Great Players and Poor Managers.

Another Great Player. But Not A Manager?

Leeds United v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship
Leeds United v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship / George Wood/GettyImages
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Wayne Rooney has been binned by Birmingham. The news of this switcheroo would have come as a complete surprise to people who live in caves. The rest of us were merely hanging around for the bus under which Wayne was to be thrown. Football has changed much over the years, but the age-old chimera of football clubs appointing former great players in an attempt to have them sprinkle some stardust over the team’s dressing room is a long and chequered one. Car crashes abound. Diego Maradona is routinely flouted as the greatest player ever, but as much of a playing genius he may have been, he proved an absolute disaster after his appointment to the Argentinian hot set. Indeed his reign oversaw one of the country’s worst-ever results in a bewildering 6-1 loss to the mighty Bolivia!! A loss that did much to dent his stature as a true legend of the game in that part of the world.

The 2010 World Cup finals proved to be every bit as anticlimactic where Maradona's Argentina navigated their way out of their group only to be taken to the Waschsalon by a four-nill hammering at the hands of the Germans in the knockout stage. The bus had left the depot.

Time goes quickly, and It is getting on for eleven years since Sky News's two-footed pundit, Roy Keane was sacked from his last managerial job at Ipswich Town. Shortly before that, Keane was jettisoned by Sunderland where it was reported that the playing staff had never enjoyed such wild celebrations! At one point Keane became linked with the prospect of managing Azerbaijan. This never transpired, but it was a damning signpost as to the lowly depths to which his managerial career had sunk. Roy may have his supporters, but the fact remains that he is a divisive character, and divisive figures are usually unsuccessful when they're sat in a dugout, and therefore unattractive prospects to club owners seeking a new savior. However, this is not to ignore the fact that many elite managers are utterly ruthless. Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are testament to this, and their ruthless pursuit of a winning mentality.

But the difference between managers like them and Roy Keane is that they realize the absolute necessity to earn the respect of the players. It is the only way to create a positive environment. Keane’s tendency to throw his toys out of the pram coupled with a tunnel vision for success might make him an entertaining pundit, but it will never make him a great manager.

Bryan Robson is another player rightfully lauded as one of England's best. Regretfully, none of his stints as manager remotely possessed any of the 'Captain Fantastic' inspiration he embodied as a player, notwithstanding his first season at Middlesbrough where he won the first division and managed them to the Premier League. From then on he would shortly become another great in the under-the-bus queue. His remaining time at Middlesbrough resulted in relegation, another promotion before a string of terrible results sent him to the egress. Other clubs, particularly their owners, dizzy at the prospect of employing a legend were not remotely dissuaded.

First on the phone were Bradford City whom Robson managed to get relegated. This failure was met with another at West Bromwich Albion where he almost relegated them. From there he pitched up at Sheffield United where more disappointing results saw him leave before jumping on the nearest plane to Thailand, as you do, to take over the national team. He vacated this lofty role after just two years in charge. Robson is now kept safely at arms-length, and well away from football management by holding one of what sometimes feels like literally one of the many dozens of ambassadorial roles at Manchester United. Can any of these ambassadors play in central defense? I digress.

Rooney's more immediate contemporaries Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have faired a little better, though granted Gerrard had success at the two-club Scottish Premier League! Gerrard's recent appointment to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League is an attempt to rebuild his flagging managerial reputation after a horror show spell at Aston Villa. But despite a promising start among the sand dunes, Gerrard's new club has been struggling on the pitch of late, and at the time of writing is on the kind of winless run that could easily result in his disappearance!

Similarly, Frank Lampard hasn't set the managerial world alight, and quite frankly one wonders what it was that convinced him that he would, apart from the predictable sycophancy. At Chelsea, he was so far out of his depth that the RNLI were on speed dial! And though many supporters and pundits may have seen his throwing under the bus as harsh, the appointment of Thomas Tuchel proved what serious people in the game have always known. Serious jobs require serious people with serious experience. Tuchel was such a manager with an impressive CV, and he instantly set about realizing Chelsea's potential raising them from ninth to fourth with basically the same set of players, before adding the Champions League to the trophy cabinet following victory over Manchester City.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and there are many more on this smorgasbord of great players turned inadequate managers. Thierry Henry, Ruud Gullit, Gian Franco Zola, John Barnes, Ossie Ardilles. And further back World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore and our dearest departed Bobby Charlton and even the great Andrea Pirlo! The list is a long one. Great players all, but good managers alas no. Sadly our very own Wayne Rooney becomes the latest addition.

A man appointed when Birmingham was lying in 6th place. A blind man could see that the appointment was driven primarily by commercial considerations more than footballing ones. Any due diligence on Wayne would have surely ruled him out from day one! He barely avoided relegation at Derby County, and you would be forgiven for asking if a brief sojourn at DC United in the USA, where his team ranked last in the Eastern Conference, is really a qualifying requirement to manage a major Championship club in the UK's second biggest city? It would seem so.

This limerence will probably never die out. Why? Well, perhaps it's because there now exists a new plethora of football owners who once they take their seat in the Director's seat unfortunately are transformed into just another ultracrepidarian. But then again do any of us want this fad to ever fade? I don't for sure. And let's be honest here. How many of us have called for our clubs to appoint the latest out-of-work legend to save our season? Besides, for the neutral, the car crashes are just too riveting to give up. And finally, what could give a football fan more satisfaction than when a total legend forsakes their club to go and manage a rival only for it all to go t**s up? Sure isn't the greatest word in English football Schadenfreude!