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One of the most commonplace phrases in football has long been “never go back” yet that seems exactly what a large number of Managers have been doing in recent seasons. Whether it’s simply down to the comfort of familiarity or a more profound attempt to connect with fans by bringing back locals heroes is hard to tell, but generally speaking, it seems to be working for the majority of Clubs who have gone down this road. It seems to be gaining popularity too, even Brazil tempting “Big” Phil Scolari back into the National Coach role.
The “hire ‘em, fire ‘em” nature of The Premier League has meant that Managers have enough to worry about in surviving ONE spell at a Club, so it’s no surprise that The Returning Manager is a phenomenon that has largely passed the top flight by. It’s a different story further down the pyramid though, where Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City have flirted with the automatic promotion places all season in his second spell at the Club.
Loyalty is part of Pearson’s make-up, his three Club career seeing him play 153 League games for Shrewsbury, 180 as Captain of Sheffield Wednesday and a further 115 as Captain of Middlesbrough, the lure of a return to The King Power Stadium evidently too much to resist after Paulo Sousa and Sven-Goran Eriksson had both failed to break into the play-offs, Pearson knowing much of the playing staff from his earlier successful two season spell.
Outspoken Scot Billy Davies has recently returned to Leicester’s East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest after their relentless chase for promotion has seen embarrassingly short tenures for Steve McClaren, Sean O’Driscoll and Alex McLeish, Forest’s new owners hoping for a third play-off place under the Glaswegian. Only in his first management position, but having enjoyed cult status during three spells as a Charlton player, Chris Powell oversaw The Addicks promotion to The Championship in his second season as Manager, the South London side sitting comfortably in mid table as they look to consolidate.
Down in League One, Tranmere Manager Ronnie Moore claims the title of Football’s Bad Penny, this serial returnee playing twice for Tranmere between 1971-79 and 1986-89, before managing the Wirral Club twice between 2006-09, and currently just two points off the top of the League having lost only two of his first 24 games since rejoining in the summer. Moore also managed Rotherham twice, between 1997 and 2005 and later between 2009 and 2011.
Like Moore, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe was a stalwart in two spells at Dean Court as a player, despite an injury plagued career. Now in his second spells as Manager, he has led the South Coast club to the top of the division with a staggering run of form since leaving Burley in October. Gary Johnson has prompted a similar revival after returning to Yeovil following unsuccessful spells at Peterborough and Northampton, The Glovers another team in the League One play-off picture.
At the other end of the League, Graham Turner player 355 games for Shrewsbury and became player-manager in 1978-1984, winning the Championship in his first season before returning to the Club for the 2010/11 season, 26 years after he had originally departed. Reaching the play-offs in first season, Turner guided The Shrews to promotion in the next although they have found their first season back at this level difficult. In technically is third spell at Scunthorpe, Brian Laws will no doubt testify that a return is not a universal guarantee of success, The Iron struggling in the bottom six, while Neale Cooper’s second spell at Hartlepool United left them miles adrift at the foot of League Two and odd-on for a drop into the Conference before resigning (again) in October.
Never go back? I’m not so sure.