In a time that all current trigger-happy chairmen are stuck in a persistent routine of dismissing managers at their whim, it remains remarkable—astonishing, even—that Steve Coppell remains the only man that has a realistic opportunity of achieving a hat-trick of promotions to the Premier League.
Normally with relegation the manager, more often or not, receive their P45. It’s a testament to Reading for keeping utter faith in Coppell; well the Royals would have been foolish to get rid of their most successful manager in history.
While with Crystal Palace Coppell won promotion in 1997, steering the Eagles through the playoffs for his first promotion. He then masterminded the historic Reading record-breaking season in 2005 to give the club their first taste of top-flight football for his second. Now he has the opportunity to make history once again with his current Reading team for his third.
Obviously, being constantly in the top flight would be the much greater reward but having the audacity to rebuild and supply a team that can obtain promotion time after time is a talent in itself. Losing key players then having the knowledge to replace those players with better ones is not a task for the lighthearted.
At present, Coppell is in a select group of managers that have achieved two Premier League promotions but unfortunately, some of these managers’ potential and reward have never materialised. Some of these men find it difficult to warrant a job and find it harder getting one, Reading kept faith in Coppell and that has paid dividends this term but for other clubs this has not been the case.
Bryan Robson won promotion twice with Middlesbrough in 1994-95 and 1997-98 where the directors kept much deserving faith in the ex-Manchester United captain. Ironically, he wouldn’t have to win back promotion in 97-98 if Middlesbrough had not suffered that three-point deduction for cancelling a fixture at late notice but he suffered the fate of relegation.
But as Middlesbrough have kept their top flight status, Robson hasn’t. He could have achieved a third promotion with West Brom, but he wrecked their chances with bad buys and bad form, he soon left by "mutual consent" after just eight games of which three he won.
Robson’s ill-fate spell with Sheffield United did nothing to help his cause. He has been since chucked into managerial wilderness.
Kevin Keegan had the habit of taking big clubs back to the top and he duly delivered this with Newcastle United and Manchester City in 92-93 and 01-02 respectively as they both saw a return of top flight football. He could have easily made it a third if it was not for the public demand for him to get the England job. He succeeded Glenn Hoddle back in 1999 and Fulham, whom he managed and built the foundations for, were promoted two seasons later under the guidance of Jean Tigana.
Peter Reid won promotion twice with his beloved Black Cats. Sunderland reached the top flight in 95-96 and 98-99 and Reid was so close to making it three in the 97-98 season only for Michael Gray’s saved penalty to result in Charlton Athletic winning the penalty shootout and gaining promotion, but Reid and Sunderland bounced back to win the division with a then record of 105 points. He was soon sacked and spells at Leeds United and Coventry City never promised much.
Alan Curbishley twice steered Charlton Athletic to the Premier League, one with that famous penalty shootout win against Reid’s Sunderland and one in 99-00. Curbishley will have to look for a Championship club if you were to make it three after leaving West Ham United as finding a job in the top division has been difficult. Surely, there are making takers in the Championship.
Gary Megson took West Brom back to the top league on more than one occasion; his first full season saw a defeat in the semifinal stage of the playoffs at the hands of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers, but Megson bounced back and won promotion in 01-02.
After being relegated the following season, Megson and West Brom soon returned to the Premier League for the 04-05 season with the help of newly installed Jeremy Peace’s financial prudence. Megson is currently doing a good job at Bolton, after poor spell times at Nottingham Forest and Leicester City, but doesn’t look like adding to his two promotions any time soon.
Steve Bruce took Birmingham City up twice in 01-02 and 06-07. Birmingham beat his old club Norwich City on penalties in the playoff final to win promotion in 2002 and lasted until their relegation in 2006. Bruce soon took his team back up in sluggish fashion as they finished second place to Sunderland after Derby County’s defeat against Crystal Palace in 2007.
Paul Jewell remains the last name on this list. He famously won promotion with Bradford City back in 1999 before leading Wigan Athletic to the top flight for the ever first time in their history in 2005. His third attempt with Derby County did not go quite to plan as the team struggled immensely throughout this season, Jewell was eventually replaced by Nigel Clough to postpone his search of a "hat-trick" of promotions.
This season Mick McCarthy (Wolves), Dave Jones (Cardiff) and Neil Warnock (Crystal Palace) all look to join this select group of men that have achieved promotion twice.
Nevertheless, it leaves Steve Coppell to become the first manager who can claim a third promotion to the promised land. No mean feat indeed.