Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez’s shock appointment at Everton, this summer, has caused ripples in the footballing world. He is not the first manager to cross the border and switch allegiances, but who else has left a club to manage their rivals?
George Graham became the Arsenal manager, after making over 200 appearances for the Gunners, in 1986 and embarked on an incredibly successful nine-year spell in charge. Under Graham, Arsenal famously won their first league title in 18 years, beating Liverpool at Anfield in 1988, along with two League Cups, the FA Cup, and the Cup Winners Cup. However, his legacy at the club was somewhat soured when he was sacked in 1994 after allegedly accepting an illegal payment from an agent. After serving a ban, George Graham returned to management with Leeds United before shockingly returning to North London to take over Arsenal’s rivals, Tottenham. The Scot may not have been the most popular figure at White Hart Lane, but he did win the League Cup in 1999, only one of two trophies Tottenham have won in the past 25 years. Graham’s three-year spell at Tottenham ended within a month of Daniel Levy’s appointment.
Brian Clough is an anomaly on this list in the fact that he is fondly remembered and loved by fans at both clubs. Clough, with his assistant Peter Taylor, took over at Derby County in 1967 and they propelled the club from languishing in the second division to winning the first division within a matter of seasons. Clough’s sparkling charisma meant that he was loved at Derby by everyone except chairman Sam Longson. Clough and Taylor’s shock departure in 1973 started mass protests that tried to get them reinstated, however, these were unsuccessful, and they departed from the club. Unsuccessful spells with Brighton and Leeds ensued before, in 1975, they returned to East Midlands, taking over Nottingham Forest. The duo replicated their success that they had achieved at Derby, at Forest, before taking Forest one step further and reaching the pinnacle of European football, winning the European Cup in back-to-back seasons. A legend at both clubs, Clough will certainly never be forgotten in Nottingham nor Derby and the two clubs still compete for the Brian Clough Trophy.
Ron Saunders is perhaps the bravest man on this list, and he remains the only manager to have taken charge of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion. The no-nonsense Englishman took over at Villa in 1974 and after multiple League Cup triumphs, Saunders guided Villa to the first division title. It was Saunders, also, that built the foundations for Villa’s shock European Cup triumph, however, Saunders left midway through that season after growing animosity with the board. Villa fans would have been forgiven if they took their anger out at Saunders, when shortly after he took over at Birmingham, however, they instead vented their anger at the board. Saunders was received very warmly at Birmingham as well and spent four years at the club. After leaving St. Andrews, Saunders, then, completed the set by becoming the manager of West Brom, albeit for just one season as he failed to guide the Baggies back into the top flight. After completing the trio of Birmingham-based clubs, Saunders ended his 36 consecutive years in football at the age of just 54.
Redknapp certainly caused a stir on the South Coast when he left Portsmouth to take over at arch-rivals, Southampton. Harry Redknapp’s departure meant that ‘Judas’ t-shirt sales went up significantly in the Portsmouth area. However, Portsmouth fans would soon be forgiving ‘Arry, who managed to end Southampton’s 27-year stay in the top flight, before leaving midway through the 2005/6 season to move back to Portsmouth, which was apparently his ‘spiritual home’. A move that frustrated all of those associated with Southampton to say the least. Southampton director Andrew Cowan summarised it by saying, ‘gobsmacked is too small a word. You don’t even get a plot like this in Star Wars’. The Portsmouth fans soon forgave Redknapp, though, and he won the FA Cup with them in 2008.
Rafa Benitez is the latest addition to the list. The Spaniard became the first manager since William Edward Barclay in 1892 to cross the Merseyside border and manage both Liverpool and Everton. Benitez enjoyed a successful six-year spell at Liverpool, including masterminding Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League triumph. The Liverpool manager also had the misfortune to make a remark that suggested Everton were a small club whilst managing the Reds. That comment has come back to bite him now and his appointment as Ancelotti’s successor received a mixed reaction. With one fan going as far as putting up a banner saying, ‘we know where you live’, not far from Benitez’s home. Whatever happens, Benitez is under huge pressure to make a good start to life at Goodison Park.