The most common route into football management is, rather unsurprisingly, having been a professional footballer and then transitioning into coaching and management. It has become increasingly clear over the years that one’s ability on the pitch is of absolutely no bearing on one’s talents in the dugout, and some of the finest managers in world football right now were really mediocre or worse than mediocre players themselves.
This video has been requested multiple times, and has often been among the top comments. Ordinarily that would prompt me into making the video pretty swiftly, but I have put it off since I did a video on 7 managers who were useless as players way back in September 2017, when this channel was only a couple of months old. Since there have been so many requests though, and I wouldn’t wish having to watch the monstrosities that are my early videos upon anyone, I decided to bite the bullet and finally oblige.
To distinguish the two videos, this most assuredly isn’t managers who were rubbish as footballers. These are managers who literally played no competitive football whatsoever. Even semi-pro or academy football rules you out of this seven, so there’ll be no Brendan Rodgers, no Maurizio Sarri and no Arrigo Sacchi. This is a seven that have as much, if not less playing experience than those of you who are watching this video.
Here are 7 managers who never played football:
7. Avram Grant
You have to say that just having looked at Avram Grant, it somehow doesn’t seem particularly surprising to hear that he never played football. Probably best known to our viewers for his friendship with Roman Abramovich and has stint in charge of Chelsea, Grant has been in football management for 47 years, despite the fact he is only 64.
His family came from Poland, where they had what could be described as a pretty tough couple of decades, although that would be a seriously gross understatement. The family fled Poland to the Soviet Union to avoid the gas chambers, only to be exiled to Siberia by the Soviets where most of the family died. They resettled in Israel after the war, where Grant was born, and he began coaching his hometown club Hapoel Petah Tikva’s youth team when he was aged only 18.
He held that role for the next 14 years, before being appointed as the club’s first team boss. He did a magnificent job, ending Petah Tikva’s 25-year exile from the top flight, almost winning a top flight title and winning their first Israeli Cup. Success at Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa followed, before Grant was appointed as manager of the Israeli national team in 2002. Israel failed to qualify for Euro 2004 or the 2006 World Cup, and Grant left the national team to become technical director at Portsmouth.
He then took over as director of football at Chelsea, and two months later he was appointed first team manager following Jose Mourinho’s departure. Roman Abramovich handed his friend a four-year deal off the back of an 18-game unbeaten run, but following defeats in the finals of both the League Cup and the Champions League, his contract was terminated at the end of the season. Grant has since managed the likes of Portsmouth, West Ham and Ghana, and he most recently had a brief stint as interim boss of Indian Super League side NorthEast United FC.
6. Brian Kerr
Another former national team boss, Brian Kerr managed the Republic of Ireland from 2003 to 2005, despite having never really kicked a ball in anger as a player himself. Kerr realised early on that despite his interests in football and boxing, he wasn’t adept enough at either to turn professional. So at the age of 13, he began coaching, with his first job being the Crumlin United under-11 side.
In 1974, he took over as manager of Shamrock Rovers B team, before becoming reserve team manager and eventually assistant manager in Shelbourne. In 1986, Kerr began a ten-year love affair with St Patrick’s Athletic, where he is still adored to this day. Not only did Kerr lead St Pats to a Leinster Cup title and a first top flight title since 1956, he also personally invested in the club and helped fundraise in order to stave off liquidation, selling almost their entire squad, rebuilding and winning a second league title.
Ireland recruited Kerr to coach their youth teams, who had never won a major trophy before, but under Kerr’s stewardship they won both the under-18 and under-16 European Championships, as well as winning bronze at the 1997 World Youth Championships. Those accomplishments saw him named as Mick McCarthy’s successor with the national team, but the association proved short-lived following failure to quality for Euro 2004 or the 2006 World Cup. He later managed the Faroe Islands from 2009 to 2011, but has been out of management since then.
5. Andre Villas-Boas
One of the best known non-playing managers in world football, up until his move to Chelsea, everything Andre Villas-Boas touched seemed to turn to gold. The great-Grandson of a Portuguese aristocrat as well as having an English Grandmother from Stockport, at the age of 16, Villas-Boas was living in the same apartment block as Porto manager Bobby Robson. Following an argument between the two, Robson asked Villas-Boas to join his coaching team.
He acquired a UEFA C coaching license at the age of 17, a B license at 18 and both an A and pro license at 19. Following a brief stint as technical director of the British Virgin Islands national team, Villas-Boas became Jose Mourinho’s assistant manager, following him from Porto to Chelsea and Inter Milan. He started out on his own managerial journey a decade ago with Academica, aged 31, taking the club from last place to 11th place, ten points clear of relegation.
