Mad managerial sackings
Managerial sackings are a regular occurrence these days, but for the most part the formula remains frustratingly prosaic. A poor run of results is followed by a dreaded vote of confidence, which tends to precede a statement being published on the club’s official website – complete with a picture of a corner flag – explaining that the coach in question has vacated his post.
Occasionally, though, bosses are dispensed of for entirely different reasons or by entirely different methods. In this slideshow, we pick out the 26 maddest managerial sackings of all time.
Illustration: Martin Bowyer
Winning isn’t everything
Still the youngest ever European Cup-winning manager, at 36, Jose Villalonga lifted Ol’ Big Ears with Real Madrid in 1956 and 1957. Yet winning the first two editions of the tournament, plus two La Liga titles, still wasn’t enough.
The seeds of Villalonga’s demise were sown in the first round of his 1956-57 European Cup triumph. With Madrid trailing to Rapid Vienna, president Santiago Bernabeu (pictured) furiously told the players at half-time he wanted to see “more balls out on the field”, painful as that sounds. Alfredo Di Stefano duly delivered, but only by ignoring his manager’s tactical instructions.
Villalonga, undermined, was gone six months hence amid domestic and continental glory. He later led Atletico to derby wins in consecutive Copa del Rey finals and guided Spain to glory at Euro 64.
Daum’d if you do…
In 2000, Chistoph Daum entered into an agreement with the German FA to succeed caretaker boss Rudi Voller as the next main man for die Mannschaft. Inconveniently, the German tabloids now lurked, claiming Daum had been taking part in cocaine-fuelled orgies. He submitted some hair for drug testing, only for the results to come back positive – upon which Daum denied the hairs were his.
Facing jail time, he eventually fessed up and lost the job he hadn’t even started. Voller stayed on as Germany boss instead, taking them to the 2002 World Cup Final.
We need to talk about Nigel
Hangleton Rangers’ Under-10s manager Dave Kinsell had a problem. In March 2009, he needed cash for a new training kit, so asked the local Sussex community for help.
Step forward, South East MEP – and UKIP knight in shining armour – Nigel Farage, who donated £150. The future Brexit crusader’s name was then splashed across the front of the shirts. Ruling the gift was political, not personal, Hangleton sacked Kinsell – whose son played for the team – for ‘contravening club policies’.
“It’s so unfair,” sighed Kinsell, who joined his local UKIP branch the following week. “I love the kids and we’ve been doing really well. All I wanted to do was get the team a new training kit and I’ve sponsored them in the past to pay for kit, goals and all sorts of things.”
“There’s one more thing before you go…”
It’s no fun losing your job – unless you’re an investment banker whose pay-off is enough to finance your personal choice of a massive house, Caribbean (preferably tax-haven) island or enough weapons to stage a coup d’état.
When the P45 hits us mere mortals, we head straight for the stationery cupboard, then the exit door. However, but when Plymouth gave him the heave-ho immediately after a loss on New Year's Day 2013, Carl Fletcher still had to perform his post-match press duties.
“[Plymouth owner] James Brent has just done it, and that’s my last game today, so that’s me got the sack,” lamented the former Argyle midfielder. He then broke down in tears.
“But it’s my birthday”
If you’re anything like FourFourTwo, you stopped celebrating growing another year closer to death some time ago. But even if birthdays aren't your thing, it can't be nice to have the occasion marked with the delivery not of a card from Aunt Mildred but a P45 from the chairman.
Spare a thought, then, for Trevor Francis, who was sacked as Crystal Palace boss on the day he turned 49 in April 2003. “He just sat there quietly and said, ‘But it’s my birthday,’” recounted former Eagles chairman Simon Jordan in his autobiography. “I said, ‘Many happy returns, Trev’, and handed him his P45.”
“You’re sacked — enjoy the promotion”
Jackie McNamara joined York in November 2015, but a rotten run of form resulted in the Minstermen’s relegation. The following October in the National League, a 6-1 humping at rock-bottom Guiseley left York languishing in 20th place. It was agreed that McNamara had to go, but he stayed on as the caretaker boss while a new man was located.
When Gary Mills was appointed, things got weird: instead of being told to pack his satchel, McNamara was actually promoted – to chief executive.
“Jackie will focus on all operational aspects of the club with specific attention paid to the development of a communication strategy, administration management, the academy, the foundation and commerciality,” read a statement.
