6 Premier League Players You Would Not Have Expected to Go into Management
Being a world-class player is no guarantee of one day blossoming into a world-class manager. For every managerial success of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and Franz Beckenbauer, there’s a Roy Keane, Diego Maradona or Tony Adams making furious hand gestures and pained facial expressions in the dugout.
But there are some players you just cannot imagine even contemplating management based on their antics as a player. Be it their temperament, rule-breaking tendencies or class clown reputation, certain footballers seem unlikely to be trusted with any kind of managerial responsibility.
But occasionally owners have seen beyond the reputation and taken a gamble on an unlikely candidate. And sometimes it’s worked and sometimes it hasn’t…
Bowyer nearly reached yellow card triple figures in the Premier League
As a player, Bowyer’s reputation often proceeded him. From an off the pitch affray incident as a teenager, to famously fighting with Newcastle teammate Keiran Dyer because he’d had the cheek to not pass him the ball; from stamping on Bacary Sagna to swearing at a West Brom supporting Grandma, it’s fair to say the Premier League’s third-most booked player in history had a pretty chequered past.
There were signs of him maturing as his playing days drew to a close, but not drastically enough for Bowyer to suddenly be considered the level headed man equipped to lead a football club.
Bowyer himself admitted management wasn’t on the cards, but after turning his hand to a spot of coaching at Watford, he was parachuted into boyhood club Charlton and had them celebrating promotion to the Championship within 18 months!
Barton was famously hot headed on the football pitch
Barton was famed for his temper during his playing days, with on and off the field controversies following him from club to club.
There have been altercations with fans and teammates, in addition to punching Morten Gamst Pedersen, elbowing Carlos Tevez, kneeing Sergio Aguero, plus a six-month jail sentence for common assault.
But beneath the rage, Barton has demonstrated another side to his character; he has appeared on Question Time, was one of the first professional players to support the Rainbow Laces campaign and is a patron of addiction charity the Tamsin Gulvin Fund.
However, based on Joey Barton the player, few would have predicted that a chairman would take a punt on Joey Barton the manager. But the former midfielder has proved the doubters wrong, guiding Fleetwood Town – one of the smallest clubs in the third tier – to the League One playoffs in just his second season in charge.
Management brought out an unfamiliar sign to Duncan Ferguson
Big Dunc had a formidable reputation in his playing days and one of Wikipedia’s great ‘personal life’ sections.
With eight Premier League red cards – an all-time record he shares with Richard Dunne and Patrick Viera – Ferguson was renowned for his short fuse. He became the first footballer to be jailed for on the pitch violence during his time at Rangers when he headbutted Raith Rovers’ John McStay (although he wasn’t actually booked for this offence).
After joining Everton as a coach in 2014, he was temporarily handed the reins in 2019 following the sacking of Marco Silva. His brief time in charge was a huge success. Ferguson breathed new life into the flat side he had inherited, leading the Toffees to a victory and two draws against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
What was most surprising was not his success but the soft side he showed; from embracing his players to swinging ball boys around in celebration, the scray red card regular was nowhere to be seen.
Bullard was a dressing room clown
Unlike the other candidates on the list, Bullard did not have an aggressive or destructive side to him during his playing days. Rather, he was just absolutely bonkers.
Bullard joked his way through his footballing career. He was suspended for two weeks for going on a midweek night out in Newcastle while at Ipswich (a 600 mile round trip), he recreated Phil Brown’s infamous on the pitch team talk while at Hull and just spent his football career playing with a joyous boyish enthusiasm. He was Rob Beckett with a passing range.
An avidly watchable and gifted footballer no doubt, but the idea of Bullard being given actual responsibility seemed ludicrous. But in September 2016, he was took the top job at seventh tier Leatherhead. The former Fulham man left the club in the summer, having guided them to a 13th place finish.
Gazza had an infectious sense of humour
Gazza was many things during his playing days; exuberant, imaginative and technically supreme. One thing you probably wouldn’t describe the ex-England international as is a ‘safe pair of hands’.
Gascoigne was famed for his sense of humour and off the pitch antics as much as his grace and balance on it. The midfielder forged himself a reputation as a prankster – hiding fish in cars, dishing out yellow cards to referees and crashing the Middlesbrough team bus. And we’ve barely even scratched the surface.
But in October 2005, Gazza was trusted with the Kettering Town job. Unfortunately, his tenure with the Conference North outfit lasted just 39 days, and by Christmas he’d been dismissed.
Keane was terrific as a player, but blew hot and cold as a manager
Roy Keane was one of the finest midfielders and captains in Premier League history. His leadership, winning mentality and drive for high standards would undoubtably have lent themselves to management – but his temper and ability to self-destruct were also a huge part of his game.
Keane’s seven Premier League red cards are bettered only by Vieira, Dunne and Bowyer – one of which was for a deliberately dangerous tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland, which he later admitted was an act of revenge. He also had a knack for falling out with people, as Sir Alex Ferguson and Mick McCarthy will testify.
Keane’s managerial career got off to a highly impressive start, as he took Sunderland from bottom of the Championship to Premier League promotion the space of the season, before successfully keeping them in the top flight the following year. However, things did not pan out quite as well at Ipswich. Keane was sacked after a little under two years in charge, with the Suffolk side languishing near the bottom of the Championship despite heavy investment.