From Atkinson to Magath: 15 Years of Desperate Late-Season Appointments

BR-UK StaffFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 21, 2014

From Atkinson to Magath: 15 Years of Desperate Late-Season Appointments

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    Last week Fulham made the swift and decisive move to bring in Felix Magath as the club's new manager, hoping the German's experience of managing at the likes of Bayern Munich and Schalke would be enough to steer the Cottagers to Premier League survival.

    Magath has just 12 games to work his magic, telling the Guardian that he is targeting six wins in that period. He also noted:

    The most important thing for me is to begin to work as fast as we can. 

    We have to work, to stay together and fight against relegation. That is all [we have to do] in the next few weeks. I have worked with some clubs who were on the bottom and I was never relegated. I am sure we will avoid relegation.

    I don't care about the past and I have no influence in the past. I have seen where we are in the table and I have to see where it can be improved. I don't care about other managers, I have my way of playing.

    Magath is not the first manager in Premier League history to brought in to save a seemingly sinking ship. Here, we take a look at others who have taken on a similar challenge...

Roy Hodgson, Fulham (2007-08)

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    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Magath is not the first manager to be parachuted into Craven Cottage in a bold—some might say desperate—attempt to ensure the club avoids relegation.

    Back in the 2007-08 season that task fell upon Roy Hodgson, who was turned to after Lawrie Sanchez had overseen just two wins from the club’s first 18 matches of the season.

    Hodgson arrived in December and, despite signing Brede Hangeland in the January transfer window, initially only picked up nine points from his first 13 games—seemingly resigning the club to relegation.

    Yet, in a remarkable turnaround, Fulham beat Manchester City, Birmingham City and Portsmouth in the final three games of the season to stay up on goal difference.

    "We left it late and had a mountain to climb in the last two months," Hodgson told reporters afterwards, per the Independent. "I'm delighted for everyone at the club."



Nigel Adkins, Reading (2012-13)

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    Magath is the most recent managerial appointment of the current season, but even he might not be the last. Last season Nigel Adkins was appointed Reading boss at the end of March, although the Royals were unable to stay up.

    While it could be suggested that Adkins did not have enough time to fashion survival following Brian McDermott’s dismissal, few would argue that Reading had the quality required to remain in the Premier League.

    In contrast, Southampton, who had dismissed Adkins despite a solid start to the season to bring in Mauricio Pochettino, eventually finished 14th in the season—going from strength-to-strength a season later.


Paolo Di Canio, Sunderland (2012-13)

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    Any suggestion that Adkins could have saved Reading had he been given more time was perhaps undermined by the example of Sunderland, who stayed up under Paolo Di Canio—who was appointed three days after Adkins.

    Admittedly, Sunderland were eight points better off than Reading at that point, but they were still only one point above the relegation zone. Di Canio’s methods were controversial but ultimately got the job done—the Black Cats staying up by three points.

    Di Canio’s abrasive style did not seem to be suited to long-term management, however, and he himself was fired shortly into the 2013-14 campaign.



Terry Connor, Wolves (2011-12)

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    A season prior to that, Wolves were in Sunderland’s situation—desperately trying to stay up and, sitting 18th in the table, with hope still burning brightly.

    Nevertheless, the club’s board thought a change was necessary in order to survive—dismissing Mick McCarthy shortly before the end of February. Initially, it seemed to club would appoint an experienced manager (Alan Curbishley was strongly linked), but ultimately they turned to McCarthy’s assistant, Terry Connor.

    The move seemed to suggest that Wolves had not thought things through properly—might they not just as well have stuck with McCarthy than promote his assistant?—and ultimately proved to be a failed gamble, as the club picked up just four points from the final 13 games to finish rock bottom.



Roy Hodgson, West Brom (2010-11)

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    Three seasons after stepping in to save Fulham, Roy Hodgson was called upon to perform a similar trick (albeit in less dire circumstances) with West Brom.