The ultimate post-promotion hangover
Jorn Andersen achieved a real rarity: a post-promotion sacking during pre-season. The Norwegian had seemed like a decent candidate to fill Jurgen Klopp’s boots after joining Mainz in the summer of 2008 and his team finished runners-up to Freiburg in his maiden campaign, taking the Rhinelanders into the Bundesliga.
But as they prepared for a season in the top flight, Jorn couldn’t agree with the board on how they should play. “We explained in frank terms to Anderson what the philosophy of the club was,” said Mainz president, Harald Strutz. “We found we are no longer in agreement on our views about the working partnership,” countered Jorn.
Jozo hits the bottle
We’ve all been there. The Easter holidays are fast approaching and you want to get some booze in to help you through the long weekend. So you pop into the dressing room, swipe someone’s discarded wallet and use their credit card to purchase a whopping 36 litres of Jagermeister at a cost of £450.
No? Just Precko Zagreb gaffer Jozo Gaspar (right), then. The former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder was caught on CCTV in 2013 attempting to pay for his herbal liquor with a card half-inched from the bag of a player from NK Sparta Elektra, who share their training facilities with Precko.
Already alerted to his masterplan when the card was declined at the till, police arrested Gaspar later that afternoon when he tried to score another 10 litres at a second shop. His dismissal followed soon after.
Donald Trump be warned: hell hath no fury like a Kim Jong-un scorned. Even single-celled amoeba expected North Korea to lose all three group-stage games at the 2010 World Cup – against Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast – yet manager Kim Jong-hun’s efforts still weren’t enough for the heir-presumptive of ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il.
Accused of “betraying” Kim Jong-un following the 7-0 defeat by Portugal, boss Kim Jong-hun was called to a six-hour public meeting with the North Korean sports minister, during which he was shamed in front of 400 people.
Team members were invited to criticise their erstwhile coach, who was subsequently stripped of his membership of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and sentenced to hard labour at a Pyongyang construction site.
“You devil’s butthead. I’ll kill you”
Leo Grozavu is a kind of Romanian Barry Fry: a decent player in his day who’s now better known for having an especially foul mouth and volcanic temper. His manic zenith came with FC Botosani in 2015, where during a difficult spell he was recorded making the following – perhaps overly harsh – statements:
“Plamada! Cretin!” “Miron, you devil’s butthead. I’ll kill you.” “Bordeianu, your brain is empty!” “Patache, arseh**e, I’ll beat you to death, you idiot.”
Drawing the line at death threats, club owner Valeriu Iftime initially came up with the understated statement: “I have told Leo to be more upbeat,” but then dismissed him later in the campaign.
Norbert the nutter
You’ve seen the video, right? A player fronts up to an opposition boss; the manager pushes his not-insubstantial nose gently into the player’s face like a kitten nudging a ball of wool; and then, face contorted with indignation, the manager falls to the floor, where he’s soon joined by his quick-thinking adversary.
Koln’s Albert Streit was the star of the show in December 2005, hand to brow and collapsing like a Victorian lady experiencing an attack of the vapours, but Duisburg manager Norbert Meier was later punished in accordance with the playground ruling, ‘he started it.’
Having taken Duisburg up – though they would soon follow him by going back down – Meier was given his marching orders.
Things get Iffy
Your average Premier League training ground’s perfect lawns were a far cry from what was presented to new Ethiopia boss Iffy Onuora during a March 2011 training camp.
“We came to this clear area and they said: ‘This is it’,” the former Huddersfield, Swindon and Gillingham forward recalled. “I looked and thought: ‘Am I the only one who can see that herd of cows in the middle of the pitch?’ We had to clear the cows off before we could start training – it was barmy.”
When the Walias were beaten 4-0 by Nigeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Iffy was given the heave-ho for his bovine comments. “I’m not aware of a single pitch the team trains in where you can find cows,” countered Ethiopian FA spokesman Melaku Ayele.
“Do you want chips with that?”
If they’re going to sack a manager face to face, most chairmen like to do so in private – call him to the office and deliver the news away from prying eyes. Not at Scottish lower-league outfit Cowdenbeath, where Peter Cormack (left) was given his marching orders after being summoned to a roadside burger van near the Forth Bridge.
Cormack had been at the club for only 10 days and not taken charge of a single Blue Brazil fixture, reportedly upsetting his players by trying to change too much too soon.
