If at first you don't succeed...
Thierry Henry’s dream job quickly turned into a nightmare. Handed the reins by boyhood team Monaco in October, the Arsenal legend was unable to turn the ailing club’s fortunes around in his first managerial role. With Les Monégasques mired in relegation trouble, Henry was sacked last month.
There’s hope for Titi yet, though – in this slideshow we pick out 10 managers who went on to enjoy success despite disappointing maiden stints in the dugout.
Jose Mourinho (Benfica)
Mourinho shot to European fame with his exploits at Porto in the early-2000s, winning two league titles, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League to earn himself a move to recently moneyed Chelsea.
That wasn’t the self-proclaimed Special One’s first job at one of Portugal’s big three clubs, however; back in 2000 Benfica placed their faith in the former Barcelona translator-cum-coach after Jupp Heynckes’ exit – but he didn’t last long. The Eagles elected a new president just nine games into Mourinho’s tenure, at which point the brash Portuguese demanded a contract extension. He didn’t get one, and resigned in protest.
Rafael Benitez (Real Vallodolid)
Benitez was sacked by Valladolid (bottom with two wins from 23 games and nine points adrift of safety, though they’d duly escape once he’d left), fired by second-tier Osasuna (in the relegation zone with one win from nine games, though they’d duly escape once he’d left), and took Extremadura up and then down again before he decided that a gap year was in order.
Returning after a time out to rethink things, Benitez took Tenerife into the top flight and then joined Valencia – where he’d quickly win La Liga, the UEFA Cup and La Liga again, before lifting the Champions League with Liverpool.
Bobby Robson (Fulham)
Robson’s second managerial role was the one that made him: 13 years with Ipswich brought title challenges, major trophies and eventually the England job. He started at Fulham, though, where he’d played for 11 years.
As their manager, he didn’t last 11 months. Fulham were 21st with games in hand when Robson arrived in January 1968. They finished 22nd. He was sacked in November with the Cottagers labouring in Division Two and, worse, he learned of the news from a headline glimpsed outside Putney station. Savage.
Antonio Conte (Arezzo)
Conte is one of Italy’s leading managers these days, having guided the national team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and won four league titles with Juventus and Chelsea, but his managerial career got off to an underwhelming start at Arezzo.
The former midfielder was sacked by the Serie B side after just three months at the helm in 2006, with Arezzo second-bottom of the second tier having failed to win any of their first eight matches. In true Italian fashion, Conte was reinstated later that season but was unable to prevent the Tuscans dropping out of the division on the final day.
Arsene Wenger (Nancy)
More than a decade before he was winning Premier League titles and FA Cups with Arsenal, Wenger failed in his first managerial mission. Placed in charge of Nancy in 1984 following backroom coaching stints at Strasbourg and Cannes, Le Professeur started well enough with a 12th-place Ligue 1 finish in his debut campaign – but things went south in 1985/86.
Nancy did ultimately avoid the drop that year, albeit only by narrowly beating Mulhouse in a relegation play-off. There was no winner-takes-all encounter to save them the following season, though: Wenger’s side finished 19th and were demoted to Ligue 2, leading to the Frenchman’s exit by mutual consent.
Diego Simeone (Racing)
Today’s Atletico Madrid boss retired from playing in 2006 and became a manager several seconds later. Aged 35, Simeone hung up his boots at Racing in his native Argentina to coach them up the table – or try to, at least. Racing were 19th from 20 when Simeone began a quarter of the way through Argentina’s Clausura season; he guided them triumphantly to 18th. Which is better, to be fair.
After this underwhelming start, Simeone switched to Estudiantes and promptly guided them to a first league title in 23 years. You could say he was RACING to the top. But you probably shouldn’t.
Roberto Mancini (Fiorentina)
The current Italy boss started life on the managerial ladder at Fiorentina, cutting short his playing career and a loan spell at Leicester to take charge of the Tuscan outfit.
Mancini still took to the field on occasion, in part because La Viola were hamstrung by financial troubles, but the job proved more trouble than it was worth: the sometime striker went unpaid and had to deal with death threats from fans who were angered by the sales of Rui Costa and Francesco Toldo. Mancini did a decent job in the circumstances and even won the Coppa Italia in 2002, but he departed with Fiorentina on their way to Serie B.
Vittorio Pozzo (Italy)
Pozzo was a huge influence on calcio, coaching Italy to consecutive World Cup triumphs in 1934 and 1938, helping to found Torino and leading a tactical revolution in Europe – but his first spell managing the Azzurri didn’t go too well.
At the 1912 Olympics, Italy’s tournament debut, Pozzo’s men lost their only match in extra time to Finland, who would later lose 9-0 to the Dutch. Pozzo resigned – P1, L1 – but thankfully he had another bash later.
Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid Castilla)
In Spain’s third tier, where mega-rich B teams rub shoulders with village sides, Zidane looked out of the place on the touchline with his World Cup and Champions League winners’ medals. But his time managing Real Madrid Castilla was merely an intermission between continental stardom as a player and a coach.
Zidane lost five of his first six matches as manager (not that he really was manager; not having his UEFA Pro Licence, he was technically technical director). The last of those was a 3-0 defeat at home to Amorebieta.
Things picked up with a more direct style, but then he was banned for three months because of that pesky ‘not meant to be managing without a licence’ rule. In Zidane’s only full season, Castilla finished sixth, outside of the play-offs.
Harry Redknapp (Bournemouth)
OK, we’re stretching the definition of ‘great’ managers to breaking point by including Redknapp, but it’d be remiss of us not to mention that the future FA Cup and Intertoto winner lost 9-0 on his managerial debut.
In 1982, Redknapp, who’d previously been a player-coach in the US, entered management as Bournemouth’s caretaker and watched aghast as Lincoln savaged his Cherries a week before Christmas. Players blamed the icy surface but Redknapp, already gathering material for his future career as an after-dinner speaker, offered a different excuse: Lincoln’s seventh goal was offside.
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