Managerial appointments are one of the most fascinating aspects of Premier League football, the arrival of a new leader to raise hope of an exciting era of sustained success.
Not every appointment has the desired effect, however, and the pressures of the Premier League can lead to desperate times and desperate measures, with managers often the first casualty when times are hard.
Finding the right replacement on an endless coaching carousel can prove difficult and we’ve decided to revisit some of the strangest dugout changes of the modern era, here are five of the most bizarre managerial appointments in Premier League history:
Attilio Lombardo – Crystal Palace (1998)
The concept of a player-manager seems like a trend of a bygone era, but Crystal Palace looked within their own playing ranks when seeking a replacement for Steve Coppell in 1998.
Lombardo had established himself as an instant hero at Selhurst Park following his arrival from Juventus the previous summer, his fine form earning a recall to the Italian national team as he starred for an Eagles side making their return to top-flight football.
Such was his influence, incoming new owner Mark Goldberg decided Lombardo was the man to take the club forward in March of his first season, stepping into a player-manager role after Coppell moved into a Director of Football position.
An unusual double-act of Lombardo as caretaker manager and Tomas Brolin as his interpreter proceeded over the remainder of the Premier League season, though the bizarre duo managed just two wins from seven games as Palace finished bottom of the division.
Lombardo stepped down as manager but remained for a further season as a player, the ‘Bald Eagle’ later returning to Italian football with Lazio.
Chris Hutchings – Wigan Athletic (2007)
Chris Hutchings’ previous managerial experience in the Premier League had come during a disastrous spell in charge of Bradford, the club’s assistant stepping into the role left by Paul Jewell’s departure and overseeing a wretched run of just one win in 12 league fixtures to earn the sack.
Fast forward seven years to a Wigan side seeking a replacement for departed manager Paul Jewell and the club’s list of managerial candidates bizarrely resulted in one man, you guessed it – assistant manager Chris Hutchings.
Now we’re all one for redemption stories, but Wigan certainly can’t say they weren’t warned.
Despite an initial bright start history would repeat itself in ominous fashion, Hutchings once again sacked in November of his first season in charge after a run of six successive losses left the Lancashire in the relegation places.
Avram Grant – Chelsea (2007)
To his credit, Avram Grant did ok during his brief spell as Chelsea boss.
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 a strange move from owner Roman Abramovich.
Jose Mourinho had guided the club to back-to-back league titles – the first ending a 50-year drought – before departing in sudden fashion following a fall-out with the club that rocked Stamford Bridge.
Abramovich’s era at Chelsea so far had been about pursuing the biggest and best talent, so his decision to appoint director of football Grant – a virtual unknown in English football – led many to question the club’s direction.
Grant led the west London side to two cup finals but whilst Mourinho had proven himself as a serial winner, Grant lost the League Cup and Champions League finals and finished runners-up in the league, earning a reputation as a footballing bridesmaid.
His contract was not renewed at the end of the season and his Chelsea reign was over.
Joe Kinnear – Newcastle (2008)
Having found himself on the managerial scrapheap for the best part of a decade, former Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear surprisingly returned to the Premier League as manager of Newcastle in 2008, appointed on an initial caretaker basis following the resignation of fans’ favourite Kevin Keegan.
Kinnear had overseen Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ in the initial seasons of the Premier League era, though the landscape of England’s top tier had significantly altered by the time he pitched up at St James’ Park.
The veteran manager arrived as an unpopular appointment by an unpopular owner at Newcastle, though quickly made a lasting impression in the North East – for all of the wrong reasons.
Kinnear embarked on an infamous and crazed expletive-filled rant, attacking the assembled media with the manager furious at the coverage of his first week in charge of the Magpies. The Daily Mirror’s Simon Bird, felt Kinnear’s wrath in some style.
Joe Kinnear: “Which one is Simon Bird?”
Simon Bird: Me.
Joe Kinnear: You’re a c*nt. Ok, I’ve said it to your face.
Kinnear’s ‘unique’ style also saw him alienate players with Charlez N’Zogbia particularly unhappy with the manager’s approach, going on strike and demanding a departure after repeatedly being referred to as ‘Charles Insomnia’.
After suffering heart problems in February, Kinnear stepped down from his role but it was incredibly not the end of his Newcastle story, returning in a Director of Football role five years later and making a similarly memorable impact.
His second stint included more incorrect player names (Ben Afri, Yohan Kebab), in addition to listing a now notorious list of fabricated personal achievements on radio, including signing Tim Krul (he hadn’t) and winning the LMA Manager of the Year award on three occasions (he won it once).
Brian Laws – Burnley (2010)
Burnley arrived in the top flight after a 33-year absence amid a wave of momentum following promotion under Owen Coyle, but after just six months their progress was stalled by the manager’s decision to leave for North West rivals Bolton.
Searching for a replacement to aid the club’s battle to beat the drop, the Clarets somehow landed on Brian Laws after Doncaster had rejected the club’s approach for first-choice Sean O’Driscoll.
Laws had been sacked by Sheffield Wednesday just a month earlier and had never managed in the top flight, his coaching career taking in spells at lesser lights such as Grimsby and Scunthorpe in addition to a three-year spell at Hillsborough.
Burnley had begun their first Premier League season in solid fashion and the appointment of Laws looked a major and unnecessary gamble, one which backfired in spectacular fashion as the club suffered an immediate return to the second tier.