Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Football's Worst Managerial Reigns


The managerial merry-go-round never ceases to turn, as 92 clubs throughout the land all believe that they have a divine right to constant success. And when they don't get it? Well, that's the manager's fault isn't it?

Sometimes, however, the blame really does lie with the boss. We take a look at some of the most disastrous reigns in football history.

Carlton Palmer (Stockport County)

Former England international and Graham Taylor favourite Palmer was appointed as player-manager at Stockport in November 2001, promising to turn around their poor early season form in Division 2 (today's Championship). However, he had the opposite effect, as the Hatters were relegated with just 26 points, conceding 102 goals. A lower mid-season struggle followed, and then a poor start to the 2003-2004 season saw him dismissed. He claimed at the start of his reign that he would one day be England manager - it turned out that his reign at Edgeley Park was the beginning of the club's descent into non-league and near-extinction. So close Carlton.


John Barnes (Tranmere Rovers)

Not content with an earlier disastrous spell in charge of Celtic (where they went out of the Scottish Cup to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, thus birthing the legendary Sun headline "Super Cally Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious"), he returned to club management with Tranmere in League 1 in 2009. Tranmere won just 3 of their first 14 games, with a 5-0 defeat to Millwall sealing his exit. To say he 'lost' the dressing room would be kind: he and his assistant Jason McAteer were allegedly referred to by the players as "Dumb and Dumber".


Brian Clough (Leeds United)

Famously documented in the book and film The Damned United, Brian Clough's tenure in charge of Leeds United was nothing short of a disaster. He had enjoyed a hugely successful time with Derby County and arrived at Elland Road to replace the legendary Don Revie after a short spell at Brighton. It was a surprising appointment, given that he had previously criticised the style and methods of his predecessor, who had overseen a highly physical style of play. He apparently told the squad he inherited: "You can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly." Needless to say, this didn't go down well; a player revolt followed and Clough was shown the door after just 44 days and just 1 win in 6 games.


Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland)

Paolo's time at Sunderland got off to an inauspicious start as the media howled at his fascist beliefs and alleged connections to the far right - something that had not apparently bothered them during his earlier spell in charge at Swindon Town. He had been successful there, gaining a promotion, but also a reputation as an eccentric, following fights with his own players but also moments of generosity - including offering his own money to pay wages when Swindon experienced financial difficulties. However, at Sunderland, Labour director David Miliband resigned and there were protests from the Durham Miners' Association. He managed to lead Sunderland to safety, but lasted just 5 games, scoring a single point, the next season: a total of 13 matches, after apparently losing the dressing room. Chief executive officer Margaret Byrne stated that Di Canio had been sacked after senior players complained of his "brutal and vitriolic" criticism of them. Short and decidedly unsweet.


Terry Connor (Wolves)

A lesson for chairmen who think that just frantically making a managerial change - any change - will help to turn around a sinking ship, poor Terry Connor endured one of the most miserable spells in charge of any club, ever. Mick McCarthy's 2012 side had been in danger, but far from down, when the board panicked with 13 games to go, sacking McCarthy and bringing in his assistant Connor to arrest the slide. Unfortunately, he failed to win a single match, with the team conceding 33 goals and picking up just 4 points, as they went down with a whimper. Two more mangers tried their hand the next season, with a second successive relegation following. Maybe they should have just stuck with Mick, eh?


Jacques Santini (Tottenham Hotspur)

Hopes were high at White Hart Lane when they persuaded the French coach Santini - who had made his name with prolonged success at Lyon before taking charge of the national team in 2002 - to join them after Euro 2004. However, he lasted just 13 days following a series of rows with Sporting Director Frank Arnesen. At least for Spurs, he did the honorable thing of resigning so, for once, they didn't have to foot a huge compensation bill.


Harry Redknapp (Southampton)

Upon hearing news of Redknapp's appointment at arch-rivals Southampton, fans of his former club Portsmouth, which he guided to promotion to the Premier League and subsequent safety, were enraged. However, following his sterling work at The Dell, they loved him even more, as he conspired to get the Saints relegated, fell out with chairman Rupert Lowe over the appointment of rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward and failed to establish them as promotion contenders in the Championship. He resigned and immediately returned to Portsmouth where he won the FA Cup three years later.


Les Reed (Charlton)

One of the shortest reigns in Premier League history, poor Les lasted just six weeks - 41 days - at The Valley, securing one win, and overseeing a league cup loss to League Two side Wycombe Wanderers. The ever-friendly press dubbed him 'Les Misérables' and he was put out of his, er, miséry after seven games.


Paul Jewell (Derby)

Despite leading them to promotion the season before, Billy Davies exited the club just a few months into their time in the Premier League, following a poor start. However, with six months to work his magic, Paul Jewell failed miserably, leading the club to the lowest points total in Premier League history: just 11. They still hadn't won a match by February, when he oversaw the club's record spell without a win of 21 league games, and they were relegated in March without Jewell winning a single game in the top tier. He finally broke his duck in the second match of the following season and, despite a run to the semi-final in the League Cup, he departed in December with the club languishing in 18th place in the Championship.


Michael Knighton (Carlisle)

A man so successful that he has managed an entry in both this list, and our list of craziest club chairmen. After owning the club for a few years under a succession of managers, he finally lost patience and decided that he could do a better job himself. It turned out he couldn't. Having sacked the well-liked Mervyn Day after a poor start to the 1997-98 season, he proceeded to lead the club to relegation. He persevered until December the following year, when he finally caved in and brought in Nigel Pearson. That year saw Carlisle just escape a second successive relegation thanks to a famous last-minute goal from 'keeper Jimmy Glass - they probably would have already been down if Knighton had still been in charge.


(Images: Rex/AllStar/Getty)



10 greatest goalkeeping goals


50 Worst Football Kits Ever


Craziest Club Chairmen


the 15 funniest Manager Moments


17 Incredible Halfway Line Goals


50 Greatest Sir Alex Ferguson Quotes


All The World Cup Kits So Far


20 Worst Dives In Football


Get The Look: Sir Alex Ferguson


Football's 10 Most Spectacular Own Goals


30 pieces of wisdom from football managers


10 Biggest Football Tantrums



Luis Suarez talks English football and the toughest PL defenders

He's a lover, not a biter

19 Oct 2016

Gary Lineker talks crisps, Rooney and "Sh*t on pitch"

Crisp don Gary Lineker reminisces about the time Diego Maradona nearly fell off a balcony

by Alex Christian
19 Oct 2016

Park Ji-sung now plays for De Montfort University's student side

And can't even prevent them from getting utterly drubbed

by Tristan Cross
14 Oct 2016

Watch San Marino players celebrate first WCQ away goal in 15 years

Ecstasy in Oslo

by Dave Fawbert
12 Oct 2016

The first-ever green card has been awarded in a football match

But how do you get one?

by Dave Fawbert
10 Oct 2016

Football's wonderkids that never made it

The prodigal youngsters that left us boy wondering

by Tristan Cross
05 Oct 2016

Celtic’s 13 year old wonderkid is already better than you'll ever be

Karamoko Dembele made his debut for the U20s last night

04 Oct 2016

The new FIFA president wants to ruin the World Cup

He might have just f*cked up massively

by David Cornish
04 Oct 2016

Sam Allardyce was foolish but he shouldn’t have been sacked

The England mess leaves more questions than answers

by Dave Fawbert
28 Sep 2016

England manager Sam Allardyce leaves after one game in charge

Farewell, Big Sam, we hardly knew ye

27 Sep 2016