Football is jam-packed with quirky manager and player combinations, from Alan Pardew overseeing the duo of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano at West Ham, to Esteban Cambiasso playing under Nigel Pearson at Leicester. Just don’t remind Graeme Souness of Ali Dia.
Here at The Sack Race we’ve plucked out eight surprise Player/Manager match-ups that have occurred over the last 20-years-or-so in English football, including forgotten loan spells, a high-profile free transfer, and a non-league hidden gem who transformed into a Premier League superstar.
Roberto Mancini - Peter Taylor
As a player, Roberto Mancini was crowned the Serie A Footballer of the Year in 1996/97, which meant it came as quite the shock when he darted off to Leicester City on loan from Lazio a few years later. In fairness he was 36-years-old at the time, although it was still an unexpected switch.
“I did not have a clue at that stage that he would go on to manage in Italy and win the things he has as a manager,” Leicester manager Peter Taylor later reflected. “But what I did notice was that he knew about training and he showed an interest in the way we trained at Leicester.”
Mancini played just five times for the Midlands side before informing them that he was off as he’d bagged the Fiorentina job, his first in the managerial arena.
Roberto Mancini would later return to England as Man City manager
David Beckham - Gary Peters
Most of you could probably name the club David Beckham went on loan to as a Man Utd trainee - Third Division outfit Preston, during the 1994/95 season - yet naming their manager at the time is somewhat trickier.
The man in question was Gary Peters who, according to David’s dad Ted, shoved the youngster in front of the Preston players and simply said:
“This is David Beckham, here on a month's loan from Man Utd, he'll be taking all our free-kicks and corners from now on.”
Fortunately for the embarrassed youngster he managed to back up the manager’s statement, as the midfielder netted twice in five appearances for the Lilywhites - where he was teammates with David Moyes - one of which was from a corner on his debut.
So there you have it, Peters played a part in the early development of a future football megastar, who went from banking a ‘measly’ £400-a-week to having a net worth of nearly £400million.
A young David Beckham awaits to make his Preston debut in the Deepdale dugout, 1995. pic.twitter.com/FonYJlII7s— 90s Football (@90sfootball) January 9, 2016
George Weah - Joe Royle
Younger fans of The Sack Race may struggle to remember Man City before the titanic Abu Dhabi Group takeover, but seven years prior to the club’s gargantuan transformation they caused a shockwave in the summer of 2000 as Joe Royle’s Premier League new boys lured over George Weah on a free transfer from AC Milan - just five years earlier the Liberian had been crowned the Ballon d’Or winner.
“I think we will go into Europe,” Weah boldly stated upon his arrival at Maine Road, overestimating the prospects of his new club ever so slightly.
He promptly injured Man Utd legend Dennis Irwin in the Irishman’s testimonial, then come mid-October he’d exited after just 11 games.
“I will not accept being at a club where the manager names me in the team and then calls me five hours later to tell me that I am not in the team,” said Weah, and with that he was gone.
The great George Weah has been elected president of Liberia. Here he is after signing for Man City in 2000 alongside Alf-Inge Haaland, Paulo Wanchope, Steve Howey and Joe Royle. #mcfc pic.twitter.com/Me0w5VDXBR— ForgottenFootballers (@ForgotAboutThem) December 29, 2017
Jamie Vardy - Micky Mellon
In the period of four years, Jamie Vardy went from non-league unknown (2012) to Premier League winner (2016): a true modern day fairytale story.
Before lifting the Premier League title, Vardy was given a chance to shine at Fleetwood after the club’s manager Micky Mellon handed the striker his first full-time contract. Vardy thrived in his new surroundings, hammering home 34 goals en route to winning the Conference title and an historic promotion into the Football League.
He was swiftly snapped up for £1m by Nigel Pearson, although the canny Mellon made sure he inserted a clause in the player’s contract. “We believed he was so good that - if and when he played for England - we wanted paid,” he told the Daily Record. “And that has happened so he has gone on to fulfil what we thought he was capable of.”
Micky Mellon was the manager who unearthed Jamie Vardy
Frank Lampard - Bobby Smith
Frank Lampard is famed for his time at Chelsea while most people are well aware of his other playing day spells at West Ham, Man City and New York City. Less known is his nine game stint at Second Division side Swansea City back in October 1995.
Harry Redknapp sent his nephew on loan to the Welsh club for three months in order to toughen him up, with the youngster just 17-years-old at the time. Lampard scored one goal and won two games under boss Bobby Smith, who later revealed to Wales Online that the first taste of competitive football was pivotal in the future Chelsea and England star’s development.
"He could have come down from London with a big time charlie attitude about him. Anything but, he was fantastic,” he said. "He had to stand on his own two feet, prove to any doubters he was good enough to make it as a top player. He did, and has never looked back.”
A 17-year-old Frank Lampard on-loan at Swansea City, where he was managed by Bobby Smith
Harry Kane - Russell Slade
Seven years before he fired his way to the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, a 17-year-old Harry Kane was learning the ropes in League One at Leyton Orient - on-loan from Tottenham - back in the middle of the 2010/11 season.
Kane scored on his first league start and finished the campaign with a respectable tally of five goals from 15 matches. Loan spells at Millwall, Norwich and Leicester followed while he’s since evolved into one of the most fearsome strikers on the planet.
“He hadn’t yet filled out physically and was probably eight stone wet through, but he could still lose somebody in a telephone box,” said his old U’s boss Russell Slade.
Russell Slade on managing Harry Kane at Leyton Orient: ‘He hadn’t yet filled out physically, but could still lose somebody in a telephone box and that’s because his speed was in his head. He would lose defenders by a yard not through raw pace, but by thinking. Even at that age.’ pic.twitter.com/5CU1tvbqmD— Scott Johnson (@roathboy) October 15, 2019
John Terry - David Platt
John Terry no doubt harbours his own ambitions of following best bud Frank Lampard into the managerial arena, with the former Chelsea and England skipper currently assistant to Dean Smith at Aston Villa.
The ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ is synonymous with Chelsea, where he won multiple honours under 10 different managers, yet prior to his breakthrough into the first team he was shipped off on-loan to Nottingham Forest in 2000.
Terry spent six games under player-manager David Platt, and it proved to be short but sweet with Forest unbeaten with the promising young upstart in the side. Platt would later hand Terry the captaincy when he was in charge of England U21s.
Terry went on to enjoy a trophy-drenched playing career, while unfortunately for Platt his managerial career failed to take off, with his only permanent position since England’s youngsters coming at Pune City in 2015.
Nottingham Forest FC— Superb Footy Pics (@SuperbFootyPics) February 25, 2016
John Terry (Loan) pic.twitter.com/T6RQF4Lib9
Serge Gnabry - Tony Pulis
Just under five years ago Serge Gnabry was plying his trade at West Brom under the tutorship of Tony Pulis. It’s fair to say it didn’t quite work out for the German at the Baggies, with whom he joined on loan from Arsenal for the first-half of the 2015/16 season.
However, Gnabry was restricted to just three appearances with Pulis reluctant to use the winger in the club’s quest for Premier League survival. “Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been for me, at the moment, at that level to play the games,” the cap-wearing boss said back in October 2015.
Gnabry would move to Werder Breman the following summer then Bayern Munich in 2017 where he’s since won the league and cup double. Just this season the 24-year-old has smashed in six goals in London alone, with Bayern hammering sorry Spurs 7-2 and then Chelsea 3-0 in the Champions League.