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The grass isn't always greener

ESPN staff
June 1, 2012
Paul Lambert could inherit the Aston Villa manager's job from Alex McLeish © PA Photos

What a week it has been on the managerial merry-go-round.

First of all Brendan Rodgers pipped Roberto Martinez to be offered the enticing Liverpool job then, perhaps aggrieved at missing out on all the fun, Norwich City boss Paul Lambert well and truly threw his toys out of the pram in his bid to become the new Aston Villa manager.

Norwich, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not take too kindly to Lambert's antics - drawing the battlelines for a fight that no doubt the Scot (and his prospective new employers) will end up winning. Nevertheless, to commemorate all that has gone on this week, we look at ten acrimonious managerial departures from recent (and not so recent) times:

Owen Coyle - Burnley to Bolton
Owen Coyle was an absolute hero at Turf Moor... until the moment he decided he wanted to take over at Bolton instead. Coyle had led Burnley into the Premier League after a surprising but welcome run to promotion in the Championship (during a campaign that also included a League Cup adventure) and had them striving for safety in their first season in the big time. Bolton were actually two points and four places below Burnley at the time of the appointment, adding to the sense of outrage among the Clarets faithful when their Messiah decided to become their Judas.

Sir Alex Ferguson - St Mirren to Aberdeen
Ferguson has not made too many managerial moves during his career - that tends to be the case if you spend over 25 years at one club - but one of them nevertheless remained hugely controversial. Ferguson was desperate to join Aberdeen from St Mirren in 1978 but was sacked by chairman Willie Todd before it could happen. Ferguson attempted to sue for constructive dismissal, but was counter-sued by Todd, who accused him of making illegal payments to players and bullying female members of staff. A none-too-impressed tribunal found Ferguson to be "petty", but nonetheless he became Aberdeen's manager. St Mirren remain the only club ever to have sacked the Scot.

Brian Clough - Leeds United to unemployed
A saga made famous by the book (and film) The Damned United, Clough lasted just 44 days at Leeds United - where he successfully alienated just about every player in the squad ("Throw all your medals in the bin, because they were won by cheating") along with the rest of the board. Yes, Clough did not have another job lined up like the majority of the names on this list, but his inclusion is noteworthy because, by the time of his departure 44 days after arriving, just about everyone who had ever been to Leeds hated his guts.

Steve Bruce - Crystal Palace to Birmingham
Bruce is a repeat offender in this department, pretty ruthlessly attempting to leave clubs that employed him if a higher-placed suitor came - a modus operandi that gave him a fairly unwelcome reputation in the early part of his career. Perhaps, then, after stealing Bruce from Wigan, Crystal Palace should not have been surprised by his attempts to leave them when Birmingham came calling. Bruce had led Palace to the top of the Championship when the Midlands club decided he was their man, but he wanted to leave anyway so tendered his resignation. Palace owner Simon Jordan resisted strongly - getting an injunction and putting Bruce on 'gardening leave' rather than release Bruce to take up position at St Andrews - but eventually a compensation package was agreed. Bruce had the last laugh too - it was Birmingham who were first of the two teams to reach the Premier League.

Alan Pardew - Reading to West Ham
You probably should be asking yourself serious questions if you are really kicking up a stink to try and join a club like West Ham, but who are we to scoff at the motivations of men? Alan Pardew certainly thought the chance to take the reins at Upton Park in 2003 was simply too good an opportunity to let slip by. So, when Reading rejected the Hammers' approach, Pardew attempted to force the issue by tendering his resignation. It had the desired effect - the Royals reached a compromise with the Premier League poachers and Pardew was appointed, burning bridges at the Madejski Stadium in the process.

Harry Redknapp - Portsmouth to Southampton (and back again)
Harry Redknapp was a legend at Fratton Park after taking them into the Premier League, but a disagreement with owner Milan Mandaric led to his shock departure from the club in November 2004. Less than a month later, however, he cropped up at Southampton - a move that angered his old congregation. The chairman of the Portsmouth supporters club, Nigel Tresidder, expressed their cumulative frustration: "Harry Redknapp was a god to us. He had done so well. But to go to Southampton, I think he will lose a lot of support, more than he may think."

A year later, however, he was back in the dugout at Portsmouth - after Southampton had been relegated from the Premier League. "I'm an emotional man at the best of times but I made a monumental mistake walking out of Fratton Park," Redknapp said. All was forgiven - especially as the club went on to win the FA Cup under his auspices.

Ian Holloway rebuilt his career at Blackpool after an ill-fated decision to join Leicester City © Getty Images

Ian Holloway - Plymouth to Leicester City
Revered as one of English football's funniest and most idiosyncratic managers, Holloway exposed a ruthless and hyper-ambitious streak when he tried to engineer his departure from Plymouth for Leicester City in 2007. He attempted to submit his resignation from the club but Plymouth got wind of his impending appointment, and warned he would be tied to his contract. Compensation was eventually agreed, but the fans would not forgive Holloway - especially after parting comments that included a memorable comparison. "In acting terms, I've been in Eastenders all my life and now I'm in King Lear," Holloway noted.

However, after the Leicester tenure turned into a disaster Holloway later regretted his actions, saying: "I was given some decent values from my mum and dad in our council house, and one of them was honesty and trust and loyalty. and I forgot to do all that at Plymouth. I left them. and I made the biggest mistake of my life."

Iain Dowie - Crystal Palace to Charlton
What is it with Crystal Palace and controversial management departures?! The Eagles eventually hit upon a worthy successor after the Steve Bruce debacle (via an ill-fated Trevor Francis spell), as Dowie took them into the Premier League and then nearly kept them up. From there, however, things took a turn for the worse and, after failing to get promoted at the first time of asking, relations soon soured with owner Simon Jordan. Dowie eventually asked to be allowed to leave the club to be closer to his family in the north - a request that was reluctantly accepted by Jordan - but just three days later he turned up for talks about the Charlton manager's job - a club all of about eight miles further north than Selhurst Park. Jordan, unsurprisingly, was livid (a running feud with the Addicks hierarchy didn't help matters) and only after protracted wrangling was the matter sorted, with Dowie completing the switch - although he would not last long as Charlton hurtled towards relegation.

Ron Atkinson - Sheffield Wednesday to Aston Villa
Lambert is not the first manager Aston Villa have attempted to (and succeeded in) poaching. Ron Atkinson showed a masterful ability to rile fans that used to adore him. On May 31, 1991, the former Manchester United boss insisted he had no interest in the vacant Aston Villa manager's job - but less than a week later he was out of the door at Hillsborough, making his way for the Villa Park hotseat. Owls fans, unsurprisingly, felt a bit betrayed.

Alex McLeish - Birmingham to Aston Villa
Atkinson was something of a success at Villa, but Lambert's predecessor - Alex McLeish - most certainly was not. The dour Scot was also poached, although only after guiding Birmingham City to a rare League Cup victory and Premier League relegation double. Villa owner Randy Lerner was nevertheless sure that McLeish was the man he wanted, and when his interest was passed to the man himself he promptly resigned at St Andrews. The LMA tried to defend McLeish's conduct - saying backroom machinations were making his position untenable - but few were believing it. In something of a rarity, however, it was perhaps Villa fans who were more angry about McLeish's arrival than Birmingham's followers were about his departure. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that he didn't last more than a season.

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