Paul Heckingbottom had an afternoon to forget as he joined the Premier League caretaker club after taking charge of Sheffield United for the first time against Leicester City. Here’s an XI made up of Premier League players who had stints as interim bosses. Some of them even managed to avoid a 5-0 thrashing.
Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davis
Former Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis took became interim boss at St Mary’s following Mark Hughes’ dismissal in December 2018. Davis took charge of team for their match against Tottenham Hotspur, with his side losing 3-1. Former Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino was in charge of Spurs at the time, whilst incoming gaffer Ralph Hasenhuttl watched from the stands at Wembley. If you fancy a goalkeeper challenge, try naming the former Wolves ‘keeper who has previously taken caretaker charge at Leicester City.
Right-back: Steve Clarke
Twenty years before he became Scotland boss, Steve Clarke cut his managerial teeth after taking caretaker control of Newcastle United following the departure of Ruud Gullit in the 1999/2000 campaign. The knives were out for the Dutchman after he dropped Geordie-born striker Alan Shearer for a clash with local rivals Sunderland. A 2-1 loss sealed Gullit’s fate and Clarke took charge for the Magpies’ match with reigning champions Manchester United. It wasn’t a happy debut in the dug-out, with former St James’ Park favourite Andy Cole scoring four times for the Red Devils in a 5-1 rout that left Newcastle in 19th. Bobby Robson came in and led the club to mid-table safety come the season’s end.
Centre-back: Nigel Pearson
Like Clarke, Nigel Pearson took caretaker charge at Newcastle United during turbulent times. The former Middlesbrough captain managed the Magpies following Glenn Rodeder’s resignation towards the end of the 2006/07 season and was back in the dugout again less than a year later. Sam Allardyce was Roeder’s long-term replacement but the former Bolton boss wasn’t well received on Tyneside and Pearson took temporary control before fan favourite Kevin Keegan arrived for his second spell as manager at St James’ Park.
Centre-back: Dave Watson
Everton’s captain for their shock 1995 FA Cup final win over Manchester United, Dave Watson took caretaker charge of the Toffees towards the end of the 1996/97 campaign after Joe Royle’s resignation. The Merseyside-born defender was still an active player at the time but remained in the hot-seat for the last seven games of the season. Club legend Howard Kendall was in the dugout come August for his third and final stint as boss at Goodison Park.
Dave Watson – Everton caretaker player-manager 1997 – P7 W1 D3 L3 pic.twitter.com/5nBGzzKrXM
— Everton Records (@EvertonRecords) November 29, 2013
Left-back: Stuart Pearce
Like Watson, Nottingham Forest legend Stuart Pearce took over the managerial reigns whilst on the playing staff, with the Premier League golden oldie taking charge at the City Ground following the departure of Frank Clark. Pearce’s first game was a tricky tie against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal but Forest came away with 2-1 win, after expert spawn-producer Alf-Inge Haaland bagged both goals. Pearce even went on to win the Manager of the Month award in January ’97 but a downturn in form saw Dave Bassett come in as manager in March.
Right wing: Freddie Ljungberg
Freddie Ljungberg kept the managerial seat at the Emirates warm for Mikel Arteta in late 2019 but the Swede’s spell as Arsenal caretaker boss didn’t measure up to his trophy-laden playing days with the Gunners. The former winger struggled to improve results at the club after Unai Emery’s dismissal, winning just once in the league. Italian midfielder Attilio Lombardo is also eligible for this side, with the Bald Eagle taking caretaker charge at Crystal Palace for a spell in the 1997/98 campaign.
Another player-caretaker lines up for this side, with veteran midfielder Stuart McCall appointed interim boss at Bradford City during his second stint at Valley Parade. The Bantams survived their first Premier League year under Paul Jewell after a shock victory over Liverpool on the last day season but struggled with new boss Chris Hutchings at the helm in the 2000/01 campaign. McCall couldn’t turn things around after Hutchings departed and neither could full-time replacement Jim Jefferies, as Bradford finished rock bottom. McCall’s fellow Scot John Wark is also eligible, having briefly taken joint caretaker charge of Ipswich Town alongside Paul Goddard in the 1994/95 season.
Former Scotland international Gary McAllister found himself taking caretaker control of Aston Villa in sad circumstances during the 2010/11 campaign, after full-time boss Gerard Houllier was taken ill in April. McAllister was working as Houllier’s assistant at the time, after previously playing under the Frenchman at Liverpool and managed to guide Villa to a win over his former club on the last day of the season.
The late, great Ray Wilkins had a long association with Chelsea that saw him take interim charge of the club in the 2000/01 season after Gianluca Vialli’s controversial departure. Wilkins and Graham Rix selected the side for a match against Leicester City before Claudio Ranieri took control at Stamford Bridge. The former England midfielder was in the hotseat again nearly a decade later, managing the side for an FA Cup tie after Big Phil Scolari was sacked in the 2008/09 campaign.
Manchester United gave it to Giggsy in the 2013/14 season after the David Moyes experiment came to an abrupt end in April. The Welsh wonder was still an active player at the time and led the Red Devils for the few remaining matches of the campaign, guiding the side to a 4-0 win over Norwich in his first game in charge. Giggs retired from playing duties in May but remained at Old Trafford as assistant manager under new boss Louis Van Gaal.
Giggs will be providing the ammunition for former Everton striker Duncan Ferguson, who took temporary charge of the Toffees last season after Marco Silva was sacked. The Portuguese was dismissed after a disastrous run of form that came to a head following a 5-2 defeat to neighbours Liverpool. Ferguson’s spell as caretaker led to some positivity on the pitch before Carlo Ancelotti’s much-anticipated arrival, as Everton managed to defeat Chelsea and draw with Manchester United and Arsenal in a trio of tricky fixtures for the Scot.