Kenny Dalglish makes his Anfield managerial comeback in Sunday's Merseyside derby, but the three-time European champion is not the only club legend to be putting his reputation on the line as a coach this winter.
A 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Manchester United FC last weekend and a 2-1 midweek loss at Blackpool FC provided a sobering return to the dugout for the 59-year-old Scotsman, who won six English titles with Liverpool FC as a player between 1977 and 1990, and three more when at the helm from 1985 and 1991. The club have won a UEFA Cup and a UEFA Champions League since, but a lack of Premier League success has been a massive thorn in his successors' sides.
On Saturday 8 January, Roy Hodgson paid for his inability to raise the Reds from a malaise that had begun under predecessor Rafael Benítez, with Dalglish – who had been working as a club ambassador at Anfield – delighted to be given the chance to prove he deserves the job on a long-term basis. "There's no conditions, no promises, there's nothing," said Dalglish, who won the 1994/95 Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers FC after leaving Liverpool in 1991. "
I came back to work at a club that myself and my family are eternally grateful for many things they have done for us, and when I was asked to do it there was no way I was going to be disrespectful and say 'no'."
At AFC Ajax, Frank de Boer has also stepped into the breach, and having replaced Martin Jol on a temporary basis for the final games of 2010, has been rewarded for his efforts with a three-and-a-half year contract. "I always have stayed a real Ajax man," said the 40-year-old, a UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League winner with the Dutch side. "Even when I was abroad for a long period, I kept on following Ajax and always had a special place for this club in my heart."
De Boer's first league game as permanent coach is at home against Feyenoord on 19 January, while over in Belgrade, new FK Crvena zvezda boss Robert Prosinečki has until 27 February to wait for his first outing with the club he served so brilliantly as a midfielder from 1987 to 1991, leaving after winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup. In early December, the 42-year-old former Croatian international became the Serbian side's fourth coach of the season, saying: "Crvena zvezda are, at least, one of the biggest clubs in this part of Europe and my – and our – duty is return the club to glory."
Dalglish, De Boer and Prosinečki will be encouraged by the success of Didier Deschamps, who won two league titles and the UEFA Champions League as a player with Olympique de Marseille before returning as coach in 2009 and promptly guiding OM to their first Ligue 1 triumph since he left in 1993.
Similarly inspiring examples can be found in Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Trabzonspor AŞ top the Süper Lig under the leadership of their one-time goalkeeper Şenol Güneş, who won six titles as a player. In more modest circumstances, one-time club captain Qatip Osmani returned to FK Skendija 79 as coach at the start of the 2008/09 season; having led the club to promotion, they top the table at the winter break for the first time in their history.
Being a club legend, however, is no guarantee of coaching success. Marius Lăcătuş is under pressure over disappointing results having embarked on his third spell as FC Steaua Bucureşti boss in the autumn, while Fenerbahçe SK and Galatasaray AŞ are enduring tough seasons under the famous forwards – Aykut Kocaman and Gheorghe Hagi – who became their coaches in 2010; Fenerbahçe are nine points adrift of Trabzonspor in third while Galatasaray are ninth, a further ten points off the pacesetters.
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