Mercenary Managers

You may have not noticed this today among the news that Oscar Pistorious was a bit annoyed about losing, and Michael Owen may or may not be on his way back to Anfield, but Sven-Göran Eriksson is once again gainfully employed, this time in Thailand (and as an aside, so is Diego Maradona as the “Honorary Sports Ambassador” for Dubai).

Sven Sven Sven, Sven-Goran Eriksson

Mr Eriksson, no doubt delighted to be in full-time employment once again. (Photo by Arvedui89 on Flickr)

Of course once, before he arrived at Lancaster Gate in 2001, Sven was a respected manager who had won titles in several countries, and had not long since helped Lazio to their first scudetto in more than 25 years. Since he left the England job in 2006, Sven has managed Manchester City, the Mexican and Ivory Coast national teams, Leicester City and been director of football at Notts County. Sven has been one of the defining factors of the excesses of English football, and football in general, over the last few years; a no doubt talented (perhaps with some ageing ideas) manager, his tendency to go to the highest bidder is matched by few in the game. It did get me thinking though, and did remind me of a few other mercenary managers, those bosses who take charge of so many different teams that it’s quite difficult to gauge exactly where their loyalties lie.

Bela Guttmann

Guttmann was perhaps the original managerial mercenary (oft-mentioned on the Football Ramble, whose profile of him is first-class), though, even more so than Eriksson, there is no doubting he had talent in abundance. Guttmann was a Hungarian, whose first managerial job came with Hakoah Vienna (the primary Jewish side in that city) in 1935. The next 38 years, which encompassed his coaching career, saw him take the helm of a football club a total of 25 times. Many of these involved taking the main job at a club more than once; indeed, Guttmann was manager of both Benfica and Porto twice.

What Guttmann lacked in decisiveness and staying power, he certainly made up for in his pioneering tactical outlook (as is wonderfully described in Jonathan Wilson’s “Inverting the Pyramid”) and ultimately, prowess in the job. He was sacked halfway through a season when Milan (with Nordahl and Liedholm in the side) were top of Serie A; he went to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to manage (Quilmes, Sao Paulo and Penarol respectively), and in his first spell in charge of Benfica they won two successive European Cups in 1961 and 1962. Guttmann was undoubtedly a wonderful manager; he was however also liable to get into the odd argument with a board of directors. This, more than anything, may account for his interesting CV.

Jocky Scott
Scott is rather at the other end of the scale from Eriksson and Guttmann. The ultimate in lower league Scottish managers, Jocky Scott was a bit of an everyman for a while as to who a club could get in when times were desperate. Scott has had three separate spells at Dundee, dallied with management in England at Notts County (and a brief spell as caretaker manager at Plymouth Argyle), and was once co-manager (!) with Alex Smith at Aberdeen.

Most recently, he contributed to Stirling Albion’s relegation to the Scottish Second Division in 2011, followed swiftly by their relegation to the Scottish Third Division in 2012. Scott always seemed to be the man lower-end Scottish teams (though not East Fife. Yet.) turned to when they couldn’t think of anyone else; they probably ended up wishing they’d thought a bit harder.

Micky Adams

Micky Adams is another case in point for me. His name always seems to come up whenever a lower-rate managerial position is available in England. His career so far has seen him take in 10 different top jobs in a 16 year career (not far away from a Guttmann-esque level of employment turnover), and he is now in his second spell at Port Vale. His only Premier League experience thus far came with Leicester City in their most recent season in the top flight (2003-04), which was probably most famous for the arrest (and the subsequent dropping of all charges) of several players on charges of sexual assault on a team-building trip to Spain.

His career has rolled slowly down a gentle slope since, taking Sheffield United into League 1 at the end of the 2010-11 season, then drifting down to League 2 to return to Port Vale at the start of the following season. Continuing mediocrity no doubt beckons.

Dick Advocaat

Dick Advocaat is my final example and another gentleman who has been round the block somewhat. His approach is somewhat unique among this rogues’ gallery in that he has been manager of no fewer than 5 international sides, though not quite up there with Bora Milutinovic’s 9 international jobs. Advocaat has taken charge of the Netherlands (twice), Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Russia. In doing so, he has achieved….not much.

His spells in charge of Russia and South Korea were perhaps particularly notable in that they his spells followed those of fellow countryman and fellow mercenary Guus Hiddink. Hiddink took Russia and South Korea to surprising international semi-final appearances (in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2002 respectively); Advocaat managed to take both to first round knockouts (in Euro 2012 and World Cup 2006). Dick has had some success in his career, most notably with Rangers (though in hindsight his interesting transfer policy may have ultimately played a major part in that club’s liquidation) and Zenit St Petersburg. Advocaat has now gone back to PSV (his previous spell coming after his relatively successful time in charge of the Dutch national team in the mid-1990s). No doubt he will end up with another national side at some point.

Any other examples of managerial mercenaries are gratefully received. I feel Sven is probably the best modern example of a mercenary (though Fabio Capello is starting to give him a run for his money). One might argue too that Jose Mourinho fits into the mercenary mould, although he does appear to pick and choose his jobs relatively carefully (having his undoubtedly excellent track record helps). These chaps certainly help keep the game interesting, though one wonders why some of them remain in gainful employment.

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2 thoughts on “Mercenary Managers

  1. Jockey S just been announced as a youth coach at Aberdeen. Now, him AND Craig Brown might have been something to consider once but that was at least 20 years ago….

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