"Most managers were players before they became managers," writes Mike Oberbichler. "Is there a coach or manager in football who did something completely different – a plumber, blacksmith or baker, for example – or who had little or no connection to football before his coaching career?"
Well, Mike, there are plenty, even among the most successful sides in the world. Take the mighty Brazil, for example, where several coaches of the national side had little connection with football before taking up the managerial reins.
Claudio Coutinho started the trend. In 1970 the then fitness instructor with the Brazilian army helped Mário Zagallo's team get fit for the World Cup in Mexico. Eight years later (having coached the Brazil side at the Montreal Olympics) he was in Zagallo's seat at the 1978 tournament. Unsuprisingly his background meant it was all too easy for his side to be criticised for their increasingly reliance on athleticism over artistry.
Sebastiao Lazaroni, described by the Guardian's Paddy Agnew in 1990 as "the modern day Martin Luther who has guided the reformation of Brazillian soccer, introducing such heretic notions as two sweepers, a five-man defence and full-backs who can tackle", was appointed manager of la Selecao in January 1989, although his first managerial job came at Flamengo in 1985. Though a committed student of the game, he had never played professionally and after a brief stint as a goalkeeper in amateur football became a PE teacher, before joining the Rio club's backroom staff.
After Falcao's unimpressive succession to Lazaroni, Brazil turned to Carlos Alberto Parreira. Parreira's career had also been largely fitness-based, although in 1967 the Brazilian government had sent the 24-year-old coach to take charge of the Ghana national side. He returned to Brazil to work as a physical trainer for several club sides, and was with the national side (along with Coutinho) in 1970. His first shot at the top job came in Kuwait in the late 70s.
"I started out as a fitness coach and, though I'd played football all my life, I never played professionally," said Parreira. "But there reached a point in my life where I was so well qualified that I was almost pushed into taking on a head coach's role. In Kuwait they asked me to take charge of their youth sides and that was the start of a long career."
There's also a history of this sort of thing in Glasgow. Bill Struth, Rangers manager between 1920 and 1954, was a stonemason by trade, but also an outstanding middle-distance runner, an athletic prowess that no doubt helped him earn training positions at Clyde and then Hearts before his move to Glasgow.
The 23-year-old Guy Roux took charge of Auxerre in 1961 without any coaching experience other than a month as an "observer" at Crystal Palace. He was appointed based on his promise "balance the books and never to waste a penny" rather than his football experience. Forty-four amazing years later, the club utterly changed, he finally resigned.
The story of Les Parry's journey from shipwright, to airframe fitter, to physiotherapy student and all the way to current manager of Tranmere Rovers, is told in full here, while Arrigo Saachi was a shoe salesman (and amateur player) before becoming a coach, and when his pedigree was questioned on his appointment to the Italian national side came out with the famous: "I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first."
Gérard Houllier (teacher) and Brian Kerr (lab technician) also enjoyed careers away from the game before concentrating on coaching. And one of the more bizarre cases is flagged up by Philip Copley. In a shroud of political intrigue Austrian hotelier Gerry Saurer was appointed manager of the Kenyan national side in 1992. Unsuprisingly, it wasn't much of a success, with players alleged to have played poorly in some games in an attempt to have Saurer removed. He did, though, coach the Kenyan side at the African Cup of Nations. The Observer's Brian Oliver had been there:
Bang. 'Man down' said a drunken voice from the back. The man on the floor, who had just fallen three feet from a shelf running the length of the hotel room, was the manager of Kenya's national football team. Like everyone else there - the manager of Morocco, journalists and agents from Britain, Kenya and Austria - he had drunk too much vodka.
This was in January, 1992. It was 2am at the Ngor Hotel in Dakar, Senegal. The man on the floor, who had been sitting on the shelf with the Morocco coach because there weren't enough chairs, had wanted to host the session himself. After a few beers by the pool, at midnight he marched us off to his room. He hadn't told us that there was someone asleep in the bed - his 'African lady friend' as he put it. He was persuaded to move on to another room.
A couple of hours later he got up off the floor and staggered off for a kip. His name was Gerry Saurer and he had been drowning his sorrows after his team had lost their win-or-bust encounter against Senegal that evening. Saurer was an Austrian hotel manager. He had never played professional football, but had dabbled in semi-professional coaching in Switzerland and the Seychelles, and when he pitched up in Kenya he somehow talked himself into becoming the national coach. Here he was at the African Cup of Nations, a good drinking companion but not setting a very good example at the beachside hotel where about 150 players were staying.
SIBLING RIVALRY"Are Aberdeen's mercurial perma-crocked winger Sone Aluko and his even-more-skillful sister Eniola the only brother and sister with full international caps? If they are, how about the only brother and sister with full international caps for … different countries?" wonders John Sinclair. "I'd like to think they are."
