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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Return Of The Mick

With Mick Wadsworth confirmed as Hartlepool boss until the end of the season, Nobes looks at other managers who've made a return to the game after a long absence.

Mick Wadsworth was last in charge of a League club back in 2003

The longer you're gone, the harder it is to return. So goes the theory when it comes to football management.

Stay on the sidelines rather than the touchline, and you'll soon disappear altogether - doomed to some kind of coaching or scouting role or, even worse, a TV pundit.

However, seven years after leaving his last League manager's job at Huddersfield - albeit he had a brief spell in charge at Non League Chester - Mick Wadsworth is back in management at Hartlepool.

After a successful spell as caretaker following the resignation of Chris Turner, the 60-year-old has been handed the reins until the end of the season with the, long-overdue realistic, brief of keeping Pools in League One.

It's an unexpected opportunity for the Yorkshireman, who has never managed to follow up initial success at Carlisle in the '90s at the likes of Colchester, Oldham, and Scarborough.

However, he's not the only manager to make a return after time away. Here's my top-10 rundown of some of football's returnees - and how successful they were on their comeback.

10. Nigel Spackman

Spackman was fired from his job at Barnsley in 2001 with the Reds struggling towards the foot of the Championship.

He spent the next five years working as a TV pundit but, in 2006, was the surprise choice as new boss at Millwall.

The Lions had been relegated to League One and Spackman rebuilt the squad during the summer.

A slow start saw the 49-year-old sacked with the Londoners near the foot of the table.

Verdict: A long time out of the game was followed by a brief and hugely unsuccessful return to the dugout. Best to stick to the TV studio in the future.

9. Gary Peters

The Londoner led the renaissance of Preston North End when the Lancashire club had been toiling in the basement division.

However, he was exiled from management for five years after leaving Deepdale in 1998.

On his return he walked into the mess at Exeter City - fighting for survival in the Football League.

Despite an almost miraculous end of season run, he was unable to save the Grecians from the drop and departed weeks later.

Verdict: Did extremely well to almost save Exeter and then went on to guide Shrewsbury to within 90 minutes of League One in 2007 before being harshly sacked soon after. A proven lower league manager.

8. Bryan Hamilton

After ending a second spell in charge at Wigan in 1993, Hamilton took over as national team manager of Northern Ireland.

He spent four years in that role and was out of the game for another couple until gaining a surprise return at Norwich in 2000.

The Canaries were struggling in the Championship and Hamilton steadied the ship. However, before the end of the year he had resigned his position.

Verdict: Instantly forgettable return to club management following an undistinguished spell in the international game. Management days are well behind now, which is why he's working in the media.

7. Gary Johnson

Johnson earned his reputation leading Yeovil from the Conference to League One at the start of the last decade.

However, he had first sampled League management at Cambridge United before departing in 1995.

After a brief spell at Kettering he then moved abroad - taking charge of the Latvian national team and laying the foundations that saw them qualify for Euro 2004.

He returned to England at Yeovil in 2001, winning promotion with them in 2003 - and managing in the League again a full eight years after his last crack.

Verdict: The time away worked. He thrived on his return and after leaving Yeovil he subsequently guided Bristol City to promotion from League One and the Championship play off final. Now at Peterborough.

6. Kenny Jackett

First as a player and then later a coach, Jackett served under Graham Taylor at Watford before assuming the top job in 1996.

However, a poor League One campaign saw him relegated back to Taylor's assistant and he later had a spell as Ian Holloway's right hand man at QPR.

He returned to try his hand as the main man at Swansea in 2004 - and took the Welsh club to promotion in his first full season.

Twelve months later, he secured the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and only a penalty shoot out in the League One play off final prevented the Swans from making it successive promotions.

Verdict: Watching Millwall, it's not hard to see the influence of Taylor and Holloway on Jackett's style. However, he has proved successful in guiding both the Lions and Swansea to promotion as a manager. Deserves respect.

5. Brian Talbot

Talbot began the 1991/2 campaign as Aldershot boss - he was gone after a few months, and the club were as well not long after.

After time overseas in Malta he returned home to join the coaching staff at ambitious Rushden & Diamonds - eventually becoming manager in 1999.

Maybe it was those eight years away, or maybe it was the ridiculous money being spent, but he led Diamonds into the Football League in 2001 and two years later they were in the third tier.

Verdict: It was the money. Talbot's subsequent struggles at Oldham and Oxford were more illustrative of his managerial capabilities. In truth, he landed on his feet gaining the Rushden job when he did.

4. Nigel Pearson

Along with the help of one Jimmy Glass, Pearson helped rescue Carlisle from relegation to the Conference in 1999.

However, he didn't stay on at Brunton Park and instead spent the next nine years on the coaching staff at the likes of Stoke, West Brom, and Newcastle.

Once his next managerial role came along though - he once again found himself in a relegation scrap.

However, a final day escape act at Southampton in 2008 proved he hadn't lost his skills in brinkmanship.

Verdict: Left Saints that summer and then took Leicester to League One glory followed by the Championship play offs last season. Now at Hull, he seems to have benefited from learning his trade as an assistant.

3. John Barnes

Okay, I'll hold my hands up, Tranmere's appointment of Barnes last summer was not technically a Football League management return.

However, any chance to recount that hilarious decision - as well his legendary Soccer AM/MW status - must be taken.

Barnes was, of course, installed as part of a dream managerial ticket alongside Kenny Dalglish at Glasgow Celtic in 1999.

It turned into more of a nightmare, albeit a short-lived one. Much like his time at Prenton Park nine years later.

Verdict: First place in the 2008 Caribbean Championships as Jamaica coach will, you feel, always be the pinnacle of Barnes's managerial career. Tranmere's gamble was always doomed to fail - they were lucky it didn't cost them their League One spot.

2. Paul Hart

The proverbial London Bus boss, at one point Hart had to wait a full decade between managerial jobs but then got through three just last season.

Hart was fired from basement division Chesterfield in 1991 and reverted to youth team football at Leeds and then Nottingham Forest.

He got his chance at the top job at the City Ground in 2001 after the departure of David Platt and, after a slow start, guided Forest to the Championship play offs in 2003.

There, they lost to Sheffield United, and a dreadful sequence of results that left them fighting relegation the next season saw him dismissed.

Verdict: After Forest came Barnsley, then Rushden, then Portsmouth, QPR, and finally Crystal Palace. Hart has the dubious honour of being sacked from a club in each of the top five tiers. Best to stick to bringing through the youngsters.

1. Richard Money

When Richard Money left his job as Scunthorpe boss in 1994 he still had a full head of hair.

In-between then and his return to English football in 2006 at Walsall it had mostly gone.

Those 12 years away saw him work at Aston Villa and Coventry before moving abroad to Sweden and then Australia.

His appointment at the Saddlers was out of the blue - but, thanks to a resolute defence, he led the Black Country outfit to the League Two title in his first season.

Verdict: A stunning return to League management. More than a decade away, but Money instantly turned around Walsall's fortunes. Now at the helm of Conference side Luton, where he is once again plotting a promotion push.

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