With Frank Lampard and Roy Hodgson making weird caretaker returns and Leicester discussing Martin O’Neill, Arsenal, Liverpool and the rest need to join in.
Arsenal – Bruce Rioch
The shortest-serving Arsenal manager since the 19th century nevertheless has the closest experience to fighting fires in the red half of north London. Rioch assumed control of the ship in the choppiest waters possible, replacing the ousted George Graham after a 12th-placed finish marked an on-pitch nadir for a Gunners side with notorious issues behind the scenes. Rioch did little to unite either the fanbase or the squad with his approach to tactics or man-management but Arsenal were guided to fifth and the League Cup semi-finals in his only season, with improvement in league position and a cup run two crucial ingredients for an effective interim run; Arsene Wenger had long since been lined up for the post.
Manchester City – Stuart Pearce
One of the great caretaker stints as Pearce replaced Kevin Keegan in March 2005 in a move ostensibly designed to last until the end of the season, but instead guided the club into its first and slightly less effective modern takeover two years later. Manchester City were 12th when the former left-back stepped up, clear of genuine relegation concerns yet with European qualification a distant consideration. Defeat in his first game was followed by an eight-match unbeaten run which was almost worthy of a UEFA Cup place, delivered by an outfield David James.
Newcastle – Rafael Benitez
Sam Allardyce, Joe Kinnear and Alan Pardew are unlikely to receive a second panicked call from an 0191 phone number. Newcastle’s scale of firefighter manager appointment success is one of the finest out there, ranging from the disaster of Alan Shearer in late 2008/09 to the current Eddie Howe era, which started as a rescue job but is now firmly in the realm of dynasty establishment. Towards that end of the spectrum lies Liverpool legend Benitez, who took over the Magpies in 19th and one point from safety in March 2016 and retained absolute popularity among the players and fans despite guiding them to 18th, two points off survival.
Man Utd – Michael Carrick
It remains deeply hilarious that Carrick had the interim Man Utd reign that Ryan Giggs felt was his birthright. While the latter’s four-game legacy was to thrash Norwich and Hull, lose to Gus Poyet’s Sunderland at home, draw with Southampton and blood James Wilson, the former stayed unbeaten against Chelsea, Arsenal and Villarreal, had the balls to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and used the brief opportunity to catapult himself into a fine job so far at Middlesbrough.
Spurs – Tim Sherwood
From the ashes of a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool which did for Andre Villas-Boas, Sherwood forged a Premier League win percentage of 59.09% which, in his own words, remains “second to none”. He is indeed “the best manager this club’s ever seen,” and his retrospective take on those interim months in charge makes Lampard’s return seem perfectly sensible: “There was a very negative vibe at the club when I took over and the crowd wasn’t happy. The club was on the slide. They were down and needed stabilising. Look, they needed someone at the time and there was nobody else to come in, but I was there and knew the players. It was an opportunity for me and I took it.”
Plus when Tim f**ks it, David Pleat will be waiting. He always is.
Brighton – Chris Hughton
By the time Brighton felt their union with Chris Hughton was no longer mutually beneficial, the club was warned to Be Careful What You Wish For. The 64-year-old spent four and a half years on the south coast, transforming the Seagulls from 21st in the Championship into a tentatively established Premier League side.
Aston Villa – John Gregory
Hovering over the relegation zone when Brian Little quit in February 1998, Aston Villa were first linked with Ruud Gullit before landing rather surprisingly on Wycombe head coach Gregory. But he beat Liverpool in his first game, took Villa to a UEFA Cup place by May and then a title challenge in his first full season, even if managing only one British team since 2007 might necessitate a small familiarisation period in the current day.
Liverpool – Kenny Dalglish
With more than 20 years’ worth of unfinished business piling up in his desk drawer, Dalglish finally returned to drag Liverpool out of their Roy Hodgson-shaped misery in January 2011. The Reds, as the Scot’s ousted predecessor had publicly declared, were in a relegation battle and stumbling head-first into their post-Benitez, post-Hicks and Gillett ownership years. Dalglish brought the fans together, lit a fire in the squad and even delivered a trophy before bowing out, leaving Liverpool in a far better state than when he found it.
