St Patrick’s Day: Six former Republic of Ireland players who managed in the Premier League

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 17 March 2020, 12:05

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day we’ve compiled a list of six former Republic of Ireland players who went on to manage in the Premier League; featuring the likes of Mick McCarthy and his nemesis Roy Keane…

Mick McCarthy: Sunderland & Wolves

We’ll start with the main man Mick McCarthy who is currently in his second spell at the helm of the Republic of Ireland.

Born in Barnsley to an Irish father and English mother, ‘Captain Fantastic’ ventured into the managerial arena in 1992 with Millwall, before going on to lead Ireland for six years. 

We then fast-forward to 2003, when McCarthy made his Premier League bow with Sunderland. It proved to be a tough gig as he was unable to stop the stuttering side plummeting out of the top-flight, however he did lead the Black Cats back to the Promised Land a couple of years later, only to then suffer the sack towards the backend of the campaign when the club were 16 points adrift of safety.

Big Mick would later win the Championship title with Wolves, with whom he kept in the Premier League for successive seasons, but come February 2012 he was axed following a 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Black Country rivals West Brom.

Roy Keane: Sunderland

As a player Roy Keane dominated the Premier League for 14 seasons, during which he lifted the title seven times - fourth in the overall list. However, his top-flight presence as a manager was fleeting with the hot-headed Irishman overseeing just one-and-a-half-seasons in the Premier League.

Keane, who infamously flew home from the 2002 World Cup after falling out with Mick McCarthy, enjoyed an excellent debut season in management with Sunderland, with whom he propelled from the relegation zone to the second-tier to the title. 

His efforts saw him bag the Championship’s Manager of the Year award, while he then secured safety in the form of a 15th-place finish, although his side did slide to a chastening 7-1 defeat to David Moyes’ Everton.

Keane left mid-way through his third season in December 2008 - reportedly by text message - after a fallout with owner Ellis Short. It’s believed that many of the club’s players celebrated his exit. 12 years on and he’s yet to return to the Premier League dugout, and probably never will.

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Roy Keane when he was Republic of Ireland assistant manager

Chris Hughton: Newcastle, Norwich & Brighton

The last former Republic of Ireland player to manage in the Premier League was Chris Hughton who was, rather harshly, sacked by Brighton at the end of the 2018/19 campaign despite securing safety for the second successive season.

Back in 1979 Hughton became the first mixed race player to pull on the Republic of Ireland shirt, then 30 years later he became a full-time manager for the first time, with Newcastle, and proceeded to take the Toon to the Championship title. 

However, his first taste of Premier League management was cut short in December 2010 when he became the first Premier League manager to be sacked, despite Newcastle being 11th in the table at the time.

Hughton returned to the Premier League in 2012 with Norwich and finished in a creditable 11th. He was given the boot in April of the following campaign - Norwich were relegated shortly after - before later taking charge of Brighton where he made history by becoming the first Seagulls boss to soar them into the Premier League.

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Chris Hughton was unfortunate to lose his job at Brighton last summer

David O’Leary: Leeds & Aston Villa

It was David O’Leary’s successfully dispatched spot-kick which famously propelled Ireland into the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals, and while he’s perhaps surprisingly never gone on to manage his country, he has over seven years of Premier League managerial experience to his name with two clubs.

In 1998 a series of positive results saw O’Leary promoted from caretaker to full-time manager of Leeds, who under his watch finished 3rd, 4th twice and 5th, and reached both the Champions League and UEFA Cup semi-finals. Two years after he was sacked Leeds were relegated from the Premier League and haven’t been back since.

Meanwhile, O’Leary spent three seasons in charge of Aston Villa, during which he finished 6th.

Joe Kinnear: Wimbledon & Newcastle

Joe Kinnear had an interesting start to his managerial career courtesy of spells with UAE sides Sharjah and Al-Shabab, the Indian and Nepal national teams, briefly Doncaster, then Wimbledon in the Premier League.

On a shoestring budget, Kinnear famously led the Dons to 6th spot above the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea, and later featured in the FA Cup and League Cup semi-finals.

Nearly 10 years later Kinnear cropped up at Newcastle for an eventful four month spell, while he’d later return as the club’s director of football.

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Owen Coyle caused controversy when he switched Burnley for Bolton

Owen Coyle: Burnley & Bolton

People are often surprised when they discover that Owen Coyle played for the Republic of Ireland, not Scotland. His one and only international cap lasted all of seven minutes in a 1-0 friendly win over Holland, but that is still good enough to qualify him for this article.

“I’ve got Irish parents and I’m very proud of that,” he told The Scotsman in 2012. “That will never change. But I’m Gorbals born and bred.”

In his first job in England, Coyle led Burnley into the Premier League before controversially leaving for Bolton. A couple of seasons later he took the Trotters down, and is now managing in India at Chennaiyin.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough
(Burton Albion)
18th May
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