“Yohan, it’s Alan”
“Alan? Didn’t we….?”
“Yes, yes, but that’s all in the past. I just think we work and maybe – if you feel the same way – we should try again?”
All great love stories have a second act containing fall-out and separation. It makes the final airport scene all the more uplifting. Yohan Cabaye may be partly to blame for Alan Pardew’s snowy-white hair after his strike and strops to ensure a transfer away from Newcastle but that’s all a hazy memory now. Their reunion is proof that love ultimately conquers all and some managers and players are just meant to be together. As these other five touching tales illustrate.[embedded content]
Mark Hughes – Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Wales)
Hughes never acquired the nickname ‘Sparky’ for his prowess with a plug and screwdriver. His combative, chippy bossing of the forward line – ably assisted by a backside that had its own postcode and MP – took no prisoners as a player and gave defenders bruised egos and calves into the bargain.
Quite why he considered Craig Bellamy a kindred spirit then is anyone’s guess.[embedded content]
Harry Redknapp – Peter Crouch (Southampton, Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur)
By ‘Arry’s own admission “tactics don’t win you football matches”. A big man/small man striking combo however invariably does. The People’s Prince usually wound down his Range Rover window and spoke about what a “triffic” player Jermain Defoe was to secure the latter. For his targetman a 6ft 7 England international naturally fitted the bill.
Once both were on board the methodology was always straight from the Mike Bassett playbook: Pair up a playmaker with a ball-winner in the centre; stick an out-and-out winger on one side with a rejuvenated maverick on the other; and tell your full-backs to push on. Job’s a good ‘un and press repeat.
Trying to lure his gangly plan A, B and C to QPR last year Redknapp said, “You’d always have Crouchy, he’s a great bloke and a good player.”
Say that in a Spanish accent and it’s uncannily like Guardiola on Xavi.[embedded content]
Brian Clough – John McGovern (Hartlepool United, Derby County, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest)
Strong charismatic managers are usually reliant on a captain who epitomises their character and drive, who acts essentially as an extension of that manager on the pitch. It’s why both Clough and Alex Ferguson treasured Roy Keane whose multitude of personalities carbon-copied theirs and then some.
Prior to Keane the muse of choice for ‘Old Big Head was always this altogether more cultured midfielder who shared the early days at ‘Pool, remarkable glories at Derby and Forest, and the Catherine Wheel of madness that was Leeds. Forever assured. Forever present.
By strange coincidence a 13-year-old McGovern was at Roker Park on Boxing Day 1962 when Clough the player suffered a career-ending injury. A few years later he was told to get a haircut and from there they were inseparable.
You thought the great footballing partnership was Clough and Taylor? No, McGovern made it a trio.[embedded content]
Sam Allardyce – Kevin Nolan (Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United)
Once described by Big Sam as “the most important signing I ever made” the match made in heaven began when a teenage Nolan came through the Bolton ranks and introduced himself as a fiery box-to-box midfielder to be reckoned with. Acting as the British grit in the oyster of Allardyce’s continental experiment – it still fries the mind that Jay-Jay Okocha was a Trotter – he eventually took the captain’s armband becoming his gaffer’s most trusted lieutenant.
Unsurprisingly the pair reunited at West Ham and it’s fair to surmise that had Allardyce been given the England job in 2006 Nolan would have added several more caps to his present tally of, well, none.[embedded content]
Sir Alex Ferguson – Mark Bosnich (Manchester United and Manchester United)
The course of true love never did run smooth. The tempestuous – and somewhat odd – relationship between this bickering duo began in 1989 when the chunky stopper flew halfway across the world to play the giant total of three games for United. Just 17 and homesick his registration was later cancelled and it took the late intervention of Aston Villa to prevent ‘Bozza’ from returning to Sydney.
Eight years later Ferguson identified the talented Aussie as Peter Schmeichel’s successor. Or at least one of them. It never worked out. Returning to your first love rarely does.
The gruff Scot later called his former charge a “terrible professional” in his autobiography with the keeper firing back the rather valid point that he was the only player to be signed twice by Fergie during his 26 year reign.
Boys, come on. This is all about love and respect here.