Over the last half-decade, eight high-profile ex-footballers have landed EFL managers jobs, predominantly off the back of either a successful playing career or through having an outspoken personality.
When that kind of appointment is made, the common reaction is one of disdain: many would point out that there are managers like John Coleman and Gareth Ainsworth working miracles on low budgets yet are overlooked for glamorous names.
Is that a fair reaction, or do elite players turned EFL managers deserve more respect?
We look at the eight who made the jump – and how they got on.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Burton (Nov 2014 – Dec 2015)
Predecessor (Gary Rowett then Mike Whitlow as caretaker): 177 points from 108
Hasselbaink: 65 from 30
PPG swing: 1.64 to 2.17 = 32% increase
Jump: 5th to 1st
After Hasselbaink took the Burton Albion job following Rowett’s exit for Birmingham, there were some fears as to how he would fare in a League Two promotion race.
Would the legendary centre-forward, an enigmatic flair player at Leeds and Chelsea, replicate the pragmatism his predecessor showed to keep the Brewers competitive on a low budget?
The answer was an emphatic yes.
The 3-1 win at Wycombe in Hasselbaink’s first game in charge showed his ability to inspire incisive counter-attacking football combined with grit and organisation.
It was with that template that the Dutchman led Burton to the League Two title in 2014-15, then to another promotion challenge in League One before leaving midway through the 2015-16 campaign.
Underwhelming stints at QPR and Northampton though, means the 47-year-old is not quite the hot managerial property he was previously.
Bayern Munich are on fire. Masterclass. It's like watching Burton Albion. #BAFCandPromoted
— Jimmy Floyd⚽️ (@jf9hasselbaink) April 21, 2015
Teddy Sheringham, Stevenage (May 2015 - Feb 2016)
Predecessor (Graham Westley – after relegation from League One): 72 points from 46
Sheringham: 28 from 29
PPG swing: 1.57 to 0.97 = 38% decrease
Jump: 6th to 19th
It’s fair to say Sheringham is not exactly a shining example of why League Two clubs should appoint elite ex-players as managers.
When Stevenage reached the Play-Offs under Graham Westley the year before, there was a battling spirit about the group of players, many of whom having come from non-league, that allowed them to perform arguably above the sum of their parts.
By contrast, the team Sheringham produced was at times soft, error-prone and lacking in character.
Ironically, the man replacing Sheringham was Darren Sarll – he didn’t even get as high as the National League in his playing career but, without having had any media training, he was an honest, direct speaker that made him perhaps better equipped for lower league adversity.
Kevin Nolan, Leyton Orient (Jan 2016 - Apr 2016)
Predecessor (Ian Hendon): 37 from 26
Nolan: 23 points from 15
PPG swing: 1.42 to 1.53 = 7% increase
Jump: 11th to 11th
Nolan is an impulsive thinker – he says and does what he feels in the heat of the moment.
At Leyton Orient and then Notts County, that worked early on.
Because he had recently retired from playing – and indeed was player/manager at Orient – he treated his players much like teammates, which might have been what made him very enjoyable to play under initially.
Towards the end of Nolan’s time at Orient and County, however, he lacked composure and perhaps the ability to detach himself from his players – in some respects his main strengths go together with his main weaknesses.
The former Bolton midfielder though has been heavily linked with a return to his old club – the Trotters need a manager who will play on the emotion of the situation and in that sense, Nolan could fit the bill.
Gianfranco Zola, Birmingham (Dec 2016 - Apr 2017)
Predecessor (Gary Rowett): 34 from 21
Zola: 13 from 22
PPG swing: 1.62 to 0.59 = 64% decrease
Jump: 7th to 20th
There are certain parallels between Zola’s time at Birmingham and Sheringham’s stint at Stevenage – although the Chelsea legend had managed in England before at West Ham and Watford.
What made matters even more challenging for the Italian is that he was replacing Rowett, the subject of one of the most unpopular sackings in EFL history, on the same day.
It was clear that Zola had been in discussions with the board about taking over before Rowett had been informed of the change, which perhaps did not help – and when fans are upset about one decision, it is difficult for them to quickly get into a positive frame of mind about another.
In fairness to Zola, a lot of his ideas about changing Blues’ style of play held merit, because the team was lucky to be as high as they were when Rowett left and had the decision not been made, we could have seen a period of stagnation.
However, various factors including the transition happening mid-season, Zola lacking the charisma to get fans on board, players being unprepared for and unwilling to embrace the new style then eight signings arriving in January, it all became a mess and the manager was dismissed with three games to play.
Paul Scholes, Oldham (Feb 2019 - Mar 2019)
Predecessor (Frankie Bunn then Pete Wild as caretaker): 42 points from 30
Scholes: six points from seven
PPG swing: 1.4 to 0.86 = 39% decrease
Jump: 14th to 14th
Paul Scholes will say that the sole reason he left Oldham Athletic was the chairman, Abdallah Lemsagam – and his alleged interference, predominantly with team selection.
