Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We salute... Caretaker managers

In our series saluting the neglected elements that make-up the ecelectic world of football, Nobes pays tribute to the mysterious figures known as caretaker managers.

All aboard the football manager cycle. New manager gets appointed with fanfare about how he is the man to lead the club to glory. Said manager gets sacked less than two years later after being given in sufficient time and resources to lead said club to glory. New manager gets appointed with fanfare...

Cynical? Possibly, but also not fully complete because often, somewhere in the middle, between the fallen hero and new hope, is the caretaker manager. A man, usually already at the club, who takes over the reins at short notice.

He then usually guides the team to a few good results, sometimes leading to him being given the job permanently in a fanfare... So, with Newcastle currently storming the Championship under caretaker Chris Hughton, it's time to give our own fanfare to some of football's most famous stand-in men.

Tony Parkes

Somewhere in a dictionary out there, someplace in the football lexicon, the name Tony Parkes appears next to the word 'caretaker'.

Indeed, part of you wants to believe such is his love of caretaking that, during his break from football, he's currently looking after a High School somewhere in the Lancashire area. Although according to Wikipedia, he's actually "actively pursuing his keen interest in caravanning."

Still, on no fewer than six occasions he stepped into the breach at Blackburn, and most recently took over at Blackpool last season after Simon Grayson left for Leeds.

Resolute defensive displays saw the Seasiders to safety and, despite being offered a permanent deal, he couldn't agree personal terms with the club. Perhaps, like any man, he was just afraid of long-term committment.

Nigel Pearson

Long before his success at Leicester City, Pearson was a caretaker manager extraordinaire.

His first spell came at Carlisle in 1999 where, after taking over from chairman/manager/bonkers Michael Knighton, he steered the club to League Two safety courtesy of a last minute goal from keeper Jimmy Glass. He left the club shortly afterwards.

Seven years later, he enjoyed a few profitable games as caretaker at West Brom, then he twice took over at Newcastle at short notice after the departures of Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce.

Then, in 2008 he took over at struggling Southampton and, despite dramatically saving them from the drop on the final day, wasn't offered the job on a permanent basis. Relegated Leicester and Milan Mandaric came calling and his days as a humble caretaker were over.

Gerry Murphy

He looks like a budding EastEnders actor, some psycho Mitchell uncle most probably. In fact, he even looks like he's indicating which part of his body he's going to headbutt you with - his forehead.

However, Huddersfield's long-serving Irishman is another caretaker manager supreme. His record of just six defeats from 18 games during three spells as Town caretaker would be respectable for any permanent manager.

Most recently brought the Terriers' campaign alive last season after a poor start under Stan Ternent. Now retired... probably until Huddersfield sack Lee Clark.

Steve Kember

I like to imagine, at some point, Tony Parkes and Steve Kember have had some kind of 'I'm a better caretaker manager than you' fued. Naturally, it was only a temporary thing.

However, if one man can rival Parkes, then Kember can. The Crystal Palace legend's first taste of caretaker management was in 1981, when he saved the club from relegation.

Then in 2001, with Palace staring the drop in the face, he took over for the final two games, secured all six points, and saved them from League One.

He wasn't given the full-time job though, Steve Bruce took over, before shortly leaving for Birmingham and leaving Kember in temporary charge a third time. And then he took over temporarily when Bruce's replacement Trevor Francis also departed.

Sadly, having finally been given the job himself in 2003, a good start soon gave way to a slide down the league and he was sacked with the club struggling towards the bottom.

Most recently seen salivating over Palace's 4-0 drubbing against Scunthorpe and the growing pressure on Eagles boss Neil Warnock. *

Kelham O'Hanlon

Strange choice? Yes. Who? Yes, I'll grant you that one as well. O'Hanlon's brief and unsuccessful caretaker manager cameo was in 2002 when David Moyes left Preston for Everton. The North End assistant stepped up to the mark to keep their play-off push going.

However, O'Hanlon only really gets onto this list for his unique motivational tactics. After a 2-1 defeat to struggling Barnsley, he claimed that Preston's top six ambitions were in the laps of the God. "The big man is looking down on us and he wants us to get in there," he said, "That's what I asked him in church yesterday."

If only he'd known when it came to his hopes of reaching the play-offs and getting the job permanently, he didn't have a prayer. Recently left his position as a coach at Barnsley.

Malcolm Crosby

Crosby holds the record for the longest stint as a caretaker manager during his time at Sunderland in the early '90s. Assistant at Roker Park, he took over when Denis Smith was sacked as boss in December '91, and was in temporary charge for four months.

During his temporary stewardship, Crosby (left, far right) led the Wearsiders to the FA Cup final, the first time a side outside the top division had reached the final since 1980. He was duly given the full time job and Sunderland lost to Liverpool at Wembley.

However, after a disappointing league campaign he was sacked in January 1993 after a game at Tranmere was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and the pools panel marked it down as a home win. Blame it on the weatherman. Now helping out at as a coach at managerless Northampton Town.

Crosby's tale is the classic caretaker manager story. So often they take over with a club at its lowest point, yet inspire a turnaround in fortunes that leads to them being given the job permanently. However, rarely does this work out.

The caretaker is a specialist position, requiring great motivational abilities and a grounded personality. No getting carried away and thinking your destined to get
full time gig in this role.

Take Soccer AM/MW's advice Newcastle, keep your caretaker caretaking, your players on their toes, and Premier League football next season will be a shoo-in.

Caretaker managers - Soccer AM/MW salutes you!

May not be true

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