    Hodgson had gone on to be a big success at Fulham, earning him a switch to Liverpool that had not gone quite as well. He had soon parted company with the Reds, making him available just as the 2011-12 season entered its second half.

    That put him squarely in the sights of West Brom, who had pulled the trigger on Roberto Di Matteo as the club sat outside the relegation zone only on goal difference. They appointed Hodgson and the decision was soon vindicated—the Baggies picking up 21 points from their final 13 games to eventually finish 11th.



Iain Dowie, Hull City (2009-10)

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    Iain Dowie has the rare distinction of being the Premier League’s only ever "Football Management Consultant," a title he was given after Hull City infamously put then-manager Phil Brown on gardening leave in March of the 2009-10 season.

    Dowie came in and was tasked with trying to keep the Tigers in the division for a third season, but that never looked like being a realistic proposition as the club duly dropped into the Championship.

    Dowie’s consultation skills were not kept on, the club instead turning to Nigel Pearson as they prepared for life in the second tier.



Owen Coyle, Bolton (2009-10)

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    Earlier that same season, Owen Coyle left Burnley to take the manager’s job at Bolton—who were in the relegation zone at the time on goal difference, two points behind the Clarets.

    The January switch raised some eyebrows, but Coyle’s decision was ultimately proved to be correct. He kept the Trotters in the Premier League with room to spare, while his replacement at Turf Moor, Brian Laws, could not stop the slide slipping down to 18th and back to the Championship.



Alan Shearer, Newcastle United (2008-09)

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    Newcastle fans will remember Alan Shearer for many things, but those things are likely to be all his goals rather than his rather unsuccessful management spell at the club.

    With Iain Dowie as his assistant—apparently building his CV in an anticipation of "management consultant" positions to come—Shearer stepped in at the club where he was (and is) a hero for the final eight games, replacing Chris Hughton (himself a temporary boss after permanent manager Joe Kinnear had been taken ill).

    Unfortunately, however, things did not really work out for Shearer and Dowie, as Newcastle picked up just five points from their final 24, finishing a point from safety after losing to Aston Villa on the final day.



Paul Hart, Portsmouth (2008-09)

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    The experienced Hart stepped up from his role as director of youth operations to first-team manager at Portsmouth in February 2009 following the dismissal of Tony Adams.

    The Fratton Park club, with aspirations further up the league, were struggling just above the relegation zone under Adams, but with Hart taking control, results improved and the club ultimately finished 14th, seven points from the final relegation spot.

    That earned Hart the job on a permanent basis into the next season, but he would not last long as the club’s financial situation began to come to light.

    Portsmouth ended up finishing that campaign 20th, with just 19 points.



Lawrie Sanchez, Fulham (2006-07)

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    The third Fulham example on this list, then-Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez came into Craven Cottage in April 2007, following the exit of Chris Coleman.

    Sanchez had a month to keep Fulham in the top flight and did just that, winning one game and drawing another to keep the club up by a solitary point.

    That earned him the job on a permanent basis—he left international management for the Premier League’s bright lights—but before the year was out, he too would be given his P45.



Kevin Ball, Sunderland (2005-06)

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    Kevin Ball was given the dubious honour of seeing out the 2005-06 season at Sunderland after Mick McCarthy had led the club to just 10 points from their opening 28 matches.

    The Black Cats added five points from those games, improving their haul slightly, but it still went down as the worst campaign in Premier League history—until Derby topped that with 11 points two seasons later.

    In 2013, Ball was briefly caretaker for a second spell after Di Canio’s sacking.



Alain Perrin, Portsmouth (2004-05)

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    Alain Perrin came to Portsmouth in April 2005 and successfully kept the South Coast club in the top flight, maintaining a healthy separation from the relegation zone as they eventually finished six points ahead.

    Perrin could not sustain that momentum into the new campaign, however—an increasingly familiar refrain with these sort of appointments—and was sacked before the close of 2005 after winning just four of his 20 games in charge.



Eddie Gray, Leeds United (2003-04)

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    A legend of Leeds United as a player, who even went on to be player-manager, then a back-room staff member for a number of years, Gray was given the thankless task of trying to keep the financially tortured club in the Premier League in the 2003-04 season.

