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Wait, what? 9 times clubs made bizarre managerial appointments

Joey Barton
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7. Michael Knighton to Carlisle

It started well, but in 1997/98 - not long after he’d been publicly mocked for claiming to have seen a UFO - Knighton decided to put himself in charge

Manchester United seemingly dodged a bullet when Michael Knighton’s much-publicised £20 million takeover deal fell through in 1989. He went on to purchase Division Three side Carlisle United instead, with the goal of getting them back to the top flight of English football.

It started well, but in 1997/98 - not long after he’d been publicly mocked for claiming to have seen a UFO - Knighton decided to put himself in charge of the team, despite having no managerial experience whatsoever (before getting involved in football, he’d worked as a headteacher).

Knighton stayed in charge for an incredible amount of time - even after relegation back down to Division Three. He kept himself in the dugout for the first four months of the following season, before eventually handing over the reins to the always level-headed Nigel Pearson. It took that famous last-minute goal by goalkeeper Jimmy Glass to stop Carlisle slipping out of the Football League.  

Read: Michael Knighton contacted FFT to give us his own side of the Manchester United tale

8. Steve Kean to Blackburn

Rovers finished 15th in that first season, but were relegated the following year after 11 years in the top flight

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce had plenty of reasons to be cheerful when the club were bought by Indian company Venky’s in 2010 - investment, stability and lots of free chicken. Things went south quicker than you can down a pint of wine, though, and a few months into the season Allardyce was replaced by his relatively unknown assistant Steve Kean.

Kean’s playing career had been limited and he had little managerial experience, although the Scot had spent time as Chris Coleman’s assistant at Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry. Initially, he took over as caretaker manager in December 2010, but in January 2011 he was offered a two-year contract - a controversial deal, as Kean’s agent had played a role in advising Venky’s on the takeover. He signed another new deal in November 2011, despite a dismal record that made him Blackburn’s second-worst manager of all time in terms of win percentage (still ahead of Paul Ince, though).

Blackburn finished 15th in that first season, but were relegated the following year after 11 years in the top flight. Kean left the club in 2012 and went on to steer Brunei DPMM to glory in the Singapore League Cup.

9. Avram Grant to Chelsea

Not many on these shores had heard of Avram Grant, who replaced Jose Mourinho at Chelsea looking like he’d literally been unearthed from somewhere. Lifeless pallor of a corpse aside, Grant’s spell at Stamford Bridge actually went pretty well. Unlike many on this list, he actually had some managerial experience - although exclusively with Israeli clubs and the national team - and had been working as a director of football in west London until Mourinho’s departure.

He was also a close personal friend of Roman Abramovich, but the players weren’t particularly happy with him. Some criticised Grant’s coaching methods as being “25 years behind the times”.

Still, he steered the Blues to second place in the league, and to both the League Cup and the Champions League final Grant, indeed, was only a John Terry slip away from becoming the man to lead Chelsea to European club football's top prize.

In the end that honour went to Roberto Di Matteo, which just goes to show that you never can tell how a managerial appointment is going to work out. Unless the owner puts himself in charge, that is.

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