Master vs apprentice: 7 times managers faced off against former assistants

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5. Louis van Gaal vs Ronald Koeman

There’s no denying Louis van Gaal was a good mentor, but he’s also pretty good at riling people up, as his rivalry with former assistant Ronald Koeman demonstrates. The pair worked together at Barcelona, but fell out at Ajax – where Koeman was manager and Van Gaal the director of football – over the prospective sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and what Koeman saw as interference from the older man.

They met in opposing dugouts for the first time in 2006 in the Eredivisie. Koeman was at PSV Eindhoven, Van Gaal at AZ Alkmaar, and followed that up with four Premier League meetings between Manchester United and Southampton.

Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal shows his square-headed nemesis a stern face

“We had really strong fights about the way of playing, about the future of the club and it wasn't really nice at that time,” said Koeman of their time at Ajax. “OK, we shake hands, but we don't see each other outside of football. We're not the best of friends.”

Verdict: The head-to-head record stands at three wins a piece, but Koeman can be the more satisfied of the two courtesy of his two victories at Old Trafford.  

6. Harry Redknapp vs Glenn Roeder

The prospects were looking pretty grim for Glenn Roeder, who had been out of the game for two years following disappointing managerial spells at Gillingham and Watford, before Harry Redknapp offered him a lifeline.

"I took him on to do a bit of coaching and help with the reserves," said Redknapp. He appointed his friend as a coach at West Ham, and two years later Roeder was catapulted into the hot seat when Redknapp departed the club in 2001.

I took him on to do a bit of coaching and help with the reserves

- Harry Redknapp

Five years later, they played a series of games when Roeder was in charge of Newcastle and Redknapp at Portsmouth.  Surprisingly, Roeder won the first three meetings – two in the league and one in the League Cup – without conceding a goal, before Redknapp salvaged some pride with a 2-1 win in April 2007. Roeder was sacked a few weeks later.

Harry Redknapp

Roeder briefly put Redknapp in the shade

Verdict: A rare triumph for Roeder, who is currently a managerial advisor at Stevenage. Harry Redknapp is currently spending some time out of the game, after managing literally every club within a two-and-a-half hour drive from his house (plus Jordan).

7. Neil Warnock vs Kevin Blackwell

It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying a long and pleasant working relationship with the man anagram enthusiasts call ‘Colin Wanker’, with his face like an old lady scowling at someone on a bus. But Kevin Blackwell managed it.

Warnock initially signed the goalkeeper for Scarborough in 1986, and took him with him when he moved to Notts County – where he made no appearances in three years – and then to Torquay. Clearly in the grips of some kind of Stockholm Syndrome, he kept following Warnock – to Huddersfield, then Plymouth Argyle, where they briefly parted ways.

Master Warnock and his assistant Blackwell: an inseparable duo

They linked up again at Bury, where Blackwell was appointed goalkeeping coach, then at Sheffield United where he worked as assistant manager for the first time. From there, their paths diverged, but they’d meet again on opposing sides on nine occasions between 2004 and 2009 – mostly at Leeds and Sheffield United, although both men have managed both teams, so it’s an absolute nightmare working out the head-to-head.

Unlike many of the former colleagues we’ve looked at here, the pair are still on speaking terms, which is nice. In fact, Warnock (in reality quite a likeable chap) brought Blackwell back to Leeds as his assistant, despite the fact he’d previously sued the club for unfair dismissal.

“I brought Blacky because I knew he’d get some stick! Whereas I didn’t get any!” Warnock said. They’re working together again now at Cardiff City.

Verdict: Warnock has the upper hand. He took two wins and two draws against Blackwell’s Leeds as Sheffield United boss, before moving to Crystal Palace, where he got two draws and a defeat against Sheffield United, who now had Blackwell in charge. Then with QPR, Warnock managed a draw and one more win.

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