Seven big manager v player fall-outs: Fergie, scraps, chicken wings…
Paul Pogba’s relationship with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United may be making plenty of headlines – but it has nothing on these famous bust-ups.
The dressing room is a complicated place. Some players like an arm around the shoulder, others respond well to criticism, while a few are so short of self-belief that they constantly need to be told they’re doing well.
Generally, managers deal with it all very well – but occasionally, bust-ups happen. And even more occasionally, we get to hear about them. Like these…
Alan Shearer v Joey Barton
Newcastle legend Shearer was appointed as manager with eight games of the 2008-09 season to go, with the Magpies deep in the relegation mire.
Barton had been missing through injury but returned with four matches remaining, making his comeback at Liverpool.
“No problem, I won’t let you down,” said Barton when asked by Shearer if he could handle the inevitable stick he would receive at Anfield.
Shearer tells the rest of the story: “We were getting beat 3-0 and we were just about to take him off and he scythes Xabi Alonso down just in front of the Kop. Straight red card, suspended for the rest of the season.
“He let me down, he let the club down, and then I just thought it was my time to say a few home truths in the dressing room.”
According to Barton, those home truths were: “You’re a s**thouse. You’re a f**king coward. You tried to break his leg.”
Of course, Barton was never one to swerve a confrontation. “F**k it, he’s getting it,” thought the midfielder, as he chronicled in his autobiography.
“You don’t want to deal with the truth. All you want to do is listen to the sycophants who surround you, telling you how great you are. Someone needs to tell you that it is not all about you. You were a great player, but that’s done.
“Let’s deal in reality, because I can deal with that. I’ve been a stupid c**t. What about you? Have you ever done anyone? Do you remember kicking Neil Lennon in the head? You’re a cheat.
“You are miles off the mark, miles off. To be fair, that’s where you’ve been at since you walked into this football club.”
With Barton suspended for the three remaining matches, Newcastle told him to stay away from the club. The Magpies went down and Shearer left the club – but Barton remarkably stuck around.
Peter Schmeichel v Sir Alex Ferguson
Schmeichel eventually left Manchester United on a high, lifting the Champions League trophy after his final game. But it was almost all over for the Great Dane five years prior to that.
The goalkeeping great was ‘sacked’ by Ferguson after he went up against the manager in the dressing room following a thriller against Liverpool at Anfield in January 1994.
“We were 3-0 up after about 20 minutes and ended up drawing 3-3,” Schemichel’s version of events began.
“There was nothing I could do about the goals and I played really well. But after the game he came straight at me because my goal-kicks had been straight up the middle and Neil Ruddock had been heading them straight back.
“I didn’t think that was fair. We ended up having a massive, massive row. The more we said to each other the worse it got.
“Obviously I stepped over the line. The next day, I was called in and he said, ‘Listen, I have to sack you. I can’t tolerate my players speaking to me like that. It goes against my authority.’”
Ferguson called a team meeting to inform them of Schmeichel’s exit, telling them: “What happened in the Anfield dressing room was unacceptable.”
Schmeichel explains his reprieve: “He left and I apologised to the other players. I said I was unprofessional.
“What I didn’t know was that he was listening behind the door. He gave me another chance and, as usual, bore no grudge.”
It would surprise no one if it was all part of Ferguson’s plan. Schmeichel stayed and helped United win a further four Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League.
Roy Keane v Mick McCarthy
Of course, Schmeichel is not the only United great to have crossed Ferguson. Keane, though, is rather less minded to apologise for speaking his mind.
Keane eventually left United after criticising the rest of the squad in 2005, which Ferguson felt was unacceptable. But the Irishman saved his most spectacular rant for Mick McCarthy.
It came during the build-up to the 2002 World Cup, with Republic of Ireland based in Saipan. Keane was unhappy with the training pitch, travel arrangements…pretty much everything. And he told the Irish Times as much.
McCarthy pulled Keane up on his public show of dissent so the captain let rip at the manager.
“Mick, you’re a liar… you’re a f***ing w*nker. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You can stick your World Cup up your arse.
“The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country. You can stick it up your b*llocks.”
Of course, that was the end of Keane’s involvement. Though it cost him the chance to play in the World Cup, the midfielder and McCarthy did eventually settle their differences.
