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Five of the Premier League’s biggest managerial downgrades ever

The departure of a great manager leaves a huge void at any club, and whilst there have been successful transitions, there are some clubs who have really got their successors wrong.

Newcastle fans are the latest to be outraged after replacing the outgoing Rafael Benitez with former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, ‘#BruceOut’ trending on social media just half an hour after his appointment, though the Toon faithful are not the only side to have been left disappointed by the decisions of their club’s hierarchy.

Here are five of football’s biggest managerial downgrades…


Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes – Manchester United

Perhaps the most notorious botched successor plan, and a mistake Manchester United may still be paying the price for today.

Any man who replaced Ferguson at Old Trafford faced an unenviable task, how do you succeed the greatest manager in English football history? Perhaps even the greatest of all-time?

With Ferguson set to retire after a glittering 26-year career at the club, the appointment of Moyes was made on the advice of the United boss. Moyes had enjoyed a relatively successful 11-year spell at Everton, transforming the club into contenders for European football and Ferguson saw similarities between himself and his fellow Scot.

Moyes was appointed in the summer of 2013, and his reign began with Community Shield success. However, that would be the highlight of Moyes’ tenure, with the Old Trafford faithful quickly turning on him after a series of insipid displays.

Having taken over the reigning Premier League champions, United stumbled to a 7th-placed finish the following season. Moyes was sacked in April with four games of the season remaining, less than a year into his six-year contract.

‘The Chosen One’ proving to be a poor choice.

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Jose Mourinho to Avram Grant – Chelsea

To be fair to Avram Grant his Chelsea reign was ok. However, replacing the club’s all-time most successful manager with a director of football, whose only previous experience of management was in Israel, was seriously underwhelming for the Chelsea faithful.

After securing ending Chelsea’s 50-year wait for a league title and securing back-to-back Premier League triumphs, Jose Mourinho’s fall-out with the club and Stamford Bridge departure rocked Chelsea.

Owner Roman Abramovich turned to Grant, the Israeli who had been working as director of football at the club. A virtually unknown in English football, doubts surrounded Grant’s appointment and though he led the club to two cup finals, he became known as a footballing bridesmaid.

Whilst Mourinho had proven himself as a proven winner, Grant lost the League Cup and Champions League finals and finished runners-up in the league.

His contract was not renewed at the end of the season and his Chelsea reign was over.

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Rafael Benitez to Roy Hodgson – Liverpool

Benitez failed to deliver the league title during six years at Anfield, however, after years of mediocrity he did give a generation of Liverpool fans their greatest night by leading the club to Champions League success in 2005.

By 2010, Liverpool were crumbling under the ownership and debts of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and Benitez and the club parted ways by ‘mutual consent’.

Revered amongst the club’s support, Benitez’s departure was a wholly unpopular decision and the Liverpool fan’s concerns were raised further by the appointment of Fulham boss Hodgson.

Hodgson had spent the majority of his managerial career across Europe, taking in spells in Switzerland, Sweden and Italy but never at a club of Liverpool’s stature.

A host of poor summer signings were used as a stick to beat Hodgson with, though the club’s performances were enough to cause unrest. A humbling home defeat to Blackpool was poor, but being eliminated from the League Cup to League 2 Northampton at Anfield was unacceptable.

The football was insipid and boring, whilst Hodgon also had a tendency for saying the wrong things. When asked on how Anfield’s famed atmosphere compared the bumbling boss unwisely replied “Well, San Siro and Old Trafford are excellent.”

Describing a derby defeat to Everton as Liverpool’ ‘best performance of the season’ drew further criticism, before Hodgson was eventually sacked in January 2011.

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Graham Taylor to Dr Josef Venglos – Aston Villa

Ok, so we’ve cheated a little here, but we couldn’t leave this one out. Graham Taylor had reinvigorated Aston Villa after taking over the club in 1987, guiding the recently-relegated club to an immediate promotion before securing a runners-up finish in the top flight during his third season in charge.

Taylor’s impact saw him poached for the England job and in 1990 Villa, perhaps thinking they were ahead of the curve, became the first top-flight English club to appoint a manager born outside of Britain or Ireland.

That landmark is sadly all that Josef Venglos will be remembered for following a disastrous tenure. Having taken over a team that finished second the previous season, Villa slid down the table at an alarming rate and narrowly avoided relegation, with Venglos leaving after just one season.

His name will forever be etched into the history books of English football, just not for his footballing achievements.

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Rafael Benitez to Steve Bruce – Newcastle

The second Benitez successor to make our list, and the most recent following Bruce’s appointment at St James’ Park.

Despite the controversial ownership of Mike Ashley, Benitez had performed admirably since moving to the North East, guiding the club to promotion before consolidating their Premier League status.

Concern over the club’s ambition saw the Spaniard depart, with former Sunderland boss Bruce named as his underwhelming replacement.

Benitez is regarded as one of Europe’s leading managers, the only manager in history to have won the Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, whilst Bruce’s career highlights are promotions from the second tier.

Bruce is a boyhood Newcastle fan despite his previous Sunderland links, though this has done little to appease the Geordie faithful.

As mentioned ‘#BruceOut’ was trending on Twitter just minutes after his appointment, and the former Manchester United defender will have to start well to win over a concerned crown.

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