"A football equivalent of a coup d’état took place and I am at a loss how they can justify getting rid of me," he complained after his exit in 2000. “I’ve been made to look a fool.”
Live on air
If you’re one of the 449 people who watched Spain vs Nigeria on BBC Three in the 2013 Confederations Cup, your patience was rewarded at half-time.
“While we’ve been on air, Gus Poyet has been told that his contract has been terminated at Brighton & Hove Albion,” declared host Mark Chapman, looking to his left at, er, Gus Poyet. “And you found out, Gus, because a member of our production team printed off the statement and gave it to you.”
It’s fair to say the former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder looked more than a little miffed. “I think the BBC have got a great story, no?” the Uruguayan parped. “I’ve had no communication, text or phone call since I’ve been here. Nothing.”
Not hot enough for the Chilli Boys
Roger Sikhakhane had four different stints at Chippa United over three years and was sacked after every brief spell by the Chilli Boys’ board, with whom he seemed to be constantly at war.
After his second axing, he even called them racists. “They weren’t happy that we were winning and tried to sabotage us,” he said. “They didn’t believe in black coaches. I was offered a job as a scout, but it’s embarrassing to go from coach to scout.”
It ended chaotically in 2015: Sikhakhane was chopped for allegedly “smelling of alcohol” – only for the club to admit they couldn’t prove it.
Rossi: shaken and stirred
Fear is a good thing for a manager to have in his armoury. Players, so the theory goes, will run further and try harder if they’re scared of the coach’s reaction to an insipid display. Fiorentina boss Delio Rossi, however, eschewed such psychological warfare for, er, actual warfare, with the Viola 2-0 down just 32 minutes into a meaningless Serie A game against already-relegated Novara in May 2012.
Delio didn’t take too kindly to ex-Partizan playmaker Adem Ljajic sarcastically applauding him after being substituted, so the irate Italian smacked Ljajic round the chops and a knockout right hook was prevented only by the gaffer’s quick-thinking assistants. He was sacked the next day.
Schumacher gets his comeuppance
What goes around, comes around. Harald Schumacher is forever associated with his horrific foul on Patrick Battiston in West Germany’s World Cup semi-final win against France in 1982. So, the people who that year voted ‘Toni’ as the most hated man in France – just ahead of Hitler – no doubt enjoyed seeing him get fired from his only role in management midway through a match.
Fortuna Koln’s Jean Loring proved to be the impatient boss in 1999, although few would criticise a chairman who had invested to the point of insolvency from 1967 to 2001 and once circumvented a stadium ban by going dressed as Santa.
Fortuna were 2-0 down to Waldhof Mannheim when Löring called Schumacher a “w***er” and sacked him, before presiding over the second half of a 5-1 loss.
Sheridan lets rip
There was a certain jazz scat poetry to the rant at a referee that led to John Sheridan’s sacking as Notts County manager in December 2016. “You’re a f***ing disgrace, you’re f***ing useless, you’ve not f***ing got anything right today, you should be f***ing ashamed and you’re f***ing s***,” was his opening salvo to match official Eddie Ilderton.
He moved on to make the extraordinary claim: “My kids aren’t going to get any f***ing Christmas presents because of you,” before aiming some more expletives at the fourth official. “You really are a c***,” he told Matthew Donohue. “I’m gonna knock you out, you c***.”
This gloriously despicable verbal volley was given as the reason for the Lancastrian’s exit by the Magpies’ chairman, after a run of nine straight losses.
Taking it out on the dugout
Sorin Cartu is a well-respected ex-Romania international with a lengthy CV in football management, but for many he’s best remembered for his moment of madness while boss of Romanian champions CFR Cluj.
Deeply vexed to be trailing 1-0 to Basel in a 2010 Champions League clash, Cartu performed some enthusiastic venting on the perspex side panel of the Swiss club’s dugout. Resembling a crazy drunk, he was eventually pulled away by his assistant.
“The values and image of our club cannot be associated with the actions of coach Cartu, and that’s why we’ve decided to part ways,” said the club’s board as they axed him the next day.
A load of codswallop
David Stride took charge of Southern League Division One South & West side Bashley during 2015-16’s pre-season. It wasn’t going well for the New Forest-based cloggers: they’d already lost four straight preparatory matches without scoring.
