With Watford ending the first month of the season as joint leaders of the Premier League, manager Javi Gracia will be in the running for August’s Manager Of The Month. Here’s a look at when that award has proved to be a bit of a jinx.
Alan Curbishley – Charlton Athletic (1998/99)
Newly promoted Charlton were still on a high from their famous play-off final victory over Sunderland three months earlier. This was proven with a flying start to their debut Premier League season in August 1998. A 5-0 trouncing Of Southampton in their opening game, was followed by two excellent 0-0 draws away to big names Newcastle United and champions Arsenal to win the season’s first Manager Of The Month award. Charlton then went on a dreadful run of one win in thirteen games – including eight consecutive defeats – before a gallant effort towards the end of the season, which so nearly kept the Addicks up. A last day defeat to Sheffield Wednesday ultimately sent Charlton back to Division One. Curbishley however, won a second Manager Of The Month in March, becoming the only boss in Premier League history to win two MOTM awards and be relegated in the same season.
Sven Goran-Eriksson – Manchester City (2007/08)
One year after his England reign came to an end, Sven Goran-Eriksson took charge of Manchester City, becoming their first ever foreign manager. The swede’s team made a fantastic start, topping the table at the end of August, winning three out of three without conceding a goal – including beating local rivals Manchester United 1-0 at Eastlands. This gave Eriksson the first managerial award of the season. In fact his side continued well throughout the first half of the campaign, staying in the top six until Christmas. That form didn’t carry on into the new year and after a series of disastrous results, controversial owner Thaksin Shinawatra publicly stated in the spring that he would replace Sven in the summer. This lead to the team effectively ‘downing tools’ in protest, slipping to finish 9th in the table and ending with an embarrassing 8-1 defeat to Middlesbrough on the final day of the season. Eriksson has not managed in the top flight of any European league since.
Gareth Southgate – Middlesbrough (2008/09)
Current England manager Gareth Southgate wasn’t always flavour of the month. Having retired in 2006, Southgate walked into the Middlesbrough job with no experience and no UEFA coaching qualifications. Despite this he guided Middlesbrough to 12th and 13th places in his first two seasons. Publicly stating that he intended to push for a Europe League spot, ‘Boro started off the 2008/09 season well, with victories over Tottenham and Stoke giving them their best ever start to a Premier League campaign. Southgate receiving Manager Of The Month however, seemed to have an adverse impact on results as they lost all four games in September. Things got even worse over the winter period as the Teesiders went fourteen games without a win. Most supporters were calling for Southgate to get the boot, but loyal chairman Steve Gibson chose to keep faith with his manager. As the season progressed survival looked less likely and relegation was confirmed with a last day defeat to West Ham. Southgate continued as Middlesbrough boss into the Championship, but only lasted until October where he was eventually dismissed by his chairman. Seven years later he was named England manager and as they say, the rest is history…
Carlo Ancelotti – Chelsea (2010/11)
After winning the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010, manager Carlo Ancelotti could do no wrong. Especially when he started the 2010/11 season with two 6-0 victories over West Brom and Wigan. A further 2-0 defeat of Stoke gave Chelsea the best start ever by any team in a Premier League season and their boss his second MOTM award. A mid-season blip put paid to any chance of the champions retaining their title, but a strong finish allowed The Blues to finish as runners up. At that time owner Roman Abramovich had the patience of a six year old child waiting for Christmas and just two hours after Chelsea’s final day defeat to Everton, Ancelotti was sacked. Ridiculous even now to think that finishing second in the league isn’t enough to save your job. He left Stamford Bridge with the second best win ratio in Premier League history behind Sir Alex Ferguson and went on to manage PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the years following. It’s fair to say the Italian probably hasn’t shed many tears over it since.
Mike Phelan – Hull City (2016/17)
Following Hull’s Championship Play-Off final victory, manager Steve Bruce surprisingly resigned before the Premier League season began. His assistant Mike Phelan took over as caretaker for the first few fixtures and got off to the best possible start. Their opening match brought a superb 2-1 victory over champions Leicester City, followed by an even better 2-0 win away at Swansea. Phelan became only the third caretaker manager to win a Premier League Manager Of The Month, behind Phil Thompson (Liverpool) and Stuart Pearce (Manchester City) – Darren Moore has since won the award with West Brom. He was given the job full time in October 2016 and therefore finally took charge of his first full time managerial role, after being an assistant at five previous clubs including Manchester United. The honeymoon period didn’t last long however, and following only 3 victories from 20 matches, Phelan was sacked in January 2017. It’s a shame but time and time again we see coaches and assistants promoted into a managers position and failing. Pity Steve McLaren doesn’t admit defeat in this area.