How many of English football's first 10 managerial imports do you remember?
6. Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea)
- February 12, 1998 to September 12, 2000
Vialli’s appointment by Chelsea followed the pattern of his predecessor’s: just as Glenn Hoddle signed Ruud Gullit on a free transfer and was then replaced by him as a first-time player-manager, so Gullit watched his own freebie take over as a newbie gaffer.
The Dutchman’s swift exit in February 1998 may well have been hastened by Cuddly Ken Bates’s keenness to promote from within again, and Vialli – who had been somewhat ostracised by the prickly Gullit – continued the Dutchman’s work. Having taken over with Chelsea in the semis of the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup, he won both competitions, becoming at a shade under 34 the youngest gaffer to win a UEFA trophy (Andre Villas-Boas later trumped him).
In 1999 Vialli’s Chelsea finished just four points off champions Manchester United and in 2000 they reached the Champions League quarter-final, losing after extra-time to Barcelona, winning the FA Cup as a consolation. But by mid-September Vialli was on his way, having ostracised key players – just like his predecessor.
7. Gerard Houllier (Liverpool, Aston Villa)
- Liverpool: July 1, 1998 to May 24, 2004
- Aston Villa: September 8, 2010 to June 1, 2011
Perhaps previous footballing imports had been more than mere economic migrants, but few can have been as immersed as Houllier. Having studied English at university, he spent a year at a comprehensive school in Liverpool, attending an Anfield match in late 1969 and becoming smitten. Three decades later, he was in the dugout.
The initial joint arrangement with club legend Roy Evans reflected the club’s incompatible desires for continuity and revolution. Evans was soon gone and the former France manager set to business, overhauling the underachieving squad and underwhelming training facilities. It took a while but Liverpool enjoyed a cup treble in 2001, lifting the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.
That October, Houllier was rushed from Anfield to hospital for an emergency heart op. Although he returned five months later and helped guide Liverpool to a second-placed finish, the story thereafter was marred by poor finishes and failed signings; in summer 2004 he was replaced by another studious European in Rafa Benitez. Houllier had another crack at the Premier League in 2010/11 with Aston Villa, whose fans must now regard the subsequent ninth-placed finish as a very long time ago indeed.
8. Egil Olsen (Wimbledon)
- June 9, 1999 to May 1, 2000
You had to go some distance at Wimbledon to be seen as odd, but Olsen managed to freak out the Crazy Gang. The appointment made sense: he’d overachieved with Norway, reaching two successive World Cups and second in the FIFA rankings. A sports-science buff, he was supposed to maximise the Dons’ chances of getting back up to the business end of the top flight.
Olsen was an odd type. He’s remembered for always wearing wellies, which could be a quaint affectation (and sparked replica sales in the club shop), but he was also a Marxist who’d memorised the heights of mountains and would run after members of the public to berate them for smoking.
Those eccentricities might be tolerated if his football worked, but it didn’t. The players didn’t understand his jargon and he didn’t understand their booze-and-jokes culture. The Norwegian refused to scout opponents, given that he wouldn’t change anyway. And he wanted to implement zonal marking, but his defenders simply couldn’t cope. In late April, they went to relegation rivals Bradford and lost 3-0, two of the goals being headers. After an eighth straight defeat, the players had a post-match punch-up and Olsen was on his way; so were Wimbledon, relegated a fortnight later.
9. Jean Tigana (Fulham)
- July 1, 2000 to April 17, 2003
Tigana joined a club in a rush, Mohamed Al-Fayed bankrolling his pledge to go from fourth tier to top division with Fulham in five years. Tigana completed that job in style by May 2001, taking them into the top tier with 101 points.
The Cottagers settled nicely, especially considering Al-Fayed’s pre-season boast that they would win the league title. That was never on the cards, but they finished 13th and reached the FA Cup semis. It helped that Al-Fayed’s cash (and Fulham’s London location) helped lure star players like Edwin van der Sar, although money wasn’t everything: record signing Steve Marlet looked hopelessly overpriced at £11.5 million (S$20.5m).
Indeed, it was Marlet’s pricetag and Al-Fayed’s dissatisfaction that helped end Tigana’s reign. He was sacked in the April of his second top-flight season with the Cottagers in lower mid-table; Al-Fayed initially refused to pay the final instalment of Marlet’s fee and sued Tigana – but not for the first time, the courts found against the Egyptian.
10. Claudio Ranieri (Chelsea, Leicester)
- Chelsea: September 18, 2000 to May 31, 2004
- Leicester: July 13, 2015 to date
After Glenn Hoddle, Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea ran out of managerial newbies and switched tack to someone who’d managed seven clubs in 14 seasons. It didn’t go down well: fans chanted Vialli’s name and Ranieri’s halting English led to the nickname ‘Clownio’.
His Chelsea rotations led to another disparaging tag of Tinkerman, but he signed Frank Lampard and nurtured John Terry. He also got Chelsea into the Champions League, encouraging the 2003 Roman Abramovich takeover which numbered his days. Finishing second to Arsenal’s Invincibles wasn’t good enough, and despite a popular campaign to save him he was sacked: nice guys don’t come first.
Or do they? After taking Juventus to third, and Roma and Monaco to second, the Italian was tempted back to England by Leicester. In an unfolding season-long fairytale to melt the hardest heart, he benevolently led his team to the title amid a flurry of lovably avuncular behaviour, media-satiating soundbites and no little managerial savoir-faire.