Newcastle’s first choice for the vacant managers job Unai Emery confirmed last week he will not be joining Newcastle United, less than 24 hours after Newcastle’s new owners briefed the press that it was a done deal. It all happened just 24 hours after Tottenham signed up Antonio Conte just months after he’d previously and very publicly turned them down. Newcastle aren’t the first and won’t be the last to fumble a managerial appointment, here are five others managers who look set to move only to u-turn and how those clubs moved ahead with plan b.
Martin O’Neill to Leeds United (1998)
George Graham left Leeds in good working order before the Arsenal legend controversially absconded to Tottenham. For Graham’s replacement, Leeds’ chairman Peter Ridsdale quickly zeroed in on Leicester boss Martin O’Neill. The popular Ulsterman was game and Leeds requested permission from Leicester to speak with their manager, only for Leicester to refuse. However, Ridsdale persisted and it seemed Leicester would relent ahead of a home game, ironically against Graham’s Tottenham. The local newspaper organised a demonstration at Filbert Street begging O’Neill to stay. It worked and O’Neill opted to stay at Leicester.
What Happened Next
Ridsdale turned to Graham’s former assistant David O’Leary who’d been acting as caretaker boss. O’Leary promoted four players from the youth team and re-signed Leeds idol David Batty as Elland Road saw a level of play and opposition not seen since the Don Revie era. O’Leary’s team managed three successive top four finishes and made two European semi finals, but Ridsdale’s lack of control of the finances sent the club into a tailspin and O’Leary was sacked in 2002 for finishing fifth. Incredibly Ridsdale’s first choice to replace O’Leary was the incumbent Celtic manager, one Martin O’Neill who said no again.
Luiz Felipe Scolari to England (2006)
When the FA confirmed their stormy relationship with manager Sven-Goran Eriksson would end after the then upcoming World Cup, new FA boss Brian Barwick thought he’d found his replacement in Brazilian World Cup winner ‘Big Phil’ Scolari. Scolari had knocked England out of successive tournaments first with his home nation in 2002 and then with Portugal in 2004, but Scolari still jumped at the chance and seemed set to sign a pre-contract agreement with the FA. But, just as everything looked set, the ever watchful British press had got wind of the move when Barwick booked on a commercial flight to Lisbon and quickly put two and two together. Scolari was confronted with a media scrum outside his home and decided to stay in Portugal, sighting media intrusion as his reason to back out.
What Happened Next
Despite the setback Barwick was determined to get a manager in ahead of Sven’s World Cup swansong (against Eriksson’s wishes). Numerous homegrown managers were interviewed and Barwick went for Eriksson’s assistant Steve McClaren, who was on the verge of a UEFA Cup final with Middlesbrough. However, ‘Boro were tonked by Sevilla in the final and Scolari’s Portugal put England out of the 2006 World Cup, yet again on penalties. McClaren’s arrival at FA headquarters received a muted reception whilst Gareth Southgate, who retired from playing after the UEFA Cup final, was given the Middlesbrough job. McClaren oversaw the worst qualifying campaign in England’s history as the Three Lions missed out on Euro 2008, with defeat to Croatia driving the final nail into McClaren’s coffin at Wembley. Euro 2008 would also prove Big Phil’s last hurrah with Portugal before an unsuccessful stint in England with Chelsea. Scolari eventually returned to managing Brazil, but in 2013 revealed he still felt hurt at turning down England.
Jose Mourinho to Tottenham (2007)
When the seemingly unbreakable bond between the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ and Chelsea was severed (for the first time) by Roman Abramovich, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy saw an opportunity. Just days after Mourinho’s shock dismissal from Stamford Bridge, Levy made a clumsy effort to bring Mourinho from West to North London. The major problem with Levy’s play was he already had a manager in the shape of Dutchman Martin Jol. With Spurs seemingly unable to break the glass ceiling of the top four and the world’s most sought after manager unsurprisingly turned his back and returned to Portugal.
What Happened Next
Levy’s relationship with Jol was broken and he left later that year. In came Juande Ramos who won the League Cup but sunk Spurs in the league, eventually Ramos’ replacement Harry Redknapp secured Tottenham access to the Champions League in 2010. Mourinho meanwhile had his pick of clubs, heading in the summer to Inter Milan where he won an historic treble in 2010. That would prove the high water mark for Mourinho who had mixed fortunes at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United, but did win trophies with all those clubs whilst the cupboard remained bare at Spurs. Then in November 2019 Mourinho found himself available and this time Levy’s overtures worked and Mourinho was Spurs manager, unsurprisingly it ended in tears.
Lucien Favre to Crystal Palace (2021)
At the end of last season Crystal Palace bid a fond farewell to veteran coach Roy Hodgson. Worse still for Palace was the former England manager wasn’t the only one departing Selhurst Park, with a host of veteran players running down their contracts, leaving the club lacking both a manager and a squad of players. Many saw former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and ex Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santos as the obvious front runners, but Palace owner Steve Parish made a bold move and approached former Borussia Dortmund and Nice manager Lucien Favre. Favre agreed a three year contract and it all seemed Parish had pulled off a coupe. However the veteran Swiss coach had a change of heart, wanting to take a longer break from football and Parish was left red faced.
What Happened Next
Parish swiftly switched focus and made the surprising choice of appointing Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. Given Vieira’s suspect track record many feared Parish had repeated his gaff of appointing Frank de Boer. However Vieira is thus far proving a pleasant surprise, looking a capable manager rather than just a big name ex-player being over promoted. Meanwhile Vieira has brought in young exciting players as Palace look to redefine themselves as a club. All that being said, how he copes with a first slump in form will be go a long way to defining Vieira’s stint in South London. Favre meanwhile remains out of work but has been linked with a string of jobs across Europe, it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of him.
Antonio Conte (and a host of others) to Tottenham (2021)
With Daniel Levy’s long courtship of Jose Mourinho turning into an unhappy marriage, Levy filed for divorce just days before the EFL Cup Final. Interim coach Ryan Mason was clearly never going to be the answer and Levy’s first target was Julian Nagelsmann, despite the fact he’d already agreed to take over at Bayern Munich. Consequently Levy left the decision until the end of the season leaving Mason in temporary charge. First Levy tried to tempt back Mauricio Pochettino but he recommitted to PSG and then news filtered through that Antonio Conte had left Serie A champions Inter Milan. Levy made his play for Conte but the notoriously prickly Italian pulled out.
What Happened Next
Levy began potential manager speed dating with Paulo Fonseca, Gennaro Gattuso and Nuno Espirito Santos amongst a host of managers linked with Tottenham. In the end Levy went for Santos, a move met with derision from Spurs fans. Nuno made a good start and won August Manager of the Month, but things quickly unravelled and his reign lasted a mere 124 days. Levy moved again for Conte and this time he got his man. Will it last? Is this genius or a stopped clock telling the right time twice a day? Time will tell but on paper Tottenham have ended up with a great coach.
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