Chris Wilder leaves Sheff Utd: What’s it like being a caretaker supervisor?


Paul Heckingbottom has directed Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian

In 2016, Barnsley appointed Paul Heckingbottom as head coach after leading the club to promotion to the championship as caretaker.

It worked for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was named full-time boss of Manchester United after impressing as caretaker between December and March 2018/19.

And Roberto di Matteo managed to lead Chelsea to a Champions League triumph in 2012.

However, most don’t find the role to be such a golden opportunity. The janitorial manager position, often hired on short notice to bring about quick fixes on failing sides, can be more of a strain than a big break.

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When the Bundesliga fighters Mainz sacked Jan-Moritz Lichte shortly after Christmas, they temporarily hired their academy manager, the former head of the city of Huddersfield, Jan Siewert.

It was brought to Siewert’s attention that this agreement would only last for one game, closing the gap until new coach Bo Svensson could take command. One game happened to be against Bayern Munich.

“My first thoughts were ‘How can I start a lawsuit within this week … against the best team in the world?'” Recalls Siewert.

“We got out of the cup a few days earlier, so the players’ confidence was very low. My staff and I just focused on what we can do to make them more stable in their personalities for this game without responding to it . ” I think ‘we’re going to lose this game’. “

At halftime in the Allianz Arena Siewert could have been awarded if he had considered himself a miracle worker. The penultimate visitors faced each other 2-0 against the reigning German and European champions.

“The players were euphoric and said the plan was working and we had to stick with it,” said Siewert. “I realized that it would be difficult because we had provoked Bayern.

“When I went into the tunnel, their manager wasn’t that happy with their performance so I knew what was coming. It was a draw by the 70th minute, 2-2, but we just couldn’t defend until the end. ” “”

Mainz finally succumbed to the onslaught. Bayern won 5-2, their comeback was crowned by a double from Robert Lewandowski.

“It could be easier for a caretaker,” says Siewert, “if it’s not Bayern Munich.”

Short gray display lineJohn Carver (second from left)John Carver (second from left) was caretaker chief in Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield United

John Carver, who served four times as caretaker boss, recalls a similar short-term and ephemeral experience in his first temporary role.

When Sir Bobby Robson was fired from Newcastle in August 2004, Carver was asked to intervene until Graeme Souness could be formally appointed.

“The first time in Newcastle there was no pressure,” said Carver. “It was a free shot. It went so quickly and it was over so quickly that I didn’t have time to think about it.”

After beating Blackburn Rovers 3-0, Carver was pleased with a job well done. His reward? Degradation. When Souness arrived at the training site the following Monday, he introduced his new staff in the back room. Carver, previously Robson’s number two, was blamed for the academy.

“I went from a massive high to a massive low the next day in one day,” he says. “You’re going from 52,500 Geordies screaming Saturday to an office in the role of an academy director.”

Later janitorial stints gave Carver more time to distinguish himself, but it’s a job he hasn’t always enjoyed.

From the outside, the stand-in gawker seems to have an enviable chance of claiming a long-term position. But Carver has found that this is rarely the case. that the caretaker’s job is indeed often ungrateful and futile.

“There’s a reason you’re getting this role,” says Carver. “Either because the manager was fired or because the manager had a better opportunity.

“Usually it’s because they got fired because the results weren’t good enough. This group of players, the manager and the coaching team are in a bad position.

“People think if you get a janitorial role, you’ll do all of these things differently, but you aren’t.

“You were there as the assistant manager. If you train every day, when you prepare the team, you and the manager are your ideas.

“There may be small changes you can make, but in general, when the team is in the position they are in, people also have to take the blame and people blame the manager for being in.” Have brought this position You won’t do much differently. ”

Carver’s second caretaker stint came when he took over a fighting team in Leeds in 2006.

“Sometimes you don’t have a choice,” he remembers that appointment. “I didn’t want to do it. I knew the team we had wouldn’t get us out of trouble. But because I had a contract with the club, I couldn’t refuse it – they have a mortgage to pay.

“I had to meet Ken [Bates, Leeds’ chairman at the time]. He said, “You won’t get any more money, but if you promote us I’ll give you a massive bonus.” We were in the bottom three so that would never happen. “

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Former Leeds and Sunderland manager Howard Wilkinson recalls feeling equally indebted when asked twice to temporarily assume responsibility for England.

In his role as the FA’s technical director, he was the obvious choice for the position when Glenn Hoddle was fired in January 1999 for making derogatory comments in the press about people with disabilities.

Wilkinson remembers a baptism of fire that could even surpass Siewert’s Bayern experience.

“My debut as an international manager was against the world champions – Barthez, Zidane, Deschamps, Anelka, Lizarazu, Desailly …” he says.

England lost 2-0 to France in that friendly and Kevin Keegan was soon named. But when Keegan unexpectedly resigned after a 1-0 loss to Germany the following year, Wilkinson got the call again.

“The game was in Finland on Wednesday evening,” he said of the World Cup qualification, for which he was suddenly asked to prepare.

“I came to the hotel in west London near Bisham Abbey and Kevin gave the players the weekend off.

“At this moment I’m not exactly sure who is fit and who is not. In every respect, they don’t report until Sunday evening, Monday morning. It was the damned first 24 hours.

“Despite all that, we should have won the game. If it had been now, the referee would have passed it on to VAR and seen that the ball was well over the line after it hit the bar, so we would have received a 1.” -0 win instead of 0-0.

“But it’s a game and you have to do what you can in the time you have.”

Short gray display lineKeith MillenKeith Millen left MK Dons in 2020 for Swedish club Halmstad, where he was a coach before taking the job as Orgryte’s manager

Few coaches can match Keith Millen when it comes to the janitorial experience – the former Bristol City and MK Dons coach did the job six times, including three spells in charge of Crystal Palace.

He has found that short-term bosses need to be careful about what they tell the press in order to ensure their longevity with their club.

“You don’t really want to say you want the job,” he says. “Because a new manager comes in and feels threatened and thinks you’re not for me. Then you’re unemployed.

“Dealing with the press was probably the hardest part. They’ll ask you if you want the job.

“If you want to take the risk and be out there when you don’t get it, you will likely get unemployed. For me, staying at the Crystal Palace was my dream job, so I had it.” be careful of what i said. “

Carver firmly believes that he will never get the Millen total for the caretaker role. He’ll be ready by four, his vision of the position drawn from his experiences with Leeds, Sheffield United and Newcastle.

“I have come to the conclusion that it was a poisoned chalice,” he says.