But after just 40 days, and two more defeats, Stride was toast. “We made a tough decision to change things around,” muttered chairman Tim Allan. Stride suspected Allan had located another boss he would prefer, Steve Riley, shortly after appointing him.
“They already had someone in mind to replace me but waited two weeks before telling me,” Stride grumbled. “I was given the guarantee I’d be left alone for a season.”
The Bulgarian boomerang
Hot-headed Tsanko Tsvetanov had a turbulent relationship with Bulgarian side Etar’s owner Feyzi Ilhanli, somehow getting the boot three times in the same season.
The first dismissal came in August 2012 after a league defeat by Beroe Stara Zagora, but he was soon reinstated following fan protests. A month later Ilhanli re-handed him his P45, but once more fan power boomeranged him back into the hot seat.
Only another month elapsed before it was finally curtains for Tsvetanov, as the chief executive accused him of being involved in match-fixing – an allegation he quickly retracted.
A brave face on Facebook
Spare a thought for former Drina Zvornik gaffer Vladica Petrovic, who logged onto Facebook one September day in 2015 expecting to watch cat memes, and instead found out that the Bosnian outfit had announced his departure on their official page.
Petrovic’s reaction was very dignified, mind. Instead of bombarding the page with curses and thumb-down emojis, he replied: “Thanks for the notice”, before liking a comment from a fan saying: “About time”. It sent him viral in Eastern Europe.
"We'll beat them... whoever they are"
Johnny Cochrane managed Reading in the loosest sense of the word. “Just before a game,” revealed one player, “this man wearing a bowler hat, smoking a cigar and drinking whisky would pop his head around the dressing room door and ask, ‘Who are we playing today?’ We’d all chorus, ‘Arsenal, boss.’ Johnny would just say, ‘Oh, we’ll p*** that lot’, before shutting the door and leaving us to it.”
Hired in 1939, Cochrane lasted 13 days. A league and FA Cup winner with Sunderland, Cochrane was given a three-year contract worth £1,000 a year by the Royals, only to be ousted £35 into that for, well, guess. His fortnight’s tenure brought one victory, four defeats and repeated absences due to ‘flu’.
Turbocharged managerial merry-go-round
Even by the standards of itinerant Brazilian bosses, it has been a rough few seasons for poor old Lisca. March 2016: given the elbow by Ceara. September 2016: sacked by Joinville. December 2016: sacked by Internacional, after a first relegation in the club’s 108-year history. September 2017: sacked by Parana, following some fisticuffs with an assistant. December 2017: out at Criciuma after four games. April 2019: fired by Ceara.
His exit from Parana was the most noteworthy, with Lisca annoyed by the way the press reported his promise to don the club’s mascot suit and jump in the river should the club be promoted.
“Cihan from the boardroom is on line one — Cihan…?”
The football phone-in is a curious business – endless litres of hot air about passion and commitment without anything much really being said. So, when Sakaryaspor coach Saban Yildirim agreed to go on the Turkish equivalent of 606 in 2011, he probably expected to merely fend off some angry rants from supporters, at worst.
Instead, his afternoon proved fateful as the name of board member Cihan Yildiran popped up on the switchboard. And like a real-life episode of The Apprentice, Cihan bellowed: “Saban humiliated the club, so he is removed from his position immediately!” Ouch.
Chichester City were 2-1 up in the second half of a Sussex Charity Cup match against local rivals Redhill in October 2010 when manager Mark Poulton’s phone rang. It was Gary Walker, one of the club’s directors, so he thought he’d better answer it – although he soon wished he hadn’t, learning that he’d been given the elbow midway through the match.
“There had been a lot going on ever since I started at Chichester and I feared it might end like this. It’s the most unprofessional and shambolic organisation I have ever been involved with. There are people there who aren’t interested in the good of the club, only in waging their own personal wars.”
Funny, Lists, Ethiopia, Brighton and Hove Albion, Gus Poyet, Delio Rossi, Fiorentina, Adem Ljajic, Chippa United, Crystal Palace, Etar, Drina Zvornik, Botoşani, Bashley, York City, Jackie McNamara, Plymouth Argyle, Christoph Daum, Germany, North Korea, Cowdenbeath, CFR Cluj, John Sheridan, Notts County, Köln, FCR Duisburg, Reading, Real Madrid, Fortuna Köln