That alerted senior figures at Porto who already knew Villas-Boas well, and he joined the club as manager in 2010. In a single season in charge, Villas-Boas won a quadruple, including a Primeira Liga title and the Europa League, becoming the youngest manager to have won a major European trophy. Villas-Boas then had less awe-inspiring spells with Chelsea and Tottenham, perhaps a case of a little too much too young, and he took over at Marseille in the summer following stints in Russia and China.
4. Ron Noades
Whilst all the others in this seven so far have been managers who got into coaching very young, Ron Noades’ route into management was a rather different one. It should be noted at this point, in case it isn’t already obvious, that this seven isn’t really in any particular order. Born in London, Ron Noades owned several golf clubs in the south-east of England. He’s best known, however, for his association with a few association football clubs.
Noades owned non-league Southall, Wimbledon, Crystal Palace and Brentford over a period of more than three decades. His finest achievement at Wimbledon was hiring Dave Bassett, although Noades left before reaping the rewards of that appointment. He led Crystal Palace to the most successful era in the club’s history, reaching an FA Cup final and finishing third in the top flight, thanks to another good appointment in the form of Steve Coppell.
In addition to some good appointments, however, Noades also made some rather unusual ones… most notably himself. He acted only as caretaker manager at Crystal Palace with the teams relegation already confirmed, which was perhaps less unusual, but he decided to give himself the top job permanently at Brentford. In fairness, he did guide the Bees to promotion from the Third Division and to safety in the Second Division, before resigning as both chairman and manager in 2000. He sold his majority shareholding in 2006, and died of lung cancer in 2013 despite being a non-smoker.
3. Bill Struth
Undoubtedly the most successful manager who never played football in terms of trophies won, Bill Struth is the second most successful manager in the history of European football. The Scottish boss won 30 trophies in 34 years as first team manager at Rangers, which means he trails only compatriot Alex Ferguson in the trophy stakes. Born in Edinburgh, Struth competed as a professional runner until his 30’s, when he began coaching first at Hearts and later at Clyde.
In 1914, he joined Rangers as assistant manager, and six years later he became the club’s second first team manager, after the first – William Wilton – drowned in a boating accident. Aged 45 at the time, he would continue to manage the team until he was 79, just two years before his death. During that time, Struth won 18 Scottish League titles, 10 Scottish Cups and 2 Scottish League Cups. Not bad for a retired runner who never played football. A bust of Struth has been on display outside the Bill Struth Main Stand at Ibrox since 2005.
2. Leonardo Jardim
Probably the most high-profile manager in world football right now that never played the game, Leonardo Jardim did a magnificent job at Monaco between 2014 and 2018. Born in Venezuela to Portuguese parents, Jardim’s family relocated to Madeira when Jardim was at a very young age. He trained to be a P.E. teacher, coaching children, a women’s team and even handball.
His managerial career began at the age of 27 when he got a job as assistant manager at local Madeiran club Camacha. A couple of years later he was handed the top job, which he held for five years, before joining mainland division rivals Chaves. He won promotion into the second tier with Chaves, before joining Beira-Mar, with whom he won another promotion, this time into the Primeira Liga.
With a growing reputation in the Portuguese game, Jardim’s next club was Braga, where he finished third, before heading to Olympiacos. He returned to Portugal to join Sporting, before being snapped up by Monaco in 2014. Jardim facilitated the rise of several young players in the tiny city-state, finishing third in each of his first two seasons, before winning a Ligue 1 title. The likes of Fabinho, Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe starred for Monaco as they won the title and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, before that squad was dismantled piece-by-piece. Jardim left Monaco following a poor start in October 2018, but he returned in January 2019 after his replacement Thierry Henry did even worse.
1. Carlos Alberto Parreira
Some truly great footballers from Didier Deschamps to Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer have gone on to win the World Cup as managers, but only one man has won the most prized trophy in football despite never playing the sport. That man is Carlos Alberto Parreira, who also holds the distinction of having been to six different World Cup finals, which is more than any other manager.
Like Jardim, Alberto Parreira trained as a P.E. teacher, and when Ghana’s government had enquired to Brazil’s foreign ministry about a coach, the message was forwarded to Rio’s state university. The university recommended one of its brightest pupils, a 23-year-old Carlos Alberto Parreira, and in 1968 he became manager of the Ghanian national team.
Parreira played a pivotal role in the development of football in Ghana, and the nation is now a powerhouse within the African game. A managerial nomad, Parreira has since been appointed 25 times, although not by 25 different clubs or nations, often having multiple stints with teams. His finest achievement undoubtedly came in 1994 when he led Brazil to their first world title since 1970 in the United States, being named as World Soccer Magazine Manager of the Year for 1994 as well. Now aged 76, Parreira most recently managed South Africa at the 2010 World Cup, later serving as a technical director, but he appears to have left management since 2012.