The Case Of The Interim Manager? By Dan Smith
In many ways the Arsenal simply can’t win when it comes to the long-term future of Freddie Ljungberg. This isn’t just a random interim manager. This is a club legend, meaning the romantic in every fan will want to see him succeed. Yet history suggests that success as a caretaker does not make you qualified for the job long term.
All the Swede can do is win football matches but what might be in our owner’s mind is the recent events at Old Trafford.
The advantage of being temporary boss being that you can tell the players what they want to hear. For example, Freddie might view an Ozil differently to how Emery did. You don’t have to worry about upsetting egos, contractual situations, transfer funds, etc because you’re only looking at things week by week.
If Man United are honest, they would regret giving Solskjaer a full-time contract when they were under zero pressure to do so, all based on the short-term feel-good factor.
In a matter of fact, putting a list together shows that the two best interim managers were men who were told from day one they would only be in the dugout till the summer, Guus Hiddink and Rafa Benitez, who both won silverware in their temporary stays at Chelsea but didn’t outstay their welcome.
Here are 10 examples where an interim manager did well, but in hindsight never should have gotten the gig permanently (not including Ole as the future remains uncertain where he will take his team)
10- De Matteo- Chelsea
Too harsh to say tactically he had nothing to do with it, but where De Matteo was smart was looking at what Villa Boas did wrong and just do the opposite. As a former player, he knew the power of the dressing room. So essentially, he brought back Terry, Lampard and Drogba who had been frozen out by the previous regime, put his arm round them and told them how great they were. He even had nick names for them like he was their teammate more than the boss. It worked for everyone. He won an FA and Champions League, got himself a nice salary with a pricey pay off when everyone realised getting the best out of talent for a few months by telling them what they want to hear isn’t sustainable. Yet if you said to me right now Fred the Red will win us something, I bite your hand off
9- Kenny Dalglish- Liverpool
So, here’s a classic comparison with Freddie. Liverpool fans needed cheering up having not taken to Roy Hodgson, so they brought in King Kenny as interim manager. When he improved the form, the owners felt they couldn’t be seen to be getting rid of a legend, even though deep down he wasn’t their long-term target. So essentially, they waited for form to be poor, so they had a reason to sack him. Despite winning the League Cup, his fate was decided before the FA Cup Final. Yes, even if he had won the domestic double, it wouldn’t have been enough to stay.
8 Tim Sherwood – Spurs
– A classic example of how the wrong job choice can ruin you. Tim Sherwood had a high reputation within the game for his work with the underage groups. Unfortunately, he believed in his own hype and couldn’t turn down Spurs where he was a legend as a player but with zero managerial experience. Just like Freddie.
He showed he was out of touch in terms of dealing with the modern-day player, trying leadership techniques that would have worked when he was captain in the 90’s but not in today’s world. He famously let his players know what he thought of their attitude after a defeat at Chelsea, and not surprising was sacked that summer. Should have stayed with the youth team…
7 – Craig Shakespeare – Leicester
Will always have to live with accusations that he put the knife in the back of the beloved Claudio Ranieri. Having won the title only months earlier, there has always been the sense that his backroom staff could have done more to support him when he was going through a bad time. Of course, in the fickle world of football that was forgotten when Shakespeare got a response out of the players, the pinnacle being beating Seville over two legs in the Champions League.
Away from the relegation zone, the reason the owners made the change, he was handed a three-year contract. 4 months into the next season, few had sympathy when he was equally sacked when maybe he deserved more time?
6 – Tony Adams – Portsmouth
An early sign of how bad the financial situation was at Pompey when they replaced Harry Redknapp with his assistant, making the role full time after just one game. It should be considered the issues Portsmouth were having when criticising Adams, who essentially oversaw the start of a fire sale in 4 months in charge. The chance of being a topflight manager made it worth the risk but if he had picked his first job more wisely… who knows?
5 – Mike Phelan – Hull City
He had been in the game long enough to know the only reason he found himself as interim manager of Hull was the owners. There was a reason, after promotion, why Steve Bruce would voluntarily walk away from the chance to manage in the Premiership. The owner wanted to sell up and therefore had no interest in buying new players.
When Phelan then won his first two games, it convinced him maybe he could step up from assistant and was offered the job purely because no one else wanted to take it. Was sacked in January which again he would have seen coming. Now back at Man United.
4 – Lawrie Sanchez – Fulham
Had made a reputation for himself by taking Northern Ireland from 124 in the world to number 27, producing famous nights against the likes of Spain, England and Portugal. He agreed to manage Fulham for the last 32 days of the campaign on condition he could job share, his 4 points keeping them in the division. He was then offered the job full time providing he give up the international position. He signed 4 players he had worked with on international duty but was sacked in December when he found himself in the bottom three. The day he asked to leave Northern Ireland, they were top of their qualifying group for Euro 2008 so he must have regrets.
3 – Joe Kinnear – Newcastle
One of Mike Ashley’s strangest decisions was replacing club legend Kevin Keegan with a man who had last worked in the topflight 9 years previously, based on being friends. Kinnear was working on a month by month basis with a lack of transparency for the fans, the assumption being the owner was trying to sell the Toon. The results were good enough to get the job full time, but he impacted greatly the public perception of Newcastle, with press conferences that included bad language, not knowing the names of his own squad and outlandish statements like his contacts in the game. A heart attack meant his reign was halted early, leaving Alan Shearer attempting but failing to rescue the Geordies from relegation.
2 – John Carver – Newcastle
When Alan Pardew left for Crystal Palace, Newcastle were comfortably in midtable but they would end up staying up only on the final day of the season. Clearly feeling they were out of danger Mike Ashley didn’t bother finding a replacement, allowing Carver to take it game by game, with the man himself encouraging the club to find a long-term solution for the sake of clarity. Despite not winning any of his 4 games in charge, he was named full time manager until the end of the campaign as they were waiting for Steve McLaren to leave Derby.
Again, the assumption was the Toon had enough points to not worry about relegation not envisaging they would lose a club record 7 straight games, despite Carver’s insistence he was ‘the best coach in the League’. He won 3 of his 20 games and this stint damaged his legacy at the club.
1 – Steve Kean – Blackburn
Although to this day he will say differently, this man stabbed one of his best friends in the back, meaning no one had sympathy when it blew up in his face. Realising it was the only way he would ever become a Premiership manager; he took advantage of Blackburn’s owners limited knowledge of football when they were being badly advised. Instead of pointing out it was a bad idea to sack Sam Allardyce, a man who had established them in the League, Kean became a yes man, agreeing to every crazy idea they had for the sake of getting a job as interim manager. They got themselves into a relegation dogfight purely by this decision but when he kept them up, he got the gig full time. Blackburn were relegated the next year with Big Sam telling the world ‘I told you so’. Rovers are still to recover from this either on or off the field. Out of all the interim bosses turned managers, he has the lowest points per game.
So, Can Freddie be considered for the job full time no matter what he does as an interim manager?
Be kind in the comments.