The Boys of ’66 and Management

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This summer marked 50 years since England won the World Cup. Today we look at how the players fared if they moved into football management afterwards..

Alan Ball

The baby of the 1966 side would be the last of the team still working as a football manager when he led Portsmouth for a second time in the late 1990s. His managerial career would be written off by some as a catastrophic failure, but a case can also be made for him being the second most successful manager from the 1966 XI (after Jack Charlton). At Blackpool, Portsmouth, Stoke City, Exeter City and Manchester City he would be in charge for at least part of a season in which relegation was sustained, although only on two occasions was he at the helm for an entire demotion campaign.

His reign with Manchester City would do most damage to his reputation, not helped by the lasting memory of him wrongly believing a draw was enough to keep them up against Liverpool on the last day of 1995-96. At Stoke he would also endure an unhappy time, while his image as a failure was not helped by being part of Graham Taylor’s England set-up.

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But on the South Coast he would be remembered more fondly for his time in the dugout. With Portsmouth the side just missed out on promotion to the top-flight in 1985 and 1986, before they finally made it in 1987. Although they would be immediately relegated back down, Ball had provided Pompey’s first season in the First Division for almost 30 years and in 1997-98 he returned to pull off a great escape to stop them slipping into the third tier.

In between he took charge at Pompey’s arch-rivals Southampton, a club he had served as a player in two spells (the second of them after his managerial reign at Blackpool ended). Bringing out the best in Matt Le Tissier, Ball led the Saints to Premier League safety in 1993-94 and again kept them up the following season. Although his decision to leave for Man City proved unpopular as well as ill-fated, Ball had again enjoyed more managerial success than critics might remember him having.

Bobby Charlton

The summer of 1973 saw both Charlton brothers retire from playing and move into football management with Second Division clubs. While Jack went to Middlesbrough, Bobby joined Preston North End and it summed up how different the brothers were that they would endure vastly contrasting seasons. We’ll deal with Jack below but Bobby learnt the hard way as North End were relegated to the Third Division.

It was a failure that would often be cited by those proclaiming great players don’t make great managers. When a director of Manchester United more than a decade later, Charlton expressed reservations about the club wanting to splash out on defender Terry Butcher. Angry manager Ron Atkinson snapped back that Butcher might have been good enough to help Preston avoid relegation when Charlton was manager. That season with Preston remained a stigma his managerial career could never shake off.

Bobby Charlton plays for Preston North End against Aldershot in

Bobby Charlton came out of playing retirement while with Preston.

Charlton came out of retirement to combine management with playing for the next year, but he quit early in 1975-76 in protest at John Bird being sold to Newcastle United. Apart from a spell as caretaker manager at Wigan Athletic, Charlton would not take charge of a team again. Instead he found other post-playing career pursuits that he felt more comfortable with, including running a soccer school, being on the board at Old Trafford and holding ambassadorial roles within the game.

Jack Charlton

Bar perhaps the odd Newcastle United fan still bitter about his short reign there in the mid-1980s and those who loathed the direct style of play he became associated with, most people would have no hesitation in proclaiming Jack Charlton as the most successful manager to emerge from the Boys of ’66. As brother Bobby headed down from the Second Division in 1974,  Jack was going up from it as Middlesbrough romped to the title. For a time the following season it seemed they might even become champions of England, eventually finishing seventh but just five points off the top. After two mid-table finishes he left in 1977 and then focused on an even greater challenge.

Despite the size of their support, Sheffield Wednesday were bottom of the Third Division when Charlton took over in October 1977. By the time he departed in 1983 they were a good Second Division side (winning promotion the season after he left), narrowly missing out on both promotion to the top-flight and a place in the FA Cup Final towards the end of his reign. After a brief spell as caretaker boss back at Middlesbrough, Charlton took charge of newly-promoted Newcastle in 1984. Despite leading the side to safety and handing Paul Gascoigne his first-team debut, Charlton struggled to win admirers in his native North-East and quit after barracking at a pre-season friendly in 1985. It was the one real low point in his managerial days.

