Date: 8th October 2006 at 9:35am
Written by:

Many people try to make the step up from assistant manager or coach to outright manager, but how many actually succeed? The answer… not too many!

Vital Blackburn member Ex Ewood Resident recently made this point in relation to Mark Bowen possibly making such a step up to take over his former club Norwich City:

I’m still at a lost as to why he is being linked – making the step from Assistant/Coach to Manager is not always successful – just ask Brian Kidd! It seems to me that there must be a lot of other managers out of work that would do a good job – perhaps Delia could talk to Souness.”

You get those players that sometimes go straight into management, usually as player manager or coach initially and some do well, some not so well. But what about those that make their name beginning as an assistant or coach before trying their hand at outright leadership, how do these usually get on?

These are the men that I can think of that in recent years that are, or have been managers having plied their trade, working their way up the ladder by managing or coaching Youth or Reserve sides, or working as an assistant manager without jumping straight into out and out hands on management.

Martin Allen (Milton Keynes Dons, formerly with Brentford)
Kevin Blackwell (Leeds United)
Adrian Boothroyd (Watford)
Phil Brown (Derby County)
Colin Calderwood (Nottingham Forest, formerly with Northampton Town)
Chris Casper (Bury)
Iain Dowie (Charlton Athletic, previously with Oldham Athletic and Crystal Palace)
Former Rovers player Simon Grayson (Blackpool)
Ronnie Jepson (Gillingham)
Brian Kidd (Blackburn Rovers)
Martin Ling (Leyton Orient)
Neil McDonald (Carlisle)
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea, previously with Barcelona B, Benfica, Uniao de Leiria and Porto)
Stuart Pearce (Manchester City, technically didn’t work his way up as he had a caretaker spell previously with Nottingham Forest)
Leroy Rosenior (Brentford)
Peter Shirtliff (Mansfield Town)
Geraint Williams (Colchester United)

In all fairness to some of the names, a lot of them in fact are quite fresh to management so to judge them on their managerial careers now is maybe too early, but there are only a couple that in my opinion have been a real proven success, one of them has been truly outstanding, totally out of this world, and likely to go down as one of the greatest managers in football history, but again I must stress that with so many new to the management game it is hard, maybe unfair to single them out.

The real proven successes in my opinion have been:

Adrian Boothroyd – Worked his way up the ladder as a Coach of Peterborough’s Youth and Reserve teams before working as Youth Coach with Norwich City. After Norwich he would hold Youth Development Officer and Technical Director Positions with West Bromwich Albion before becoming a Youth Team coach with Leeds United.

His first solo managerial position would be with Watford, with who he is still with now. He would guide them to Promotion to the Premiership in his first full season as manager.

Colin Calderwood – Having endured a relatively successful playing career with Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur most notably, as well as Scotland Internationally he would start out as Reserve Team coach with Spurs before becoming Northampton Town manager in 2003.

He would prove a massive success with Northampton, earning them promotion to League One at the end of last season as they finished runners up in League Two. Calderwood took over former club Nottingham Forest in the summer and has taken them to the top of League One.

Iain Dowie – After his long club and Northern Ireland International career, whilst still playing with Queens Park Rangers he would combine playing with managing their Reserve Team.

When he finally did retire he’d work as an assistant manger at Oldham Athletic before taking over the reigns. The 2002-2003 would see Oldham make the play-offs in League Two before a move at the end of 2003 would take him to Crystal Palace.

Struggling at the time near the foot of the Championship when he arrived midway through the 2003-2004 season he guided Palace to play-offs, which they won to get into the Premiership. Instant relegation would follow, but only just, but Dowie remained at Selhurst Park until the summer when he joined Charlton Athletic, where he has found it hard. The club are currently bottom of the League having endured their worst ever start to a Premiership season.

Stuart Pearce – Although Psycho didn’t technically work his way through the system his spell as caretaker player/manager with Nottingham Forest was only that. After ending his illustrious club and International career with Manchester City he would remain as a coach.

Following Kevin Keegan’s sacking in March 2005 Pearce took over initially as caretaker manager, before being installed permanently in May 2005. He would guide the club to the brink of the UEFA Cup at the end of the 2005-2006 season, which saw him mentioned as a candidate for the vacant England manager’s job. This season started as a struggle but City have recovered and are currently 12th in the Premiership.

And last, but by no means least the Daddy of all Daddies Jose Mourinho…

Jose Mourinho – Mourinho playing career wouldn’t be so good; with unsuccessful spells at smaller clubs his only taste of actually playing football.

His coaching career begin with backroom staff positions with Portuguese sides Estrela da Amadora and Vitoria de Setubal before his big break. Sir Bobby Robson, or Bobby Robson as he was then would make Mourinho his transalator and assistant coach with him at Sporting Lisborn, then Porto and Barcelona.

His first steps into hands on management came with Barcelona B, the reserve side if you will of Barcelona. A move to Benfica would come about in 2000, and despite starting well when the club presidential elections took place the new man voted in had another man lined up so Mourinho was replaced.

