With the firing/resignation of Slaven Bilic, we’ve seen another case of a club legend (ok that term is used loosely in some cases) being appointed as manager of a football club, and ultimately fired in difficult circumstances.
As a Spurs fan, and with a Liverpool fan running this blog, we’re all too familiar with this concept. The first act of new chairman Daniel Levy in 2001 was to replace George Graham with Glenn Hoddle, while Kenny Dalglish has left Liverpool on two occasions after two spells as manager at Anfield.
We can throw any number of other managers in there who have served as a successful player and less successful manager: Kevin Keegan, Brian Gunn, Ossie Ardiles, Graeme Souness (apart from the Rangers days of course) and likely more.
In fact the one reason I believe that Arsene Wenger has persisted is that the decent ‘Arsenal graduate’ manager has not emerged to succeed him. David O’Leary would have been the most likely contender during his excellent spell at Leeds United, but the legacy of mismanagement of funds sadly lies with ‘spider’.
The main problem with hiring a legend as your manager is that the fans will never turn on them. Would the Man United fans have turned on Ryan Giggs had he taken the job full time, or Alan Shearer at Newcastle? No of course not, and that makes the chairman’s job so much harder as that emotional attachment is there for the man from his playing days and it carries on until his management days. The fans will always sing their name, and often carry the same songs over from playing to managing.
What’s the solution then, always hire someone the fans hate because that way thinhgs can only get better? See George Graham at Spurs as an example of an ambivalent appointment resulting in a league cup win in 1999. Why did Leicester City opt for Claude Puel rather than appoint Steve Walsh or Neil Lennon as manager? Probably the same reason.
Of course it isn’t always a failure, the aforementioned George Graham was a tremendous success as manager of Arsenal and was a double winning player in 1971.