From Roy to Ronny. In the space of one week, Celtic went from recruiting the legendary ex-Manchester United and current Republic of Ireland assistant manager Keane to appointing Ronny Deila, the manager of Norway’s 2013 champions Stromsgodset. Known only to Norwegians and his close family, the move sparked frenzied Google-searching by supporters and journalists alike. What they would have found was, well, very little to go by. He had spent his entire playing career in the dark corner of European football that is the Tippeligaen, before managing Stromsgodset since 2008, winning two trophies. And while it would be foolhardy to dismiss Ronny outright (consider Arsenal’s success after appointing the relatively unknown Arsene Wenger from Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus, which was greeted with the Evening Standard headline of “Arsene who?”), the surprising nature of the appointment provides the chance to look back at other shocking managerial moves.
Sticking with Celtic, the ‘dream team’ duo of Barnes and Kenny Dalglish arrival in 1999 didn’t really pay dividends. If one man gives credit to the theory that a great player doesn’t necessarily mean a great manager, it’s him. A dazzling winger in his day, he pitched up at Parkhead with no prior managerial experience. He only lasted until February, leaving Dalglish to drag the team over the finishing line a disappointing 21 points behind rivals Rangers. Highlights of his brief tenure include signing a big money Brazilian defender Rafael Scheidt without having seen him play out with video footage (he would go on to make a miserly 3 appearances for the club), and overseeing arguably Celtic’s worst ever cup loss to then 1st division Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Scheidt indeed.
Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan. David’s playing CV reads like a who’s who of European footballing giants. Add Barnet to the mix and suddenly something seems up. But the man dubbed ‘The Pitbull’ did indeed bring his fierce and feisty style of play to this football backwater, just off the M1. His appointment was seemingly based on him managing Sunday league amateur’s Brixton United, as well as his convenient location living in North London. His savage battling power on the field didn’t transmit off the pitch, however, and Davids saw his side relegated from the Football League, before resigning after 8 games of the 2013-2014 season.
The greatest player on this list turned out to be perhaps the most controversial pitch-side enforcer. A much-discussed appointment, the decision to hand Diego the reins of the national team in 2008 appeared to rest solely on his glorious reputation in Argentina – almost single-handedly winning the World Cup as a player should count for something after all – but he stumbled his way through a calamitous spell. Despite a record 6-1 defeat to Bolivia, he steered ‘Albicelestes’ through a rocky qualification campaign but his contract was not renewed after a disappointing 2010 World Cup. Typical fiery Diego moments included telling the press to “suck it and keep on sucking” and maintaining that the AFA had “lied to” and “betrayed” him over his contract, with Argentines learning that appointing ‘God’ doesn’t mean instant miracles.
It was always going to be difficult to follow the Jose Mourinho show that had dominated Stamford Bridge for 3 years, but Grant’s appointment as Chelsea manager was still a strange one. Dull and uninspiring, the move from Jose’s flamboyance and charisma was akin to replacing an entertainer with an MP, and many believed that he only got the job due to his close relationship with owner Roman Abramovich. Grant lasted only one season but his tenure stands as a prime example of just how fine the margins between success and failure are in football: he guided Chelsea to within 2 points of the league title; they reached the
League Cup Final only to lose 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur; most impressively, he took them to their first UEFA Champions League Final where they were narrowly beaten on penalties by Manchester United. If he had achieved all of this, Grant would have outshone even ‘The Special One’.
A title winner in Portugal, Italy and the former manager of the England national side shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom tier of English football but so it proved in the summer of 2009 when Eriksson turned up at Notts County as Director of Football. It was hailed as part of a revolution under new Middle Eastern owners but ended with him fleeing seven months into the role with the club teetering on the edge of financial collapse. Since then, he’s wandered the footballing desert, landing in one surprise managerial oasis after another. As of now, he is in charge of Chinese outfit Guangzhou R&F. Master of surprise appointments, a nomad of management; call him what you want, but the very wealthy Swede picks and chooses his roles shrewdly.