While Lemsagam has a lot to answer for regarding his running of the club, the issue may run deeper than Scholes would like to admit.
Throughout the former midfielder’s career, he only played for Manchester United, where not only was he working with elite footballers, he was also looked after to a certain extent because of the club’s wealth.
At Oldham, not only was Scholes managing for the first time, but he was working with footballers with a different level of ability and he might not have been looked after in quite the same way – put all those things together and it is likely to have been a rather alien experience.
Scholes reportedly revealed his decision to Lemsagam via WhatsApp, without much prior contact – the chairman said that communication had been minimal due to him spending three weeks in Dubai.
While it would be wrong to make any conclusive judgements without knowing the facts, it is difficult to see Scholes having the drive and determination to do well in management elsewhere.
Frank Lampard, Derby (Jun 2018 - Jun 2019)
Predecessor (Gary Rowett): 90 points from 55
Lampard: 74 points from 46
PPG swing: 1.64 to 1.60 = 2.4% decrease
Jump: 6th to 6th
Given that Lampard’s points per game ratio is slightly worse than that of his predecessor, many are understandably baffled by Chelsea’s decision to appoint him this summer.
However, Lampard inherited an aging Rams squad – eight players in their 30s featured in Gary Rowett’s final game in charge, the 2018 Play-Off second leg defeat at Fulham.
As chairman Mel Morris sought more financial sustainability, Lampard had to evolve the squad but he could not recruit for every position – so he had to develop youngsters like teenage right-back Jayden Bogle, who had an outstanding breakthrough campaign.
At times, Derby were reliant on moments of individual magic from Harry Wilson and others, but had Lampard been in charge for longer, there is reason to think he would have overseen further progress.
"It's important to address the fact I was fortunate enough to have a really good opportunity at #DCFC."
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity, and to Mel Morris."
Frank Lampard made sure he thanked Derby during his first answer at today's press conference 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/h5cG7ZzqrC
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) July 4, 2019
Sol Campbell, Macclesfield (Nov 2018 - Aug 2019)
Predecessor (Mark Yates then Danny Whitaker as caretaker): 10 points from 19
Campbell: 37 points from 29
PPG swing: 0.53 to 1.26 = 138% increase
Jump: 24th to 22nd
When Campbell arrived, almost everything that could have been going wrong at Macclesfield Town was going wrong.
National League title-winning manager John Askey had left in the summer due to an alleged dispute with owner Mark Blower and director Amar Alkadhi, with the latter facing criticism from fans.
Mark Yates’ regime had been a disaster and although Danny Whitaker and Neil Howarth steadied the ship slightly in terms of performances in caretaker charge, it was only when Campbell arrived that fortunes changed, along with the style of football.
The former Arsenal defender implemented a 3-1-4-2 system, with the team using the ball well, but also having that ability to mix their game up and go direct to target man Harry Smith.
With a limited squad and deep-rooted financial issues that ultimately led to Campbell’s departure earlier this month, he did superbly to get his side playing, not just scrapping, their way to safety.
Joey Barton, Fleetwood (Jun 2018 - present)
Predecessors (whole 17/18 campaign inc. Rosler and Sheridan): 57 points from 46
Barton: 71 from 51
PPG swing: 1.24 to 1.39 = 12% increase
Jump: 14th to 11th (last season)
On the field, Barton has had a good start to life in the managerial hotseat.
He oversaw steady progress last season at Fleetwood who, having spent much of the previous campaign fearing the drop, had their eye on the Play-Offs for much of Barton’s time in charge.
This season though, the team will be expected to close the 12-point gap to the top six, following a summer of heavy spending thanks to chairman Andy Pilley.
Paul Coutts and Jordon Rossiter arrived to add metronomic midfield control, Danny Andrew has provided quality from left-back after a good season with Doncaster – and Fleetwood fans know all about Josh Morris’ ability.
With more creativity in the side, proven League One goalscorers like Ched Evans and Paddy Madden are getting better service; the duo scored in the 2-0 win over Accrington Stanley, which took the Cod Army’s tally up to 10 points – a healthy return from their first five encounters.
In terms of Barton himself and his prospects as a manager, much depends on October’s court case regarding the alleged assault of Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel back in April.
Barton denies the allegations and it would be legally correct to presume innocence until an official verdict is reached.
Four of the above managers increased their team’s points per game ratio by a combined 192%, but four decreased it by a combined 143%, giving us a difference of 47% – and an average 6% increase.
In summary, a high-profile playing career can prepare one for EFL management better than some might think, but it is important that the manager in question has the right mentality and undergoes enough preparation.