Top 5: Caretaker Managers

The England Rugby Team have a Caretaker Manager. TOM TRYON explores why you shouldn’t get your knickers in a twist about it.

Brazil caretaker manager coach England football manager mario zagallo owen coyle RFU Rugby Sport stuart lancaster tom tryon top 5 top five

When the role of interim England rugby coach was given to Stuart Lancaster, the announcement was greeted with puzzled looks and furrowed brows, even from some of the players.

Why was Rimmer from Red Dwarf taking over as head coach of the national team? Can a former PE teacher who played for Scotland U21s really be the man to solve England’s woes?

Here at The Tab we’re an optimistic bunch, so we decided to seek inspiration by taking a look at some of the greatest caretaker managers to grace the sporting world. Here’s five of our favourites.

Tony Parkes

After turning out over 350 times for Blackburn Rovers, the least the club could do for him was give him a job on the coaching team. When manager Bobby Saxton left the club in 1986 Parkes was appointed caretaker manager – finally he had his big break. But despite taking the reigns as caretaker manager a further five times at Rovers and once at Blackpool, he never landed a full-time managerial job.

Tony Barton

Aston Villa were in the midst of a European cup run in the 1981/82 season when Ron Saunders left the club for bitter rivals Birmingham City. Barton guided the team through the competition to set up a final against heavyweights Bayern Munich. They edged the contest with a 1-0 win in Rotterdam to send Barton and his team into the history books with their first and only European Cup success. Saunders, meanwhile, guided Birmingham to relegation in the same season.

Barton on his way to Cup glory with Villa


Roberto Carlos

When Brazil and Real Madrid legend Roberto Carlos turned up at big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala last year he would not have bargained on his €10 million contract requiring him to step in as caretaker player-manager, but that’s exactly what he had to do when Gadzhi Gadzhiyev was sacked. He didn’t really do anything special when in charge, but we decided he was worthy of inclusion on the basis of this goal alone.


Mario Zagallo

In 1970 Brazil had some of the greatest players ever to grace a football pitch – Pele, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto to name but three. But the egos of these superstars proved too much for manager João Saldanha and Zagallo, a winner as a player in ’58 and ’62, was thrust into control.

With revolutionary new tactics and an unbeaten run, the Brazil team of 1970 claimed the World Cup and earnt the right to be described as one of the greatest teams of all time. Zagallo got the job on a permanent basis and will forever be remembered as a legend of the game.

Sandy Stewart

If there’s anyone who knows about being thrown in at the deep end it’s Sandy Stewart. When Owen Coyle departed for the lofty heights of Burnley, Stewart was left in charge of a St Johnstone team just three days away from the biggest game in their history. A 3-2 win against Dunfermline in the Scottish Challenge Cup gave the club their first silverware for nearly a century. Now at Bolton, Coyle has still never lifted a trophy as a manager.

 Coyle missed out on silverware with St Johnstone

Stuart Lancaster’s round-ball counterparts have shown that sometimes a caretaker manager can achieve great things. Whether he can emulate such success in charge of a new and re-structured England team remains to be seen, but there’s certainly no reason to write him off just yet.