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8 managers whose appointments were deeply, deeply unpopular

George Graham Tottenham

Alex McLeish (Aston Villa)  

Despite the 500 protesting Villa fans camped outside Villa Park in June 2011, owner Randy Lerner insisted that, in recently departed Birmingham City boss (five days, in fact) Alex McLeish, he had a manager who “has a clear plan for the future”. 

If his plan was for Villa to play sterile football for one dismal season, endure "F*** off McLeish, the Villa is ours" and "Sack McLeish, my lord" chants from fans as Villa’s grim 2011/12 petered out, then he got it spot on. 

“There were some fans at Villa Park who couldn’t look beyond the fact I’d also managed Birmingham,” McLeish revealed, in one of football’s ultimate ‘No shit, Sherlock’ moments. 

Frank Rijkaard (Barcelona)     

Barcelona fans were less than impressed when Frank Rijkaard was appointed coach at the Camp Nou in 2003. Former Barça player and coach Johan Cruyff suggested: “I’m unsure as to whether Frank has the necessary guile and experience for what is a huge role.” 

When he stepped down five years later in 2008, however, the Dutchman had secured two La Liga titles, the club’s first European Cup success since 1992, and overseen Lionel Messi’s rise to superstar status. Not too shabby, all things considered.

Rafa Benitez (Chelsea)   

Rafa Benitez Chelsea

After he was appointed interim boss at Chelsea in November 2012, Benitez was greeted with a chorus of boos and ‘Rafa Out’ banners at Stamford Bridge before his first game against Manchester City.

It all stemmed from the Spanish coach’s time at Liverpool, during which he ‘enjoyed’ a notoriously tetchy rivalry with former Blue boss Jose Mourinho. It would be an exaggeration to say that Blues fans warned to Benitez during his six-month tenure but a fair number at least held up ‘Thank you Rafa’ banners after Chelsea won the Europa League. Bless….

Marius Lacatus (Știința Craiova)

“I cannot manage under these conditions. It would be like sitting on dynamite,” argued former Romanian star Marius Lacatus following his resignation as Stiinta Craiova... after just eight hours in charge. 

The reason for his rapid 2004 departure? Lacatus had spent 20 years playing for deadly rivals Steaua Bucharest, and a group of 100 masked Stiinta fans lay in wait for the new incumbent ready to tell him exactly what they thought of him. Following a pitched battle between the malcontents and police, Lacatus made a hasty exit.

Brian Clough (Leeds) 

Given that former Derby County boss Brian Clough had spent much of the early ‘70s criticising Leeds United as being “dirty” and a “disgrace to football”, it was little wonder that his appointment to the Elland Road hot seat in 1974 was greeted with bewilderment by fans and players – plus former Leeds boss Don Revie, who later described Clough’s appointment by chairman Manny Cussins as “plain daft”. 

Clough never won over the doubters in Yorkshire, and was unceremoniously fired after just 44 days amid rumours of player power in the Elland Road dressing room. In fairness, telling them to “chuck your medals in the bin because you’ve won them all by cheating” hardly helped his case…..

Joe Kinnear (Newcastle)

Joe Kinnear Newcastle

Following Kevin Keegan’s sudden resignation as Newcastle boss in September 2008, Toon fans weren’t exactly thrilled when owner Mike Ashley appointed his erstwhile drinking buddy Joe Kinnear as interim manager. 

For starters, Kinnear hadn’t actually managed a club for four years. But mainly, Toon fans were concerned that Ashley – along with executive director Dennis Wise – was intent on constructing a cockney mafia at St. James’ Park. 

Needless to say it did not go well. Kinnear departed in February, his time in charge marred by ill health and spectacularly sweary rants at journalists. Remarkably, he resurfaced at Newcastle as director of football in 2013. Once more, that ended badly. 

George Graham (Tottenham)

“I think that I’m the first manager to be booed by both sets of fans during a north London derby,” grimaced Tottenham boss George Graham after facing former club Arsenal in 1999. 

The White Hart Lane faithful couldn’t ever warm to the Scot, who’d steered the Gunners to two league titles, and preferred to chant ‘Man in a raincoat’s blue and white army’ than sing his name. 

Graham steered Spurs to League Cup glory in 1999 but was fired in April 2001, with vice-chairman David Buchler conceding: “George and I agreed we couldn’t work together.” Tottenham fans didn’t take to the streets to protest.

Danny Wilson (Sheffield United)   

As a player and manager for bitter city rivals Wednesday, and a manager of Yorkshire enemies Barnsley, it was never going to be an easy ride for new Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson. ‘Love United, Hate Wilson’ was one of the more courteous placards brandished at the diminutive ex-midfielder when he was appointed in May 2011. 

The ex-Owls man was hardly a flop in the hot seat, but the ongoing antipathy towards him at Bramall Lane matches, coupled with the fact that an ailing United had fallen out of the League One promotion race, led to his dismissal from the post in April 2013.

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