Yes and no. "Lyndon Hooper was capped by Canada 67 times, scoring three goals," writes Scott Bennett from Nova Scotia. "His sister Charmaine represented Canada 131 times, scoring 71 goals." If that were not enough, the Charmaine is Canada's most-capped player and leading all-time scorer.
But, although brothers have played for different national sides, it seems the Alukos might be a unique brother and sister act in this regard.
FANS WITH UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIPS (2)Last week we looked at the teams whose fans have formed unlikely allegiances with their rivals. This week we've been pointed towards a few of English sides who get along famously.
"Norwich and Sunderland fans have a long-standing friendship stemming from the 1985 Milk Cup final between the teams where supporters had a mass football match in the car park and swapped scarves," writes Ffion Thomas. "Subsequently the teams have competed for the coveted Friendship Trophy [mentioned previously in our piece on trophies contested by only two teams], contested in each meeting between the two sides (and currently held by Sunderland). Kevin Baldwin's excellent diary of the 1992-93 season, 'Norfolk 'n' Good', also describes a Norwich game away at Everton where Sunderland fans, whose game at Tranmere had been postponed, joined the City fans in the away end, leaving the local stewards unsure as to whether to separate the fans or let them get on with it."
While that friendship was forged in happy circumstances, adversity thrust together Brighton and Doncaster: "Brighton developed cordial relations with a couple of clubs as a result of our tribulations in the late '90s," writes Leo Eyles. "Most notably, Doncaster Rovers, who were the last opponents at the Goldstone Ground in 1997. Both the players and the fans were incredibly supportive of our predicament at that time. The following season the club branded the match between the sides at Gillingham (where we were exiled) as 'The Heart of Football' although this didn't stop it being a dull 0-0 draw between the two bottom teams in the Football League. The return game at Belle Vue was an altogether more feisty affair that the Donny fans chose for a protest against the dodgy owners: Brighton fans played a full part in the protests. It would be fitting if the first game at Falmer next year was against Donny."
KNOWLEDGE ARCHIVE"Is Verein für Leibesübungen Borussia Mönchengladbach the longest team name in football?" asked Robert Bashford and Justin Walker back in 2005.
Far from it chaps: Anglesey League team Clwb Pêl-droed Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch came pretty close to landing the prize with a weighty 70 letters, but Stuart Orford can do even better. "My favourite is Dutch Eredivisie side NAC Breda," he begins somewhat unconvincingly. "It expands to Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorzetten Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning Combinatie Breda."
Plenty, though, can beat a mere 86 characters. "I'd like to nominate my team, UCD, in the League of Ireland Premier Division," says Kevin Burke. "Under some universities' act a few years ago, we officially became University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Dublin, Association Football Club (81 letters). There are some who'll suggest that, with that hideous new crest, it should now (unofficially) be University College Dublin Dublin, National University of Ireland Dublin, Association Football Club (87 letters). This would translate into Irish as Cumann Sacair Ollscoil na hÉireann Baile Átha Cliath Baile Átha Cliath, Ollscoil Náisiúnta na hÉireann Baile Átha Cliath, which is 102 letters and a comma."
Not bad, Kevin, but a rival school of learning trumps it. "I think you'd have to go some to beat the full name in Thai of Bangkok University FC," claims Liam O'Brien. "This would include the longest place name in the world, using the official Thai name for Bangkok. When translated into English, it would run to 189 characters as follows: Samosorn Maha Vittiyalai Krungthep Mahanakorn Boworn Rattanakosin Mahintara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noparat Rajathani Burirom Udom Rajaniwet Mahasatharn Amorn Phimarn Avatarn Sathit Sakkatattiya Vishnukarm Prasit."
But there's an even longer name in the very same city! That of Thai Pro League side Bangkok Bravo. "Should they ever wish to refer to themselves by their full (English translated) name," notes Dale Farrington, "they would be called: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit Bravo Association Football Club (196 characters). Try fitting that on a pools coupon!"
For thousands more questions and answers, take a trip through the Knowledge archive.
Can you help?"What is the last English top-flight club to put out a team without a single full international on the team or on the substitutes bench?" wonders Padraig McAuliffe.
"My friend insists that all UK league football grounds are licensed as wedding venues. If this is true which team can boast the most fans able to convince their spouses to share vows on their hallowed turf?" ponders Peter May
"While pondering the former players from my club – Queens Park – who hold current managerial positions with British senior clubs (as you do), I realised that all six I had come up with not only played for Queens but actually started their senior playing career there," writes Alistair Murdoch. "Can any other club claim to have started so many current managers on their footballing career? Incidentally the six are Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd), Malky Mackay (Watford), Alan Irvine (Sheffield Wednesday), Ian McCall (Partick Thistle), Kenny Brannigan (Queen of the South), Jimmy Boyle (Airdrie Utd)."
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