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But for all his years in club management, it would be on the international stage that he would be remembered most in the eyes of many. Charlton was snubbed by England when the manager’s job became vacant in 1977 and it was a rejection he would not forget in a hurry. After the Newcastle ordeal, Englishman Charlton was the surprising choice to manage Republic of Ireland midway through the 1985-86 season. Despite having players of the calibre of Liam Brady, Mark Lawrenson and Frank Stapleton in their ranks and enduring a few near-misses, the Irish had never qualified for a major tournament. But Charlton would soon put that right, steering them to Euro ’88 and exacting revenge on his homeland by beating England during the tournament – the first of four competitive meetings in as many years in which the Irish did not lose to the English.

He then led the Irish to the quarter-finals of Italia ’90 and – after failing to qualify for Euro ’92 behind England despite finishing unbeaten – the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup, famously beating Italy in the group stage. That perhaps should have been the natural time to leave, Charlton blotting his copybook slightly by overseeing the side’s failure to make it to the expanded finals of Euro ’96. But Charlton remained a much-loved figure in Ireland, having transformed their footballing fortunes.

Charlton’s bluntness and not being afraid to get his sides playing it long when necessary did not make him everyone’s cup of tea, but in a 21-year managerial career the successes comfortably outweighed the failures and he had more concrete achievements on his managerial CV than any of his 1966 colleagues. It has been suggested that his success in management stemmed from being arguably the least naturally talented footballer in the 1966 side, something we will leave for another day to assess…

Geoff Hurst

A decade after scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup Final, Geoff Hurst was turning out for non-league Telford United as player-manager. After narrowly avoiding relegation from the Southern Premier League in his first season, Hurst made progress and eventually steered them to third place in 1978-79 and qualification for the new Alliance Premier League (National League today).

Chelsea FC Archive

Geoff Hurst (left) with assistant Bobby Gould at Chelsea.

Hurst was then lured back into the professional game, becoming assistant boss at Chelsea who had just been relegated to the Second Division. He soon found himself as manager in place of Danny Blanchflower, seeing promotion slip through their grasp as they missed out by one place. The following campaign all seemed to be going well, Match of the Day viewers seeing a 6-0 win over Newcastle United in October that left them in the promotion spots.

But things would soon fall apart in alarming fashion. For all Hurst’s goalscoring ability as a player, he just could not get his side to find the net in the second half of the campaign. Incredibly they failed to score in 19 of their last 22 league games, slipping into mid-table with Hurst sacked before the final game. It proved the end of his managerial career in England, although he would continue to be part of Ron Greenwood’s coaching staff with the England side and had a spell managing in Kuwait. However, he would soon move into working in the insurance industry and find himself in demand within football in ambassadorial roles.

Bobby Moore

What might have been. In the summer of 1977 the Watford manager’s job became vacant and pop star chairman Elton John was all set to hand former England captain Bobby Moore the role. Moore, who had just retired from playing professionally, headed off on holiday believing the job was his, only to soon discover Lincoln City’s Graham Taylor had instead been lured to Vicarage Road. It is questionable if Moore could have matched what Taylor achieved in the ensuing years at Watford, but he would have had more chance of achieving success than he gained elsewhere.

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Bobby Moore managed Southend United in the mid-1980s.

Sadly, Moore was left as something of an outsider in his post-football career and his first managerial role raised a few eyebrows as he took over at non-league Oxford City, being assisted by Harry Redknapp. Moore was yet another managerial departure at the end of 1980-81 – having suffered relegation from the Isthmian Premier League a year earlier. “We had no chance,” reflected Redknapp in Matt Dickinson’s biography of Moore. “We didn’t know the league, we didn’t know the players. We didn’t have a clue.” The book also revealed Moore rejected the potential opportunity to move to First Division Norwich City as John Bond’s successor during the period.

