardyce at Bolton was never going to be easy. 'Big Sam' had taken Wanderers from second-tier struggles to cup finals, Europe and four successive finishes in England's top eight. When Allardyce walked away in April 2007, Bolton promoted his assistant Sammy Lee: Little Sam stepping into Big Sam's sizeable shoes.

The former Liverpool player (and England coach) started well enough, steering Bolton into Europe as the 2006/07 season finished, but the one point from his two games in charge proved a reliable indicator. He was sacked in October after winning just five points from his first nine games. Gary Megson kept Bolton up, but Owen Coyle eventually took them down and Bolton are back in the second tier, awaiting another Allardyce.

Scottish spirit
Without wanting to put undue pressure on whoever replaces Ferguson at Old Trafford, the club’s older supporters have seen the same thing happen before with a previous Scottish great. Sir Matt Busby spent 24 years in the Old Trafford hot-seat and brought the glory years to Manchester United despite the tragedy of the Munich air crash, winning the European Cup (a first for a British club) in 1968 just 10 years after the destruction of his ‘Babes’.

However, after Busby became General Manager in 1969 the club went into decline. Amiable boot-room promotee Wilf McGuinness (pictured) lasted 18 months before Busby came back; the distant Frank O'Farrell lasted 18 months; Tommy Docherty even took them down a division. United had to wait for 26 years, and Alex Ferguson, before they were again Champions of England.

You’re the Guy for me
If ever a man knew a club inside out, it is Guy Roux. In 1961, at the age of 23, he became player-coach at amateur local-league Auxerre; 44 years later he was still there (although not playing, obviously), in charge of a club which had spent 25 consecutive season in the top flight, winning it in 1996. Paternalistic and hands-on, Roux developed Auxerre into a French powerhouse of emerging talent, with the likes of Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc, Djibril Cisse and Philippe Mexes all getting a chance to develop under his tutelage. Apparently single-handedly, he moulded the club into a genuine force in French football; he started his reign manning the club’s switchboards, and ended it in 2005 winning the French Cup for a record-equalling fourth time.

Following him would always be a big ask – especially as Roux hovered in the background with a hand in transfer policy – and it proved beyond former France and Spurs manager Jacques Santini (pictured), who was sacked shortly after Roux's testimonial match. Jean Fernandez fared better, leading Auxerre into the 2010/11 Champions League, but Auxerre now languish in Ligue 2. It seems there’s only one Guy for Auxerre, and he’s not in the dugout.

So, if it is to be David Moyes for Manchester United, he must be sure to be his own man and stick to his guns. And listen to the money men of course. And the fans. And the media. And the…on second thoughts, it may well be worth taking a moment to raise a glass of your best red and realise that there will never be another like Sir Alex Ferguson. No? Didn’t think so. It’s over to you David – no pressure...

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