They seemingly had it all, that aura of invincibility, the great reputation and the brightest of futures. So why then have three well known Premier League managers effectively ended their own careers despite the fact they are only in their mid fifties?
1) Alan Curbishley
Universally praised for his work with Charlton, Alan Curbishley was one of the most promising managerial talents out there but incredibly he hasn’t held a managerial position since leaving West Ham over four years ago.
Curbishley’s last managerial role came to an abrupt end resigning from West Ham in protest at the then Icelandic owners’ failure to consult him over the sale of key players, eventually winning his case for constructive dismissal but in turn hampering his reputation to such an extent that he has failed to find his way back to the dugout.
The occasional TV pundit most recently expressed an interest in the vacancy at Ipswich Town, but was overlooked as The Tractor Boys hired ex Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
With his Charlton side promoted as title winners in 2000, he proceeded to turn them into a top flight fixture and model of stability, earning much praise along the way.
A ninth-place finish in their first season back was followed by consistent mid-table appearances throughout Curbishley’s reign. They peaked at seventh in the 2003-04 campaign where their traditional end of season slump combined with the departure of star man Scott Parker saw them fall just short of the European places.
Overall they prospered as a well-run family club which never lived outside of its means. Charlton were hardly the most adventurous of sides, but by effectively utilising fairly average players Curbishley helped the club to reap some handsome rewards.
Premier League safety was always a requisite for the Addicks, something Curbishley always achieved comfortably, despite calls for a more ambitious approach from fans who felt the club could take the next step up the Premier League ladder.
One year on (2006) and the signature of Darren Bent later, Curbs left 13th placed Charlton, a club he had a sixteen year affinity with, eleven of which were spent in sole charge of the team.
He left in search of a more high profile post and to satisfy those supporters who felt his reign had gone stale.
The expected offer from the England national team never arrived following Sven-Göran Eriksson’s departure, with then Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren the preferred candidate.
Curbishley remained in London and joined the Hammers. The heroics of a controversial Carlos Tevez kept saw them avoid the relegation trapdoor while Charlton, who couldn’t replace Curbishley, began a steep descent through the ranks of English football.
In his absence the South London club suffered further with financial troubles which saw them slide all the way to League One. Today they have regained their Championship status with their fans longing for a return to the top flight.
A second season at West Ham would be Curbishley’s last. He led his hometown team to the top half but events off the pitch proved his undoing. The 55 year old hasn’t returned to management since winning his lawsuit and it is unlikely he ever will do so.
2) David O’Leary
At one stage in every manager’s career they reach their peak, an apparent summit where their essence of invincibility shines brightly. Sadly for David O’Leary the drop from such a state of security was more enlightening than the rise.
The ex Ireland international took the helm at Leeds United in 1998 after the departure of George Graham, leading the Yorkshire club to a fourth place finished and UEFA Cup qualification, which would see a heroic run to the semi final before a defeat to Galatasary saw their trophy aspirations fall by the wayside.
A year later and Leeds under the guidance of O’Leary had done what many thought was impossible, reaching the Champions League semi finals and a date with destiny. Sadly that date is forever etched into the club annals as the defeat to Valencia was the beginning of an almost end.
As Leed’s Premier League form dipped so too did their financial troubles as chairman Peter Risdale had taken out a substantial loan to the tune of £60 million, in a budget that was based around prolonged Champions League football, something that never materialised.
One year later and it looked like the club had a firm chance of winning the Premier League but a sudden loss of form in the second half of the 2001-03 season saw them slide to fifth. It was during this time that O’Leary penned a book entitled Leeds United on Trial, a book many thought he was using to cash in on the club’s turmoil.
By June 2002 O’Leary had spent almost £100 million on new players but had no trophies to show for it, despite never finishing outside the top six. Risdale sacked the ex Ireland international, in what became a signal for disaster. Three managers and the sale of several key players saw Leeds, with an $80 million debt problem, drop out of the Premiership. A further relegation from the Championship was to follow as the club teetered on the brink of extinction.
O’Leary resumed work a year later at Aston Villa. Early season form was poor and Villa flirted with relegation before an upturn on fortunes saw them finish sixth and narrowly miss out on European competition. It was a great achievement for O’Leary, who worked under severe financial constraints and cutbacks at the club.
The following season was a disappointing one, fans who had hoped to build on the credible sixth place finish were forced to settle for tenth.
The slide continued a year later as O’Leary became involved in bitter arguments with his own fans. Amidst all the turmoil fortunes on the pitch floundered and Villa finished sixteenth. That summer saw Villa players unite to publicly criticise club owner Doug Ellis, who went onto sack O’Leary before selling the club to Randy Lerner, who hired Martin O’Neill as O’Leary’s successor.
O’Leary returned to management four years later, taking up a mediocre role at United Arab Emirates side Al Ahli. His stay in the sunshine didn’t even last a year before he was relieved of his duties and the decision to sack O’Leary brought further acrimony to an already beleaguered career.
The man who came so close to bringing European success to Leeds is unlikely to ever hold down a significant job ever again.
There’s some differences between the aforementioned duo and Peter Reid, a manager who is something of a journeyman and hasn’t enjoyed as much success. The scouser’s managerial career began at Man City before a seven year spell with Sunderland which he is best remembered for. Reid then went onto try and replace O’Leary at Leeds before taking on further positions at Coventry City, the Thailand national team and Plymouth Argyle.
Reid joined Sunderland in 1995 and at the time the North East club were battling against relegation from the first division. Reid managed to keep them up and turned their fortunes around a year later when they were crowned Champions and promoted to the Premier League.
However they joy was short lived as they bounced straight back to the first division. Reid remained in charge at the Stadium of Light and the club missed out on automatic promotion by one place. A solid playoff experience brought them to a historic Wembley final against Curbishley and Charlton which saw them miss out on penalties after an incredible 4-4 draw.
Reid galvanised the hurt and agony of that playoff defeat and one year later the Mackems tore the first division apart, amassing a record breaking 105 points enroute to the league title.
Their promotion saw them pick up where they left off, competing for a European place at the right end of the Premier League, narrowly missing out. The club did however manage a seventh palce finished, one of the highest achieved by a club straight after promotion.
Sunderland persevered under Reid and rid of their yo yo club tag, Many thought the 2001-02 season would bring Champions League football such was there impressive form but again they fell off the pace and could only secure a seventh placed finish.
One year later the club finished one place above the relegation zone and Reid was relieved of his duties.
Reid moved on and pitched up at Elland Road, where he guided Leeds clear from relegation before Risdale again opted to wield his axe.
An eight month spell at Coventry City did nothing to enhance his reputation and after an absence of almost four years Reid returned to management, taking up the position as Thailand head coach, much to the surprise of many. A one year spell in Asia bore no fruition and Reid joined Stoke City as assistant manager to Tony Pulis.
He later moved to Plymouth Argyle, a move which further dampened his reputation.
He has since come back on the footballing radar albeit as manager of Kolkata Camelians who play in the Bengal Premier League. Has he left them yet? It remains to be seen as there is little to no coverage of the newly set up league.