Fergie's Fledglings

25 years is an astonishingly long time in football. But that’s how long Sir Alex Ferguson has been in charge of Manchester United. His success is obviously well publicised, but something often missed amongst his pile of major trophies are the number of people who have graduated from Fergie’s players to Fergie’s opponents. Evidently their former mentor had a significant effect on their career paths, but to what success? Steve Bruce, an early Fergie fledgling, became the first managerial casualty of the new Premiership season and whatever you think of Sunderland’s kneejerk reaction to remove their manager, results at the Stadium of Light have just not been good enough. It is clear that Ferguson had a profound influence on his time in management. The pair have a strong relationship, something highlighted by Bruce’s use of the loan market, dipping into United’s reserves on a number of occasions, with Danny Welbeck providing the best example of the merits of this policy. Sir Alex has been publicly critical of Bruce’s removal from Sunderland, lamenting the lack of patience the Black Cats’ fans showed to his former captain. So what impact have Sir Alex’s protégées had on the managerial world?

Sir Alex has mentored a lot of current managers.

Steve Bruce

A regular on the managerial merry-go-round during his early days, taking charge of Sheffield United, Hudderfield, Wigan, Crystal Palace and Birmingham, all in 3 years. However, his time in charge of the Blues saw Bruce really prove his worth, guiding them back to the top flight in 2002 for the first time in 16 years, then finishing higher than city rivals Villa the following season, a feat no Birmingham manager had achieved since the 1970’s. Mid-table mediocrity, relegations and promotions kept Steve on his toes, until Wigan came calling after a fall-out with the board. A decent couple of seasons followed at the DW Stadium in the Premier League, before he stepped up the ladder again, replacing Ricky Sbragia at Sunderland in 2009. Although there were signs of promise, indeed at the turn of the New Year, Sunderland looked set to mount a European challenge, the loss of prolific strikers Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan left Sunderland short up front, prompting a shocking run of form that left them hovering precariously above the drop-zone. So poor Steve suffered the ignominies of modern football, as chairman Ellis Short took swift action in the wake of a brewing crisis as the supporters felt out of love with their adopted Geordie.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (B-) A lot of potential already, but still needs work. Should bounce back soon.

Roy Keane

The ultimate gladiator in Fergie’s all conquering Treble team, but aside from one decent promotion with Sunderland, his exploits with the Black Cats didn’t match the extravagant amount of money he spent. And the less said about his time at Ipswich the better. Being out of a job probably suits Roy better, as it gives him more time to walk those beloved dogs.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (D-) After one good result,Roy has declined beyond all recognition. Needs to control his temper.

 

Bryan Robson

Captain Marvel himself was one of Sir Alex’s golden boys, but he is a walking disaster at managerial level that teams have finally learnt to avoid. Fans of Middlesbrough, Bradford City,West Brom or Sheffield United will not providing him with a decent job reference any time soon. He even resigned from that oh-so-difficult Thailand job this year.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (E)Bryan’s efforts are nothing but disastrous. Needs to think long and hard about whether he is up to the challenge.

Paul Ince

His larger-than-life personality ensured he and Ferguson never saw eye-to-eye during his spell at Manchester United and it seems such character traits have been transferred into management, lasting just 177 days in charge of Blackburn, ruining Ince’s hopes before they had even begun. Failure at MK Dons and Notts County has since followed.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (U) Expelled. Simply not good enough and never will be.

 

Gordon Strachan

He had a decent start to his career, building solid regimes at both Coventry and Southampton, before stepping up to the Celtic job, whereupon he gained six major honours including three successive titles. His tenure was impressive, but his time at Middlesbrough was less inspiring, lasting just a year in the role.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (B-) Some impressive work, but has slacked recently. Needs get back to his best quickly.

Alex McLeish

A firm Ferguson favourite at Aberdeen and his transition into management has been reasonable. Spells at Hibernian and Rangers helped underline the potential that eventually landed him the Scotland job, a reign that provided a historic victory in Paris, remember James McFadden’s spectacular volley? Birmingham then came-a-calling, where he enjoyed a mixed bag of results, including winning the League Cup last season, only to suffer a disastrous relegation the same year. This prompted a controversial switch to Aston Villa, one that left a sour taste in the mouths of both sets of rival fans and he is yet to win over the Villa Park Faithful this season.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (B) Consistent achievement with a couple of blots on the copybook. Solid performer.

Mark Hughes

Almost took Wales to the 2004 European Championships in his first job, before transforming Blackburn Rovers into a solid Premiership outfit. Thaksin Shinawatra then decided Hughes was the man to head up his new City Regime, a challenge the Welshman readily accepted. However, he faced enormous pressure following the Arab takeover, especially when he splashed a cool £32.5million on Robinho. His sacking in December 2009 did seem rather harsh though, particularly given successor Roberto Mancini failed to improve on the fourth position City occupied at the time. An odd year followed at Fulham, where he and Mohamed Al-Fayed failed to see eye-to-eye and Hughes resigned this summer citing lack of ambition as his reason for leaving.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (B) Proven quality at the highest level. Needs to continue the good work.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The game’s first real super-sub sealed the 1999 treble with his goal off the bench in the Champions League final. He cut his teeth managing United’s reserves, before moving back to his homeland in Norway to take charge of Molde, where he won the Tippeligaen in his first year in charge. Very promising stuff from the baby-faced assassin, who has also turned down the Norwegian national job, meaning he could well be Fergie’s heir apparent.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (C+) Terrific start to his education. Well on the way to stardom.

Laurent Blanc

The current French manager, can hardly be counted, given that he only made 48 appearances under Sir Alex at the twilight of his career. But he has made a cracking to life in the hot seat, winning the French League with Bordeaux and now hopes to turn England over in next summer’s European Championships.

Fergie’s School Report Says: (B+) Already hitting the heady heights. Watch this space for further glory.

 

So who of the current crop could do it? Well, Ryan Giggs is the obvious answer. Many people have suggested he is the perfect man, not just for management in general, but to replace Sir Alex himself. Giggsy would definitely have the right temperament and he more than anyone has had long enough to see how Ferguson does it. David Beckham? Not so much. He has already ruled out the possibility of going straight into management, stating that “at the moment I have no interest in being a coach or becoming a manager.” It is looking increasingly likely that Sir Alex Ferguson’s skills and talents have been wasted on those he brought to fruition as players and there is a worrying correlation growing between playing under Ferguson and failing as a manager. He needs somebody to step up to the plate and inherit his unbelievable talent. The challenge is on. Let’s hope it’s one that Eric Cantona takes up…

 

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