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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taking a Shot on Number Twos

As former Reading assistant manager Kevin Dillon takes over as Aldershot Town's new boss, Nobes takes a look at previous examples of number twos stepping up to be in sole charge.

Should they remain in a coaching capacity or can some of them make the transition?

Aldershot's appointment of former Reading assistant Kevin Dillon as Gary Waddock's replacement is the latest in a long line of number twos stepping up to be managers.

Some have been more successful than others, finding the transition from coach to top dog a seamless one.

Others have struggled when the responsibility falls firmly on their shoulders and returned to just being the right hand man.

Years spent working with top English managers like Alan Pardew and Steve Coppell should serve 49-year-old Dillon well as he takes over at the Recreation Ground.

However, it's no guarantee for success, and keeping the Hampshire club punching above their weight will be no mean feat. This new Shot is one in the dark.

What about those who have been down Dillon's path in the past though? One of the most high profile number twos who tried his hand at management was Chris Hutchings.

Assistant to Paul Jewell at both Bradford and Wigan when the respective clubs won promotion to the Premier League, Hutchings took over from his mentor at both clubs when Jewell left.

However, on each occasion he struggled to replicate Jewell's success and found himself out of work within a few months of taking charge. Now he's in League One as boss of Walsall - and has done a reasonable job in the Black Country.

Another Premier League assistant who tried his hand at management was Peter Grant. Like Dillon, Grant assisted Alan Pardew, this time at West Ham and helped the club to promotion and the FA Cup final during his time at Upton Park.

However, when he dropped down to the Championship as manager of Norwich he struggled to get the Canaries competing anywhere near the top end of the division and was sacked after a year. He's now assistant to Tony Mowbray at Celtic.

Hutchings (left) was assistant to Jewell (right) but failed when replacing him

On the other hand, Preston fans only have good words about their former Premier League assistant who took a chance on being number one at Deepdale. Alan Irvine left Everton to save North End from the drop before taking them to the play-offs the following season.

He continues to get the best out of a side with limited resources, as well as playing some good football. Being assistant to another Lilywhites managerial legend in David Moyes did him no harm at all.

And he's not the only one whose made a success after making the step-up. Kenny Jackett was Graham Taylor's deputy when the Hornets achieved back-to-back promotions to the Premier League in 1999.

He was later assistant to Ian Holloway at QPR, helping the Hoops out of League One before being recommended to Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins by Holloway to fill the managerial vacancy in South Wales.

Jackett won promotion in his first season with the Swans and almost took them into the Championship the following year, only losing in the play-off final. Last season he fell at the same hurdle at new club Millwall, who he continues to have challenging for promotion.

Some question marks still surround others who have made the transition. Kevin Blackwell was the long-time sidekick to Neil Warnock before leaving for Leeds where he eventually took control.

There he saw the club lose the Championship play-off final and a few months later he was sacked. His spell at Luton was dogged by financial problems and at current club Sheffield United, like at Leeds, he lost in the Championship play-off final in May.

Does he have the capability to take a side to promotion and shed an image of being a long-ball merchant?

Another former assistant to Warnock, Stuart McCall, is taking his first steps in management at former club Bradford City. However, despite a substantial budget and the largest crowds in League Two, he has twice failed to take the club even into the top seven.

In the same division, John Trewick is attempting to step out of the shadow of Graham Turner at Hereford. After five years of being the assistant at Edgar Street, Trewick has taken over as manager but the Bulls are currently languishing towards the wrong end of the table.

Stepping out of the shadow: Trewick is in sole charge of Hereford now

Lest we forget though that all the three Football League divisions are currently topped by teams managed by former number twos. Chris Hughton was only in temporary control at Newcastle before impressing enough to be given the job permanently.

Simon Grayson's Leeds are running away with League One, but he was only assistant to Colin Hendry at Blackpool before taking over from the Scot and going on to win promotion and establish the Seasiders in the second tier.

And Eddie Howe assisted both Kevin Bond and Jimmy Quinn at Bournemouth before being given the job himself. A miraculous escape last season and a promotion push this has proved his managerial credentials.

Dillon must prove he too can make the transition from coach to manager - this is his chance. He's been given his shot.

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