10 Managerial Spells That Time Forgot: Featuring Rafa Benitez, Ron Atkinson, Chris Kamara and Paul Gascoigne

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 19 March 2020, 11:42

History tells us that the managerial arena is no stranger to producing a mixture of weird, wonderful and outright bizarre appointments, many of which have been lost in the annals of time.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but we’ve got to hype this up a little bit.

So, we’ve unearthed 10 managerial spells that you may have either completely forgotten about or ever even been aware of in the first place...

Claude Anelka: Raith Rovers

Before you question whether we’ve got the name wrong, yes it is Claude not Nicolas Anelka we are referring to here. And yes, the club in question is Raith Rovers. 

Claude is the older brother of his more famous sibling and once, bizarrely, had a stint in charge of Raith Rovers.

Back in 2004 Claude, a DJ and part-time football agent, deposited £300,000 into the Scottish First Division side’s bank account so he could become their new gaffer. 

He had bold and brash ambitions of propelling the club into a Scottish force, however eight games and a number of questionable signings later and he’d thrown in the towel after registering a solitary win.

Strange.

Tony Pulis: Portsmouth

The cap-loving boss is synonymous with Stoke City, while most people are aware that he managed the likes of Crystal Palace, West Brom and Middlesbrough, but Portsmouth...when did that happen?

After jobs at Bournemouth, Gillingham and Bristol City, Tony Pulis took charge of Pompey back at the start of the century. At the time the south coast side were in the second-tier relegation zone, but the Welshman steered his troops to safety.

Come October of the following season, Portsmouth placed Pulis on suspended leave - as he fought a court case against the Gills - before cancelling the contract completely in January 2001, for an alleged act of misconduct.

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What a picture

Ron Atkinson and Colin Addison: Atletico Madrid

Say what?

A couple of years after leaving Man Utd, Ron Atkinson cropped up at Atletico Madrid after he ditched West Brom.

The lure of sunny Spain was too strong but the sun-seeker lasted just 94 days in the capital after he fell out with owner Jesus Gil. The combination of two huge egos was never going to go well was it. At the time the club were 3rd in La Liga.

Perhaps even stranger was Atletico’s decision to replace Atkinson with his assistant Colin Addison - whom Atkinson said stabbed him in the back - who oversaw the second-half of the season, well up until the point he too was discarded just before the campaign came to an end.

This ice rink interview with Atkinson, after he was frozen out of Atletico, is just surreal.

Joe Kinnear: Nepal

Before Joe Kinnear’s managerial journey at Wimbledon and the time he told journalists at Newcastle to ‘F*** Off’, you may be surprised to hear that one of his early ventures in the dugout was at the helm of Nepal.

He enjoyed some relative success too, as he propelled the Nepalese team to silver medal in the 1987 South Asian Games.

"We trained at the foot of Mount Everest," Kinnear told The Telegraph. "Most of the players were Guerkas and when we played World Cup qualifiers there would be 80,000 at every game. People would queue up for days and sleep in the street to get a ticket."

Rafa Benitez: Real Valladolid

Rafa Benitez has enjoyed both a successful and varied career to date. He’s managed in Spain, England, Italy and now China, and won the Champions League, UEFA Cup twice, La Liga twice and the Championship, amongst other honours.

However, it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows at the start of his venture into management, with the Spaniard lasting only 23 matches at Real Valladolid, during which he scooped only two wins.

He was sacked with the club bottom of La Liga with his final game a 5-2 thumping at home to Valencia, who he would go on to lead to domestic and European glory. It’s a funny old game.

"I remember before the Valencia game our kit man said 'listen boss, everything is fine. I've put some garlic behind the [Valencia] goal to bring bad luck to goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta',” Benitez told BBC Sport in 2019.

"He got injured during the warm-up, but they played Jorge Bartual instead and he made three or four saves and was man of the match.

"I was expecting it [the sack]. When you are promised two contract extensions and they don't come back, something is wrong."

Chris Sutton: Lincoln City

Former Premier League winner Chris Sutton may now be seen winding people up on Twitter and slating managers on BT Sport, but the ex-Blackburn star actually had a stint in the dugout himself back in 2009.

Despite having zero managerial experience, Sutton fended off competition from 70 other contenders to bag the job at League Two Lincoln City early on in the 2009/10 campaign.  

He avoided relegation and led the club to the FA Cup fourth round for the first time in 11 years, before leaving after a year in charge.

“It was a bit of a struggle at Lincoln, in terms of keeping the club up,” he later reflected on The Sportsman’s Perfect 10. “One of the key things in relationships is trust, and I think I lost trust in some of the things that were happening at the club.

“I think staying up was a pretty big deal. It was always going to be a struggle to stay up.”

Paul Merson: Walsall

Like Chris Sutton, you may be surprised to hear that Paul Merson also had a spell in management back during his time at Walsall in 2004.

A player initially, the former England midfielder was suddenly elevated into the hot seat towards the end of the 2003/04 season. He was unable to keep the club in the second-tier - they agonisingly went down on goal difference - then the following season he finished mid-table but was later sacked - amid supporter unrest - after nearly two years at the helm.

“My biggest regret in football was my managerial career at Walsall if I’m being honest,” the Sky Sports later revealed.

Chris Kamara: Bradford and Stoke

While we’re on the subject of Sky Sports, it would be rude not to mention Chris Kamara.

The affable Gillette Soccer Saturday pundit delights viewers across the country with his eccentric mannerisms, passion for the game, and let’s not forget the occasional gaffe or two.

Kammy enjoyed a cracking start at his first post with Bradford City, with whom he moved away from danger and into the 1995/96 Old Second Division play-offs, where his side overcame Notts County in the final. He then preserved the club’s second-tier safety on the final day of his second season.

During his time at Bradford he signed Chris Waddle and was the manager who brought keeper Mark Schwarzer over to English football.

Kamara then stated his intent to lead Stoke into the Premier League, only to last just 14 games, winning only once. They were relegated shortly after his three-month stint. Kammy remarkably handed out 11 debuts during his brief time in charge.

Looking back 20 years later, Kamara told The Sentinel: “It was difficult. I would have loved for it to have worked but it didn’t.”

Gianluca Vialli, Brendan Rodgers and Sean Dyche: Watford

Here’s a three-in-one special for you.

The trigger-happy Hornets are certainly no strangers to changing managers. They’ve had an absolute barrage of bosses in recent years - current incumbent Nigel Pearson is Watford’s tenth in six years - so you’d be forgiven for suffering a brain freeze when trying to reel off the names.

Before the days of Pearson, Quique Flores and Javi Gracia, Watford were managed by the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Brendan Rodgers and Sean Dyche.

Vialli lasted a single season (2001/02), during which he splashed the cash but could only muster a 14th place finish in the second-tier. 

Rodgers actually began his managerial career at the club a few months into the 2008/09 season, before leaving for Reading at the end of the campaign.

Dyche also got his first taste of management at Watford but after a respectable 2011/12 campaign he was rather harshly given the boot.

Paul Gascoigne: Kettering Town

Paul Gascoigne, one of the greatest English players of his generation, took the plunge into management with Conference North club Kettering Town back in October 2005.

Unfortunately Gazza didn’t even make it through to Christmas. In fact, he lasted only 39 days, and wasn’t even paid.

Kettering chairman Imraan Ladak would state that he had to endure 37 incidents involving Gazza who allegedly drank alcohol every day, while the man himself blamed the chairman’s interference with on-pitch matters.

“I’m emotional, I’m upset, I’ve been let down,” Gazza said in an interview after his exit - see video below.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough
(Burton Albion)
18th May
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