Football Features

Hit or miss? The managers who jumped ship for the Premier League

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 11:41, 17 July 2019

It is no coincidence that so many managers say the Premier League is where you are truly tested.

Widely regarded as the most competitive league in the world, the top flight of English football is often viewed as the pinnacle of the game. Offering unrivalled riches and rewards, all one has to do is look at the managers who are currently plying their trade in England to see that this is the place to be when it comes to modern football.

When the Premier League comes calling, you do not refuse, as Sheffield Wednesday learned to their detriment this week. After less than a year in charge, Steve Bruce resigned on Monday and has now been confirmed as Newcastle’s new manager.

Unsurprisingly, Bruce is not the first (and won’t be the last) to abandon their clubs for the blinding lights of the top flight, not just ever but even this summer: Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, we see you. We take a look at seven other managers who made this move, and whether they were a hit or a miss.

Jose Mourinho – 2004

Left – FC Porto
Joined – Chelsea
Verdict – Hit

After shocking Europe by winning the Champions League with Porto, Mourinho joined Chelsea with a massive reputation and an ego to match – besides, who can forget the first press conference of ‘The Special One’?

Fortunately for Chelsea, he certainly lived up to the billing. Mourinho’s Chelsea won the league in his first campaign, setting a record points total (95) and only conceding 15 goals all season. They retained the league the following season and won the FA Cup the year after that.

However, Mourinho fell out with owner Roman Abramovich and shocked the Blues’ fans when it was announced in September 2007 that Mourinho had left the club by mutual consent. He departed having won six trophies in three years and gone unbeaten in the league at Stamford Bridge but returned in 2013 to add another league title to his CV.

Carlo Ancelotti – 2009

Left – AC Milan
Joined – Chelsea
Verdict – Hit

WARNING: Chelsea enjoy stealing managers. Having had eight hugely successful years at AC Milan, Chelsea pickpocketed the Italian side by hiring Ancelotti a day after he resigned from the club.

His reign started well with a Community Shield victory in his first competitive game against Manchester United. The Italian was able to carry on this form: despite getting knocked out of the Champions League by his old rivals Inter (managed by Jose Mourinho), Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time since Mourinho had left the club. Like the Portuguese, Ancelotti set records as Chelsea became the first side to score 100 goals in a season (they scored 103).

His following season was disappointing: a mini-collapse before Christmas all but confirmed that the Blues were not going to retain the title and, despite coming second, Ancelotti was sacked less than two hours after their final game of the season.

He left the Bridge with the third-best win percentage of any manager in Premier League history, behind only Sir Alex Ferguson and, you guessed it, Jose Mourinho. Ruthless from Chelsea.

Andre Villas-Boas – 2011

Left – FC Porto
Joined – Chelsea
Verdict – Miss

Come on, Roman. Stop it.

At face value, this may seem like a feeble attempt to find ‘the new Mourinho’, but AVB’s first and only season at Porto was nothing short of remarkable: he won four trophies, including the treble, went unbeaten in the league and became the youngest manager ever to win a European competition when he lifted the Europa League in May. Many clubs were after him, but Chelsea got there first.

However, it seems the Portuguese used up all of his success that season. He was sacked just 10 months after arriving in London with Chelsea sat in fifth place. The Blues never really got going under AVB, but he did end the season with a Champions League winners’ medal after his assistant Roberto Di Matteo guided Chelsea to a historic victory in Munich.

Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.

Roberto Martinez – 2013

Left – Wigan Athletic
Joined – Everton
Verdict – Miss

After guiding Wigan to a famous FA Cup victory, Martinez was unable to help the Latics avoid relegation to the Championship. Martinez was widely praised for the work he did, however, convincing Everton to poach the Spaniard at the end of the season.

His first season was a booming success: Everton narrowly missed out on the top four having been irresistible at times during the season, blowing away the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United at Goodison Park. However, a damaging home defeat to Crystal Palace at the back end of the campaign meant they had to settle for the Europa League.

It all went downhill from there for Martinez. Having set such a high standard for the club, two eleventh-placed finishes were simply not good enough for the Toffees, who gave him far more time than many others would have in their shoes. Martinez left at the end of 2015/16, rueing what could have been had they not allowed Pulis’ Palace to put three past them on that fateful night at Goodison.

Marco Silva – 2017

Left – Hull City
Joined – Watford
Verdict – Miss

Marco Silva had a fairly impressive European CV, having won trophies in Greece and Portgual, yet was an unknown entity when Hull appointed him in January of 2017. The Tigers were rock bottom of the league and seemed dead certs to go straight back down to the Championship.

Silva gave them a fighting chance, beating the likes of Liverpool during his spell, but a 4-0 thrashing at Selhurst Park meant he was unable to keep them up. At the end of the season, Watford won the fight for his signature and appointed him as manager.

The Portuguese got off to a flyer: for the first few months of the season, Watford were genuine European contenders. However, following an unofficial and certainly questionable approach from Everton for their manager, the wheels came off. Watford won just one of their next 10 games and Silva was subsequently sacked in January after his relationship with the fans turned sour.

Unsurprisingly, Silva joined the Toffees that summer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 2018

Left – Molde
Joined – Manchester United
Verdict – Hit

After the relationship between Jose Mourinho and pretty much everyone at Manchester United spectacularly collapsed, Ed Woodward turned to Old Trafford legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to try and steady the ship. Solskjaer’s track record was certainly not as impressive as one might expect from a United manager: despite success in his homeland Norway, Solskjaer’s only foray into English (or Welsh) football saw him relegated with Cardiff City.

However, United burst into life under the Norwegian. Despite a shaky finish after he was permanently appointed, United were in title-winning form for the second half of the season: the Red Devils were unbeaten in Solskjaer’s first 12 games, winning 10, as he managed to get the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford firing once again. He also guided United to a memorable victory over PSG in the Champions League.

It will be interesting to see how the 46-year-old fares in his first full season, with a rebuild at the club seeming necessary.

Brendan Rodgers – 2019

Left – Celtic
Joined – Leicester City
Verdict – Hit

Having achieved pretty much everything he could have at Celtic (including an unbeaten season), Rodgers returned to the Premier League with Leicester earlier this year.

He’s only taken charge of 10 league games thus far, but he has certainly made an impact: Leicester have won five of those in impressive fashion, as the likes of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison really started to hit form at the end of the season.

It may seem a little premature to say he’s a hit, but the fact that he has managed to attract Youri Tielemans to sign for the club permanently after a fantastic loan spell at the Foxes shows that Rodgers brings real pedigree to the club.

Many are tipping Leicester to break into the top six next season: with Rodgers at the helm, don’t rule it out.