The 2001-2002 season would see him work with small Portuguese side Uniao de Leiria, taking them to forth place in the SuperLiga before taking over at Porto in early in 2002 for the remainer of the 2001-2002 sesason. With Porto he would win the SuperLiga in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, as well as the Portuguese Cup in the 2002-2003 season, the 2003 Portuguese Super Cup, 2002-2003 UEFA Cup and the 2003-2004 Champion League!

His appointment with Chelsea from the start of the 2004-2005 season has already seen the Premiership won back to back in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, along with the 2004-2005 Carling Cup as well as FA Cup and Champions League semi-final places.

Those who certainly haven’t made the step up from coach or assistant to full on manager are:

Phil Brown – Most of Brown’s successful playing career would be with Bolton, and it would be with the club that he would start his coaching career working as assistant to Colin Todd and then his successor Sam Allardyce, briefly being caretaker manager between Todd’s departure and Allardyce’s arrival.

When George Burley left Derby County in June 2005 Brown would accept the post as manager that was offered to him. Despite finances being tight he would nevertheless endure a torrid time at Pride Park before being sacked in January 2006.

His Derby record reads as follows:
24th June 2005 – 30th January 2006
Played 33, Won 7, Lost 12, Drawn 14

Kevin Blackwell – The former Goalkeeper’s playing career spanned from the mid 1970’s to late 1990’s, the latter part spent as player coach with various sides.

Having followed Neil Warnock as a player from 1986 with Scarborough, Notts County and Torquay United upon Warnock’s next appointment with Huddersfield Town at the start of the 1993-1994 season he would follow again, becoming a goalkeeper coach also.

He worked with Warnock at Plymouth Argyle and as well as being registered as a player he would be the Youth Tam Coach. When Warnock moved on he remained with Argyle, being promoted to assistant manager alongside Mick Jones.

With Warnock now at Bury Blackwell would pitch up alongside in 1998 as goalkeeping coach and then assistant. When Warnock went to Sheffield United as manager in 1999 he yet again took Blackwell with him, to work as his assistant.

Blackwell would take over at financially troubled Leeds United following their relegation from the Premiership, and after rebuilding the squad they challenged for a play off position before finishing the 2004-2005 season in mid table.

The summer of 2005 saw big money spent, and a play-off final spot was secured at the end of the 2005-2006 season but the club lost heavily 3-0 in the Final to Watford. Following a poor start to the 2006-2007 season with Leeds struggling and lying in 23rd place Blackwell, who had long since lost the support of the fans, would be sacked.

His Leeds record reads as follows:
1st January 2004 – 20th September 2006
Played 114, Won 44, Lost 33, Drawn 37

Brian Kidd – Another who didn’t really start out as a coach or an assistant as he would have brief spells with Barrow and Preston North End as manager before returning to his most famous club as a player Manchester United as a Youth Team Coach in the 1980’s before being promoted to assistant manager. With United he would win every possible domestic honour, before taking over at Ewood Park in December 1998.

With Rovers already struggling things only got worse and under Kidd the club would be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 1998-1999 season. Following a disappointing start to the 1999-2000 old First Division (now Championship) season Kidd would be sacked in November 1999, less than a year after his arrival.
His Rovers record reads as follows:

4th December 1998 – 3rd November 1999
Played 44, Won 12, Lost 14, Drawn 18

Most names, without being disrespectful possibly won’t go on to achieve bigger and better things, not saying what they have achieved or are currently working at are meaningless at all, but some most notably Martin Allen and Neil McDonald have the potential to make it, but only time will tell.

In my honest opinion I feel that only Adrian Boothroyd, Colin Calderwood, Neil McDonald and Stuart Pearce, with the backgrounds they’ve had, managers they’ve played for, worked under and alongside give them the edge, therefore have what I think is needed to make it at the very top, and will go on to join Mourinho as successful coaches/assistants turned successful managers, but to his success highly, highly unlikely. I feel Iain Dowie may have over achieved and if he can’t turn it around at Charlton he may end up being one who peaked too soon?

Kevin Blackwell, Phil Brown (although both may recover yet and still prove successful managers?) and Brian Kidd have all shown that working alongside a manager is a lot easier than working as one, if Mark Bowen accepts the challenge at Norwich, should it be offered will he find out the same…

CLICK HERE – For Why You Should Sign Up To Vital Blackburn


6 Replies to “Successful Assistant’s turned Bosses”

  • amazing how Mourinhos careers mapped out , but for me Boothroyd is one of the best examples of moviung through the “chain of command ” if you could call it that !

  • It is, and to think if it wasn’t for the Special One’s wife he might not have even carried on in football anyway! Think he wanted to contiune his work teaching, but his wife convinved him that he had to go for it, and go for it he did!

  • I feel sure that Adrian Boothroyd, Colin Calderwood, Neil McDonald and Stuart Pearce will all go on to be VERY GOOD managers in time.

  • some coaches get a little to friendly with the players and then try and change it when they become manager, it’s not very often it works.

  • True daaza71, when you are a coach etc you are not the bigman, so you can still be especially friendly with certain players can’t you, once you take on the top job it’s hard to re-adjust, you’re the same person but with more responsability and change slightly, you’re still friends with people, but all “should” be treated equally. It’s the same with everyday life and work isn’t it. Some people can adjust to this, some can’t.

Your Comment