Managers who made their bow as player and manager at the same club

By Henry Church Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/10 22:53:41

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola waves at the crowds after the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on August 10. Photo: VCG

Football is a funny old game. How else do you explain that some of the best players and best managers in the game happen to be the same people?

More than that, some of these footballers-turned managers happened to make their playing debut and managerial debut for the same clubs.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs is one such individual. The 45-year-old began his managerial career after being asked to take over as caretaker at Manchester United after the club had got rid of David Moyes following an ill-fated six months in charge following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The English Premier League champions were in freefall - OK, they were in sixth - but the trigger was pulled and Giggs, still registered as a player at the time, was asked to steer the side for the final games of the season. 

The former winger, who had made 963 appearances in 23 years at his boyhood club, also picked himself for one game - almost keeping up his record of scoring in every single league campaign for 21 successive seasons but for a save from 2013-14.

Fledgling careers

Giggs stayed on at Old Trafford as assistant under Louis van Gaal before leaving when Jose Mourinho took over in the hotseat. He has since become Wales manager and leads them in the current qualifying campaign for the European Championship next summer. 

His is a fledgling managerial career, much like another Premier League legend as a player, Thierry Henry, who started his own career in management at Monaco, the same club where he started as a player.

Henry's time in charge in the principality was not ideal - he left with a record of four wins, five draws and 11 defeats, from 20 games in charge after little more than four months in charge - but he has been linked with other jobs since. It's fair to say that the jury is out on whether he can match his exploits as a player in the role of manager but history is on his side.

Five of the best regarded managers in the game followed the same path. Bobby Robson made both his playing and managerial debut at Fulham. His playing career saw him win 20 England caps, somewhat less illustrious than Giggs and Henry, but his managerial career spanned almost 40 years and some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Robson lasted only a short time in West London before moving to Ipswich Town, where he would win the UEFA Cup. He then took over the England national team for eight years, which culminated in the semifinal heartbreak of the World Cup in Italy in 1990, their best performance since winning it in 1966. This was followed by PSV Eindhoven, where he introduced Europe to Ronaldo, and then two of Portugal's big three - Sporting Lisbon and Porto, where he would meet a young Mourinho, whom he employed as his translator, and a teenage Andres Villas-Boas, whom he set up in a scouting role.

He took Mourinho to Barcelona with him and he also reunited with Ronaldo, winning the European Cup Winners Cup, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup in the 1996-97 season - one where he was also named European Manager of the Year.

Robson returned to England after a season back with Eindhoven, managing his boyhood favorites Newcastle United for five years before retiring due to ill health aged 71.

Barca legends

The Barcelona connection exists with two of the other players and managers to have made their debuts in playing and coaching at the same club. Pep Guardiola has won the Premier League for the last two seasons with Manchester City but the Catalan became the most sought after manager in world football after guiding Barcelona to 14 trophies in four seasons, after progressing from managing Barcelona's B team.

Guardiola, who would go on to manage Bayern Munich before moving to Manchester,  was a key part of Robson's cup-winning team but his real influence at the Camp Nou was Dutch maestro Johan Cruyff.

It was not at the Camp Nou, where Cruyff would play for five years and manage another eight, that he made his debut, though. That was instead with Ajax in his hometown of Amsterdam. Despite leaving Ajax at the end of his second spell as a player to move to rivals Feyenoord for one title-winning farewell season, he returned to the club as manager in 1985. This kick-started a management career that has had an impact like no other.

Three years at Ajax then became eight as Barcelona manager, which included a European Cup win in 1992 - with Guardiola, his greatest student, as captain, no less. Both the Ajax and Barcelona academies owe a great deal to the Cruyffian teachings. In fact, Barcelona just opened a stadium for their youth teams named after him while Ajax play their home games in the Johan Cruyff Arena, formerly the Amsterdam Arena.

Barcelona and Ajax are two of the biggest names in European football. Italian giants AC Milan can be counted among them. Giovanni Trapattoni won two European Cups as a player at the San Siro in the 1960s before becoming the Milan manager the following decade. He did not bring the same success to the club as boss but went on to win the UEFA Cup and European Cup as coach with Juventus, and another UEFA Cup with Inter Milan.

"Trap" also won the league in four countries, including in Germany with Bayern Munich, which is where the final member of this illustrious group Jupp Heynckes earned his fame. The World Cup-winning player started out both of his careers at Borussia Monchengladbach, where he also won the UEFA Cup. But it was in Bavaria he earned most of his trophies, including the 2012-13 Champions League - his second after winning with Real Madrid in the mid-1990s. 

Big names and big records for Henry and Giggs to live up to, but why not?

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