After a spell in Hong Kong, Moore became team boss of Southend United after already serving as chief executive at Roots Hall. Moore was unable to save them from relegation to the Fourth Division after he took over during the 1983-84 season, while he would soon find the club fighting for its very existence. But the 1985-86 campaign finally seemed to mark a turning point, Southend looking serious promotion contenders in the first half of the campaign. Then came a slump that left them finishing mid-table. Although viewers of the BBC series Summer of ’66 saw Moore at work on the Southend training ground, by the time the show went out in May 1986 he had already left his role as manager – never holding such a position again.

Martin Peters

If 1980-81 was a bad season for Geoff Hurst, then it was even worse for England’s other goalscorer in the 1966 final. Martin Peters had joined Sheffield United as a player-coach in the summer, the club punching below their traditional weight in the Third Division. Midway through the season Peters became manager in place of Harry Hallam, calling time on his playing days to focus on the job. But it’s fair to say it didn’t go well, just three wins being achieved in the rest of the season as the Blades sank into deep relegation trouble. To compound matters, young goalkeeper Keith Solomon died suddenly on the training ground during Peters’ reign.

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Martin Peters playing for Sheffield United.

It came down to the final day of the season, Don Givens failing to score a last-gasp penalty against Walsall as the Saddlers stayed up while United went down. The fact the Blades had finished with a positive goal difference and they were a mere three points off a place in the top half was no consolation for a club that was at its lowest ever point. Peters unsurprisingly left and would not manage again, his next footballing role being turning out for non-league Gorleston as he pursued a career outside the sport.

Nobby Stiles

Given his tough-tackling reputation on the field, it’s surprising to read why Nobby Stiles did not find football management easy. “I had come to suspect that I simply wasn’t hard enough to be a manager,” he said in 2003. “When I told a kid he was finished I felt his pain. I couldn’t put enough distance between me and the player, the hopeful lad and the scarred old pro, and me the manager who, in his own way, had to play God.”

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Nobby Stiles playing for Preston, where he later became manager.

Yet Stiles was far from a total failure in management. After briefly being caretaker manager of Preston North End after Bobby Charlton left in 1975, he returned two years later to take permanent charge. His first season ended in promotion, followed by an impressive seventh spot in the Second Division in 1978-79 and 10th place a year later. But 1980-81 was to be the annus horribilis for the Boys of ’66, Stiles joining several of his former colleagues on the managerial scrapheap as the side suffered relegation. It was close, North End only going down on goal difference after runaway champions West Ham United failed to win at Cardiff City. It cost Stiles his job, although he conceded this may have been a blessing in disguise as he was feeling unwell at the time.

Stiles would later manage Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps before returning to England, working at West Bromwich Albion where he took charge of for a short spell during their awful 1985-86 relegation season. He was at a low ebb but would later find a happier niche, working as youth team coach with his beloved Manchester United.

And the rest…

Two other members of the 1966 side entered management at non-league level only, with Gordon Banks following Hurst to Telford United and George Cohen having a spell at the helm with Tonbridge Angels – the latter winning the Kent Senior Cup. The only two members of the 1966 XI who did not become managers were Roger Hunt and Ray Wilson. When media interest in the whereabouts of the 1966 side took off two decades later, the new careers of the said pair were perhaps the most intriguing – Hunt running a haulage firm and Wilson well-established as an undertaker.

Of the rest of the squad, Jimmy Armfield would enjoy success as he led Bolton Wanderers to the Third Division title in 1972-73. He then moved to Leeds United in the wake of Brian Clough’s infamous reign there, reaching the European Cup final in his first season. Norman Hunter made a positive start in management with Barnsley by winning promotion from Division Three in 1980-81 and then mounting a further promotion challenge the following season.

But he would eventually be sacked and struggle to replicate the success at Rotherham United. Ron Flowers had a stint as player-manager at Northampton Town and later proceeded Hurst and Banks as Telford United manager, while George Eastham took over at Stoke City towards the end of their 1976-77 relegation season. He was unable to steer them back up and left midway through the following campaign. Terry Paine had a spell as Cheltenham Town boss prior to them entering the Football League

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