Protégés who became the Masters

Callum Maclean has been kind enough to offer his expertise to TMR! A student of journalism and media, he’s our second guest writer, and gives us some background on the most famous ‘assistants turned managers’.

With all this talk of André Villas-Boas being the next ‘special one’, I thought that I’d look at those who have gone from assisting and coaching to forging their own managerial career. To start off with, we’ll look at the special one himself, José Mourinho. Before being a manager, he had an unsuccessful playing career, ending it at the age of 23. He was then a youth coach at Vitoria Setubal, and then assisted the manager’s duties at Estrela da Amadora. Then, after meeting the late Sir Bobby Robson, he joined the English legend at Sporting Lisbon, Porto, and finally Barcelona, where he became ‘the translator’. Expect this to be mentioned at least three or four times by ‘in-the-know’ commentators whenever Mourinho manages against Barcelona. His first managerial job, at Benfica, only lasted nine league games. However, he moved onto better things, winning six domestic titles across Europe and the Champions’ League twice, by the age of 48.

Trivia – Was offered a role as Newcastle United’s assistant when Sir Bobby Robson moved there, with a view to becoming manager the season after when Robson was to move upstairs. Mourinho turned it down saying that he knew Robson would never step down from the club that he loved.

Next up, Villas-Boas. Seen as the next José Mourinho by many (Yet not himself, saying he is probably something very different) as he followed Mourinho from Porto to Chelsea and then Inter. Yet, his talent is owed to more than just Mourinho. Like with the Special One, Villas-Boas owes success to Sir Bobby, who gave him his first shot in football who placed him as a trainee with Porto’s youth team when he was in charge. With a bright future ahead of him, Villas-Boas has already won four trophies in his first year in charge of Porto.

Trivia – Porto won the league with a 21 point lead over second placed Benfica, the biggest margin ever in the Primera Liga.

Another assistant that went off to do his own thing is the ‘Wally with the Brolly’, Steve McClaren. Before being Middlesbrough, England, Twente and Wolfsburg manager, he worked with Denis Smith as Youth and Reserve team coach at lowly Oxford United. He then went to work with another Smith, Jim, at Derby, and won promotion to the Premier League in his first season. It wasn’t until 1999 where he started to make a name for himself, as Manchester United won the treble at the end of his first season in the position of assistant manager. In 2001 he went out on his own and gave Middlesbrough their most successful period, reaching the UEFA Cup final and winning the League Cup – Their first major trophy. Then, after having assisting Sven-Göran Eriksson at England, he took his first and only international job, but his reputation was lessened after a poor EURO 2008 qualification campaign. But, he picked himself back up, put on a new accent and went to FC Twente, and won the Eredivisie for the first time in their history. He then went to Wolfsburg, but only spent nine months there, and was sacked after a poor run of results.

Trivia – Was introduced by Martin Edwards, then chairman of Manchester United, as ‘Steve McClaridge’.

Another England manager who started off as an assistant is Sven-Göran Eriksson. Before winning trophies with Göteborg, Benfica, Roma, Sampdoria and Lazio, along with being a director of football at lower league Notts County and then onto his current club Leicester City, the Swede was assistant to Tord Grip at Degerfors IF.

Trivia – Since Sven moved to Lazio, Grip, the man who asked Sven to assist him in his duties, had been Sven’s assistant everywhere he had been, until Sven moved to Leicester.

Arséne Wenger also was, at one point, an assistant coach, working with Cannes for a short while, after having been doing the same thing for a short time with Strasbourg. After assisting, he took up full-time management in France until 1995. after a brief spell in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight, Wenger moved to Arsenal, where he managed a double winning side in his second season in charge. He has since gone on to win nine more trophies, and although he hasn’t won anything in the past six seasons, he has changed the way football is managed forever with his strict diet and drinking policy.

Trivia – Is known as ‘the professor’, and has degrees in both Engineering and Economics from Strasbourg University.

And then Wenger’s great rival, Sir Alex Ferguson, also started as a player coach at Falkirk, before finishing his career at Ayr United. He then became a manager with East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren, before finding European success with Aberdeen, before winning 36 trophies with Manchester United in a 24 year stay, making him the longest serving Manchester United manager. He’s controversial, speaks out often against referees that don’t favour him and has his own special stopwatch for when he’s behind in a game, but the most decorated British manager in history surely is the person managers look up to.

Trivia – Sir Alex has a rare copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding certificate.

I know there are other managers that have come from assisting roles to the managerial limelight, but I’d be writing forever if I did every single one. But before this is fully wrapped up, and, from the ones selected, who is the greatest assistant turned manager (Villas-Boas is exempt due to being a new manager)?

5.Sven-Göran Eriksson

4.Steve McClaren

3.Arséne Wenger

2.José Mourinho

1.Sir Alex Ferguson



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