Player-managers, eh? Whatever happened to them? They seem like an enormously rare thing now, don’t they? I mean I hardly expect Sir Alex Ferguson to put on his old boots and join Wazza and Ferdinand in Man United’s starting eleven. And the thoughts of José Mourinho becoming a Real Madrid galactico player would be entertaining to say the least. I doubt he’d still be “special”. But they were a glorious thing of the past.
Current Liverpool manager “King” Kenny Dalglish is held in the highest regard by the Anfield faithful. A phenomenal player in his day, in 1985 he was appointed player-manager and Liverpool’s success continued. His Liverpool team-mate Graeme Souness was also quite the player – and quite the manager. He wasn’t half bad at both. He won win three titles and three league cups in that role with Glasgow Rangers before he departed to manage Liverpool in 1991 – taking over from King Kenny.
Chelsea have a history of player-managers too. Ruud Gullit was the Blues’ player-manager bringing his self-described “sexy football” to Stamford Bridge – earning him an FA Cup winners medal in 1997. He was sacked by Chelsea’s then-owner Ken Bates in 1998. Bates further displayed his fetish for player-managers when he appointed Gianluca Vialli straight after Gullit’s dismissal. The Italian played only another year as player-manager but won the 2000 FA Cup as manager. And Chelsea legend Dennis Wise. He famously guided Millwall to the FA Cup Final in 2005 as player-manager. The result didn’t exactly go his way but what an achievement.
Other great player managers include Trevor Francis at Sheffield Wednesday in the early to mid 1990’s and Gordon Strachan at Coventry City. Not all great players became great player-managers however – ask Bobby Charlton and his forgettable tenure at Preston North End.
But it is a very rare thing these days. And something I’d personally love to see more of. I could picture Jamie Carragher being Liverpool’s player-manager. Or the same role for Carles Puyol at Barcelona. Or Rino Gattuso at AC Milan. Or even, dare I say it, Roy Hodgson at West Brom. Okay, scrap the last one. Football is changing. No doubt about it. But there are some old-school things about the beautiful game I never want to see die out. This is definitely one of them.