Brentford – Dean Smith
There are still some of Smith’s fingerprints on Brentford for those who care to look close enough. He signed Rico Henry and even helped prepare his successor, Thomas Frank having been appointed assistant head coach in late 2016. Smith himself took over after first Marinus Dijkhuizen and then Lee Carsley had contrived to leave the Bees buzzing around mid-table in 11th, when a promotion challenge was expected. They went on to finish ninth as Smith laid much of the groundwork which Frank continues to build on.
Fulham – Lawrie Sanchez
Maybe not Scott Parker. Or Claudio Ranieri. Or Felix Magath. Or Rene Meulensteen. Good lord, Fulham have struggled with this recently. Hodgson pulled them out of the relegation mire in 2007/08 but he is unavailable, so the OG Sanchez can step in again, even if his emergency service amounted to finishing 16th and a point clear of the drop, having been appointed in 15th with a four-point cushion. His only win in five games came against a Liverpool team distracted by the upcoming Champions League final.
Fulham successful passes tonight: 934
Fulham successful passes in their five games under Lawrie Sanchez in 2006-07: 866
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) August 21, 2019
Chelsea have already sent up the Frank-Signal and Crystal Palace are in the fun period of their Hodgson hook-up
Leeds – Simon Grayson
By December 2008, Kevin Blackwell remained the only Leeds manager of seven since David O’Leary to last a full season in charge. The latest to try and summarily fail to achieve that feat was Gary McAllister, for whom a fourth straight defeat in League One proved too much. Grayson was drafted in to stabilise a promotion push, the popular boss following up on play-off heartbreak by earning an automatic Championship return in his first proper campaign.
Wolves – Terry Connor
Twelve managers have taken charge of at least one Premier League game without ever winning. None have had more games to try and change that than Connor and his clipboard, who drew four and lost the remainder of his matches when Mick McCarthy left a sinking Wolves ship in 2012.
West Ham – Trevor Brooking
David Moyes has twice heeded the anxious call from West Ham but, contrary to the claims of his dwindling advocates, the Scot is not precisely the manager the Hammers would want in this situation. Mainly because he has helped put them in this situation. Which is not ideal. So instead we have Trevor Brooking, who nearly inspired something special from one of the true great Too Good To Go Down sides when Glenn Roeder was taken ill and someone had to step in for the final three games of the 2002/03 season. Back-to-back 1-0 wins over Manchester City and Chelsea were delivered but in spite of a spirited draw with Birmingham, West Ham were relegated with 42 points after Bolton beat Middlesbrough.
Everton – Sam Allardyce
One club has to take the hit and be forever tied to the Premier League’s ultimate firefighter – apologies to West Brom. Everton have a decent field to pick from, including Joe Royle, Dave Watson and Moyes. Their last two appointments have been spooked late January decisions. But Big Sam.
Nottingham Forest – Gary Brazil
By contrast, Forest have a particularly bad history of rescue calls in the Premier League. Neither Stuart Pearce nor Ron Atkinson succeeded in maintaining the club’s top-flight status in the 1990s, while most of their most recent permanent managers were appointed mid-season. Gary Brazil has had the caretaker job thrice, with a win percentage of 31.8% from 22 games. And Steve Cooper will be perturbed to know he remains at the club as Director of Football Development, lurking menacingly in the background.
Bournemouth – Eddie Howe
It is difficult to look past Eddie Howe. When he first became manager on New Year’s Day 2009, Bournemouth were 23rd in League Two and seven points from safety; they finished 21st, nine points clear of the drop. For his second bite of the Cherries, Howe took over a club 21st in League One in October 2012 and guided them to promotion in the same season.
Leicester have genuinely discussed the possibility of bringing Martin O’Neill back and that is glorious
Southampton – Nathan Jones
The guy was cooking at St Mary’s. Southampton fans have a choice: it’s either Jones or the unrelegatable Mark Hughes. Exactly.