“We met at the Four Seasons Hotel, near Manchester Airport. It was…a nice anticlimax. I said I was sorry about what had happened in Saipan. I’m not sure I had anything to apologise for. But you try to move on.”
Graeme Souness v Craig Bellamy
Souness was hired as the iron fist to tame Newcastle’s free spirits, namely Kieron Dyer, Lee Bowyer and Craig Bellamy, who were said to have been running wild during the later days of Sir Bobby Robson’s regime.
Dyer and Bowyer ended up getting to grips with each other, quite literally, but Souness and Bellamy eventually reached the point of no return, despite some occasional signs of a productive relationship.
“Bellamy was difficult, but I got him in terms of the fact he wanted to be a better player,” Souness wrote in his recent autobiography ‘Football: My Life, My Passion’.
“It was the first time I’d heard a player tell me: ‘I’m ready to go to the next level, what can you do to help me get there?’
“He was a frustrating boy to work with at times, but there was also a lot to like about him.”
One of those frustrating incidents came after Bellamy was caught swearing at the manager after being substituted at Charlton in 2004. Souness explained in his book…
“At our next team meeting, he was sitting in the front row and, as I was talking, he kept shaking his head. ‘What is it that you are not agreeing with?’ I said.
“Before he could answer me, I added: ‘Can we just go back over the past seven days of your life? You have told John Toshack he’s not getting the best from you with Wales, because he’s not using you in the correct position. You have told our chairman that St James’ Park doesn’t suit Craig Bellamy and then, on Saturday, you called me a f***ing p**ck.’
“That’s when I physically got hold of him and asked him to come into the gym with me. I walked out of that meeting and thought: ‘What am I doing? Is this the job for me?’”
The pair managed to stomach each other for another couple of months before, according to Souness, Bellamy feigned injury to get out of playing on the wing at Arsenal and ended up being shipped out to Celtic for the rest of the season.
Brian Laws v Ivano Bonetti
Bonetti won two Serie A titles, firstly with Juventus and then Sampdoria, so you can appreciate that they hadn’t seen many players of his ilk at Grimsby Town when he rocked up there in 1995.
The fans raised half the cash to pay for his transfer, with Bonetti himself stumping up some of the money, such was his desire to move to Lincolshire.
Young player manager Laws, though, failed to see the allure when after a 3-2 defeat at Luton, he began to question the striker’s commitment…
Delio Rossi v Adem Ljajic
Ljajic was an attacking midfielder who moved to Fiorentina after Manchester United decided not to bother signing the Serbia after all, for reasons many have speculated over.
The playmaker did not take well to being substituted by Rossi late on with his team 2-0 down to Novarra. To some, apparently including Rossi, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit so the coach refused to let Ljajic’s petulant applause and thumbs up go without punishment.
Rather than fine or suspend his young miscreant, Rossi favoured a more immediate sanction. That being, a beating.
Wading into Ljajic cost Rossi his job with Fiorentina and landed him a three-month ban from Italian football. Rossi returned to Serie A with Sampdoria and Bologna, before moving to Bulgaria, where he is now the coach of Levski Sofia.
Ljajic lasted a year longer with La Viola before moving on to Roma, Inter and Torino.
Trevor Francis v Alex Kolinko
Alexis Sanchez wasn’t the first player to be caught laughing on the bench while his team-mates toiled on the pitch. Unlike Crystal Palace goalkeeper Kolinko, though, Sanchez didn’t get punched by his manager for his behaviour.
Kolinko was a wildly inconsistent keeper, who was back up to Matt Clarke at the start of the 2002-03 season. The Latvian couldn’t help himself when Clarke conceded the opening goal to his former club Bradford during a 1-1 draw, apparently having a good old giggle to himself.
That rubbed Francis up the wrong way, provoking the manager to turn around and stick one on his substitute stopper.
Kolinko denied Francis’s excuse: “I was not laughing in the dugout. The manager punched me on the nose. I have not been given an explanation why he did it. My nose is very sore and bruised.”
Francis described the reprimand as a “cuff round the ear” for which he was fined £1,000 and warned over his future conduct by the Football Association.
Despite saying he would leave – would anyone have noticed? – if Francis remained in charge, Kolinko remained for the rest of the season, by which time he had refused to play for the club following a row over supposedly unpaid expenses.
“There is no condoning his action. None. He has let us down,” said chairman Simon Jordan.