    It was a trick that Gray could not pull out of the bag, however, as they eventually finished six points from safety.

    They dropped to the Championship—which, as it transpired, was only to be the start of the troubles for the famous Yorkshire club. Gray, however, would not be retained to experience those further struggles.



Mick McCarthy, Sunderland (2002-03)

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    The future for Mick McCarthy would see him replaced at the business end of seasons, but back in 2003, he was the one being drafted in to try and salvage a campaign.

    Sunderland had been cut adrift under Howard Wilkinson and, in March 2003, he was replaced with McCarthy, with the club bottom of the table and seven points from safety.

    The Black Cats failed to add another point under McCarthy (they finished on 19), but he was not really blamed for the club’s relegation—and the board’s faith in him was eventually rewarded as he got Sunderland promoted back to the top flight in 2005.



Peter Reid, Leeds United (2002-03)

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    In March 2003, Reid was named interim manager of Leeds following the exit of Terry Venables and revelations surrounding the financial stability of the club.

    Reid oversaw some impressive results to finish the season—including an away win over Arsenal that ended the London side’s title bid—as the club managed to stay up, eventually finishing 15th.

    Reid’s joy was to be short-lived, however, as he would leave Elland Road before the midway point of the following campaign.



Chris Coleman, Fulham (2002-03)

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    Chris Coleman succeeded Jean Tigana as Fulham manager in April 2003 and duly steered the club to Premier League survival.

    Coleman went on to lead the club to ninth in his first full season, lasting until 2007 in a management spell that must surely be counted as a success compared with many of the knee-jerk appointments on this list.



Trevor Brooking, West Ham (2002-03)

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    As far as late-season appointments go, it is hard to compete with Trevor Brooking's appointment as caretaker manager at West Ham in 2003. 

    Brooking, a club legend who was on the board before becoming temporary manager, stepped into the breach after Glenn Roeder was diagnosed with a brain tumour with just three games remaining in the campaign.

    The Hammers' situation was dire, but two successive wins under Brooking meant the club went into the final day of the season with a chance to stay up.

    However, they could only draw with Birmingham City—condemning them to relegation despite amassing 42 points—more than good enough for survival most seasons.



Peter Shreeves, Sheffield Wednesday (1999-2000)

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    In March 2000, Sheffield Wednesday sacked Danny Wilson and appointed Peter Shreeves as caretaker manager until the end of the season.

    Only one spot off the bottom of the table at the time, Shreeves oversaw some decent performances but could not pull off the great escape—the side eventually finishing 19th with 31 points.

    Shreeves did not get the job on a permanent basis, but after the appointment of Paul Jewell failed to pan out, he was given his chance towards the end of the 2000-01 campaign—helping the Owls avoid a second successive relegation as they retained Championship status.



Terry Burton, Wimbledon (1999-2000)

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    Thought Trevor Brooking's appointment was last-gasp? Terry Burton had just two games to save Wimbledon in 2000 following the sacking of Egil Olsen.

    Burton realistically needed to win both of his final matches for the so-called "Crazy Gang" to stay up and, after beating Aston Villa at home, the Dons went into the last game of the season needing to match Bradford's result against Liverpool in order to stay up.

    Unfortunately, however, Burton and Wimbledon would end up as the casualties of one of the more remarkable final days in Premier League history—as Bradford won 2-0 at Valley Parade to condemn the London club after they had lost to Southampton.



Ron Atkinson, Nottingham Forest (1998-99)

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    Ron Atkinson was the saviour identified when Nottingham Forest, with four months remaining in the campaign, sought a replacement for Dave Bassett.

    Atkinson's tenure did not start well, as he famously headed for the wrong dugout in his home meeting with Arsenal. He overcame that embarrassment but could not get his team to produce the results required and Forest ended up somewhat cut adrift at the bottom of the final standings.

    It remains Atkinson's last managerial appointment.