Taking the step into coaching and management at the end of a playing career has proven a difficult enough task for plenty of players.
Many greats spare themselves the embarrassment and the risk of tarnishing a legacy by avoiding the route altogether. But that’s the easy way out. The players with no fear don’t just go into management, but they do so while still actively playing.
It’s a rather British footballing trope and admittedly one that is dying out more and more – probably because it barely works – but the concept of the player-manager or player-coach simply isn’t discussed and appreciated enough for its absurdity. Here are 25 of the best examples.
Capped seven times for England and once the most expensive player purchased by a British club following his signing for Everton in 1988, Cottee’s management career was brief.
After a rather successful top flight playing career and a spell as a player-coach at Norwich, the Englishman moved to Barnet in 2000 as their player-manager. He lasted about a year before running them close to relegation from the Football League.
Coming to the end of his playing career, Waddle hung on the best he could by trying to secure his future at the same time in 1997.
He joined Burnley that May and spent a season in the hot seat, but only scored once while juggling duties and left a year later, as they just about survived in the third tier.
After eight years at Liverpool had come to a natural yet injury-ridden end, Toshack continued his career with Swansea in 1978.
He became player-manager that year at just 29 and guided the club to back-to-back promotions to the Second Division in his first two seasons, scoring the goal that sent them up in the second campaign.
Enjoying his playing peak throughout the 80s, Reid headed to City in 1990 and took charge as player-manager.
After a bright start and two fifth-placed finishes – one of which saw them finish above Manchester United – the wheels fell off in the inaugural season of the Premier League, with Reid sacked in 1993.
With his time up at Manchester City, Kompany headed back to where it began with Anderlecht in 2019.
His former employers brought him back as the player-manager for the 2019/20 season, but after overseeing the club’s worst start to a campaign since 1998/99, he swiftly let go of manager duties until the end of the season, before retiring and resuming them properly in 2020.
From the streets of Milan, back to within a car drive of Wythenshawe. Ince dropped down the ladder in his later years as he sought a way into management, joining Macclesfield in 2007.
He actually agreed to the gig in 2006, but joined in the new year following the transfer of his registration from Swindon. Ince only made one appearance before retiring, keeping them in League Two on the last day of the season.
Adkins had to work his way up from the bottom to get into Premier League management.
A quiet playing career due to a spinal injury saw him take over as player-manager at Bangor in 1993, where a three year stint saw him guide the side to two Welsh championships, before retiring in 1996 and completing qualifications away from football.
Yep, you read that right. Everyone’s favourite striker at some point in their life, Eto’o had done the inevitable end of career trip to Turkey in 2015.
He started on the gas with Antalyaspor, though, and his prolific, experienced edge came in handy when he was appointed interim player-manager that December for a month while a new coach was appointed.
Manchester City’s record appearance holder, Oakes only had one job in management after he was doing with playing full-time.
He joined Chester after his illustrious spell with the Blues and spent all of his six years serving as player-manager, starting strong as they reached the last 16 of the FA Cup, but slowly fizzling out.
Perhaps the only recent successful example of the player-manager role producing largely positive results is Ainsworth’s work at Wycombe.
Ainsworth joined Wycombe permanently in 2010 after a loan spell and eventually retired to become the manager in 2013, but laced his boots back up just a year later and successfully combined the roles for four years. In that time, Ainsworth took them from League Two to the Championship.
After a two-year football hiatus which many assumed – and hoped – was his retirement, Davids popped up in England once more, becoming Barnet player-manager in 2012.
He received three red cards from eight games while donning the number one shirt, refused to travel to games he deemed too far away, and got them relegated out of the Football League. Cheers Edgar.
A Scotland international, Dickov’s brightest hours as a player came during his time at Manchester City.
Towards the end of his career, his last move was a deal with Oldham to become their player-manager in 2010. He built a young side and rarely featured himself before retiring, and stayed with the club until 2013.
With the player-manager concept being rather dated, it’s unique to see it implemented in an increasingly modernised and developing women’s game, but alas.
Having played everywhere from America to Holland and in her native Wales, Fishlock spent two seasons as a player-assistant coach with Melbourne City and served a similar role at Cardiff.
After one year as a full-time player at Stamford Bridge, Gullit was drafted in by Chelsea to take the managerial reigns too following Glenn Hoddle’s departure.
Gullit became the first black manager to win a major British football trophy in 1997 when he guided his side to Chelsea’s first major trophy in 26 years.
Signing an old and physically beaten Rooney at the end of his career felt like a risky decision from Derby in 2020, but it’s proven a bit of a lifeline.
Joining as a player-coach, Rooney stepped up to the hot seat at the beginning of the 2020/21 season and retired to take the job on a full-time basis.
Management has been in Flick’s veins since day one.
Injuries ravaged his playing career, the latter years of spent were in the regional, German fifth tier with Viktoria Bammental. Flick balanced player and manager duties there until 2000.
Heading to the club to reunite with Ron Atkinson, Strachan moved to Coventry as a player-coach in 1995.
He also agreed to take the reins as manager in 1997, but would end up in the hot seat a year earlier than planned with Atkinson moving into a director of football role, turning out for the side aged 40.
With Lennie Lawrence gone in 1991, Charlton decided to split the manager role between Curbishley and Gritt for the upcoming season, while both were still playing for the side.
Gritt would leave after a short while, but Curbishley stayed on and eventually took Charlton into Premier League regulars on a full-time basis.
Before that spell at Chelsea, Hoddle eased into management by splitting the duties with his playing career at Swindon in 1991.
When not showing how much better than the rest of the squad he was in training, Hoddle was guiding Swindon up the divisions and eventually to the Premier League, scoring himself in the 1993 play-off final for top flight promotion.
Announced with a famous press picture that saw him combine a Middlesbrough kit with a suit on top, Robson headed to Boro in 1994.
He split the player-manager role with a part-time gig in Terry Venables’ England set-up, and maintained his player-manager status until 1997.
Another busy man, Giles wasn’t satisfied with his dual role at West Brom in 1975.
During his two year spell with the Baggies, he was held in high regard despite a lack of trophies. He balanced that with a player-manager role in charge of the Republic of Ireland, too. Football was wild at one point.
With the European football ban firmly locked onto English football clubs, Rangers landed Souness from Sampdoria in 1986.
Taking on the player-manager job, Souness was renowned for being able to bring high quality English talent up to Scotland. His playing time was questionable, but his managerial stint was much better remembered.
Following the fairly successful stint Gullit provided as player-manager, Chelsea replaced the Dutchman in similar vein by appointing Vialli to the role in 1998.
He continued as player-manager until the end of that season, guiding the club to a League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup double, before going into the manager role full-time.
Signing in 2002, Wise was appointed player-manager by Millwall in 2003 and was a hit.
He guided them to the final of the FA Cup in 2004, becoming the first team not in the top flight to get that far since 1992. They were beaten by Manchester United, but it was still historic.
The most successful use of the unique concept, Liverpool fell back on veteran forward Dalglish in 1985 following Joe Fagan’s resignation.
Dalglish was a shoo-in for the role and scored on the final day of his first season in charge to secure the First Division title, while also winning the FA Cup. He went on to win another two league titles, retiring from the playing side in 1987.