Wait, what? 8 times clubs made bizarre managerial appointments
1. Gary Neville to Valencia
Instead of promoting Phil Neville to the top job, Lim took the bold step of handing his untested and untried sibling Gary a five-month contract
At first, this was a head-scratcher. But when subjected to the kind of forensic analysis Neville brought to Monday Night Football, you could see the pieces falling into place (and without the need for an oversized touchscreen).
Neville’s playing career had ended in 2011, and he’d forged a reputation as one of the game’s sharpest pundits, while simultaneously working alongside Roy Hodgson in the England set-up. He’d never had a job at club level, but was part-owner of Salford City alongside several members of Manchester United’s class of 92 and billionaire Peter Lim.
Then, in July 2015, Gary’s brother Phil joined Valencia as a coach under Nuno, before becoming assistant manager when the Portuguese resigned in November. Instead of promoting Phil to the top job, Lim took the bold step of handing his untested and untried sibling Gary a five-month contract. It didn't go well.
When Neville took over, Valencia were in ninth place - five points off the Champions League places. When he was sacked four months later - after three wins in 16 league games - they were 14th, only six points clear of relegation.
The language barrier was an issue, while others pointed to a lack of tactical clarity. There were moments of bad luck too - disallowed goals and clearances off the line. In the end, Neville lost the support of the fans and had to go.
2. Dave Hockaday to Leeds
His reported salary was reportedly in the region of £90,000 a year, compared to the £750,000 paid predecessor Brian McDermott
The man that chairman Massimo Cellino plucked from obscurity to be manager of Leeds might reflect on his time at Elland Road and conclude that at least he lasted longer than Brian Clough. Hockaday was well respected as a youth coach, but he’d failed to impress in a four-year spell at Conference side Forest Green Rovers: they’d finished in the relegation places in his first season and 10th in the next two despite a healthy budget, before he was then sacked in October 2013 after seven defeats in eight games.
So what did Leeds see in him? Well, his reported salary was reportedly in the region of £90,000 a year, compared to the £750,000 paid predecessor Brian McDermott. So that might be one clue. Perhaps Cellino felt he could exert more control over a relative unknown, especially with Leeds’ director of football system, and that’s certainly how it turned out - the owner reportedly told the manager to “shut the f**k up” after a disagreement before the season had even started.
Hockaday’s reign lasted 70 days - he was sacked after four defeats in six games. At any other club it would be a story that’s still talked about, but it was merely a blip in the ongoing chaos of the Leeds saga. Hockaday’s eventual replacement, Darko Milanic, lasted just 32 days.
3. Kevin Cullis to Swansea
The squad were on the verge of mutiny, and the Swans - then struggling near the foot of the third tier - lost 1-0 to Swindon and 4-0 to Blackpool
There are shades of Ali Dia in the seven-day managerial reign of Cullis, who took over at Swansea in 1996, lost two games and then vanished never to be seen again. Cullis had been a part-time youth coach at Cradley Town in the West Midlands League, before being handed control at Vetch Field by Michael Thompson, who was in the process of buying the club.
The newspapers splashed their back pages with the words ‘Kevin Who?’, while football fans - always imaginative - adapted the lyrics of Smokie hit Living Next Door to Alice.
Behind the scenes, there was chaos. Cullis didn’t seem to know the names of the players, or what positions they played in. The squad were on the verge of mutiny, and the Swans - then struggling near the foot of the third tier - lost 1-0 to Swindon and 4-0 to Blackpool. In the dressing room at the Blackpool game, Cullis had told six players they were transfer listed, before adding: “You could put Terry Venables in here and the way we’re playing we’d still go down.”
By the next day, Thompson had pulled out of the deal. Original chairman Doug Sharpe resumed control of the club, and immediately dispensed with Cullis - although the manager himself claimed he found out by listening to Swansea’s ClubCall telephone news service. Sharpe brought in Jan Molby as player-manager - the Swans’ fifth manager of the season, but they were relegated to Division Three.
Cullis never managed again.