The departure of Paul Clement from Derby County this week made true once again that old tale that goof number two’s don’t make good managers. A dictum that has made a casualty of many others including Kenny Dalglish’s sidekick, Steve Clarke; Andre Villas-Boas when he stepped into the hot seat at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur with little success. A bit like pundits who have found life much more perilous in the dugout than when waxing lyrically from the gantry. The latest also heading towards the casualty list being Gary Neville at Valencia where he was parachuted by the number last month and still unable to halt the clubs decline on the pitch. A vivid reminder that football is not all theory but a reflection of real life where events don’t always progress as they may on the fancy studios analysis screens.
Whether Neville will want to keep going in a cub where even the fans are now starting to have their doubts will depend on his pain threshold. Or indeed how much punishment he is willing to take for the owner as with each day his reputation is being damaged. Albeit his position with England as the number two under Roy Hodgson is assured for the summer EURO championships. However, in a glittering on field career with Manchester United - where his only footballing sins were a number of red cards – his fast track into management may have proven too hasty and ill judged. Given his seamless move into punditry enhanced his credibility despite being one of the least spectacular players in that infamous treble winning United team.
In Clement's case the move into the front line roved less graceful having been number to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Paris St German and Real Madrid. A period that was filled with glittering titles at national level and then at European level when Real won their tenth Champions League title in 2014. After so many years as Number two and with Ancelotti taking a sabbatical it was no surprise that the Englishman accepted a job on the bench as a manager. With Derby County not a bad choice, given their long term ambitions and some money to spend on players. Unfortunately, a poor run of results saw the long term pans come crashing down around him and the first sight of a managerial P45 in over ten years. What happens next will be curious as the temptation to re-join Ancelotti at Bayern next season must be a strong favourite.
His predecessor Aitor Karanka at Madrid, who was let go when Ancelotti arrived, and seems to be faring better at Middlesbrough since his arrival in 2013. The Riverside club now in the running for an automatic premier league promotion place and follows a surprising loss in the semi final play off's last season. The former one cap Spanish international obviously having learned from his years alongside the polemic Mourinho. Unlike Clement he has also been given more time and been able to garner some momentum at Middlesbrough after arriving as the replacement for Tony Mowbray. And having worked at one of the biggest clubs Karanka may be better able to deal with the media as on many occasions he was left to front up to storms when Mourinho didn't fancy the.hassle. Which must harden the nerves and equip him with a calmness that Ancelotti may not have thrust upon Clement during their years at the Bernabeu.
Steve Clarke tuned his hand to coaching post his playing day and made a career of it working with Ruud Guullit and Alan Shearer at Newcastle United; Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant at Chelsea; with Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and then most famously perhaps with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool. It was following the departure of Dalglish and the subsequent arrival of Brenda Rodgers in 2012 that Clarke was announced as the number one at West Bromwich Albion. A move that surprised even the shrewdest of pundits and saw the Scotsman secure a 3-0 victory at Anfield in his first managerial outing - a result that tested the dictum about number two’s. The season ending with a 5-5 draw against Manchester United and West Broom finishing in eight place in the Premier League.
Within less than a year though Clarke was gone and months later secured the top job at Reading. A role which lasted exactly a year returning the algorithm back to the norm where it is understood that managing and coaching are two different disciplines.
Carlos Quieroz found that out the hard way after his disastrous season at the helm of Real madid having been prized away from Manchester United with Sir Alex Fergusons blessing. His failure in la Liga saw him return to the safety of Old Trafford for another four years before the club released him to take up the Portugal job in 2008. A role in which he did not distinguish himself either and now earns his keep with the Iranian national team. Not unlike Tito Vilanova who found things at Barcelona were not as easy as his boss Pep Guardiola made them look during the years they worked together setting unbeatable records. When he was named as the replacement the job seemed to outsize him and tragically succumbed to cancer before he could prove his credentials one way or another. A sad end to his footballing story and one that left a wife and two young children behind.
Former Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough always said that he was "the shop window" while his side kick Peter Taylor was "the goods in the back". In truth it was Taylor who had the eye for young talent with players like Gary Birtles, Trevor Francis, Tony woodcock – and a calming influence for Clough. The club also found the current Republic of Ireland duo – manger Martin O’Neill and his number 2 Roy Keane - who were also key parts of those Clough years. Albeit not those European Cup winning years at the City Ground.
The truth is the strength of the Clough - Taylor team was derived from working together as neither enjoyed similar success when they were on their lonesome. Taylor in many ways happy to be Clough's assistant through those fruitful years as their skills were complimentary.
Liverpool it could be argued were one of the few clubs to astutely develop their managerial roster with much success through the magic of their boot room. Fostering a couple of title winning bosses after the departure of Bill Shankly from Anfield with Bob Paisley exceeding the achievements of his predecessor. Followed by Joe Fagan and the Roy Evans who all did their apprenticeship years watching the masters in action as they all shared the dug out together. In those days they weren’t really known as number two’s but just formed a natural part of the backroom team. Obviously Kenny Dalglish changed the formula when he was named manager once Fagan departed and shattered the other dictum in the game - that great players don’t make great managers.
Dalglish winning football League First Division three times; the FA Cup twice and the League Cup once in the 2011–12 season with Liverpool. Then adding the Premier title when he moved to Blackburn Rovers.
When the games moss successful manager stepped down at Old Trafford his highly regarded number two finally decided to take the plunge. So in November 2014, Mike Phelan was named first-team coach at Norwich City. For a brief spell he was named caretaker manager when Neil Adams resigned. But months later after Alex Neil was appointed Phelan stepped back and then left the cub a few weeks later not able to enhance his position or test his abilities as a first team manager. That outcome despite a long period at United winning the Premier League in 1992–93; the FA Cup in 1989–90; Football League Cup in 1991–92 and European Cup Winners Cup 1990–91. But then again he did all his work in the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson and any contribution he would have made as Number 2 remained unseen to the outside world.
In a way Bill Shankly summed it up perfectly
“If you are first you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.
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