6 managers who crossed the divide to manager their former club’s rivals

Steve Bruce (Sheffield United/Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City/Aston Villa and Sunderland/Newcastle United)

Bruce’s appointment as Newcastle boss is not the first time he has crossed the divide of a fierce rivalry. He is unlikely to manage the Magpies against former club Sunderland, with whom he spent two full seasons between 2009 and 2011, given the two divisions separating the two sides at present, but it is unlikely that such a fixture would faze him.

The former Manchester United centre-back got his first managerial job with Sheffield United, who he guided to eighth place in the second tier in his only campaign in charge. Two decades on, at the start of 2019, he took charge of Sheffield Wednesday, before departing for St James’ Park this summer.

He has also managed both Birmingham and Aston Villa, enjoying considerably more success with the former. Bruce led the Blues into the Premier League in 2002 and initially kept them there, before the club suffered relegation four years later. He was later unable to take Villa back into the Premier League, losing the play-off final to Fulham in 2018.

George Graham (Arsenal/Tottenham Hotspur)

Arsenal owed their reputation for defensive solidity – and, some would say, dull football – to Graham in the second half of the 1980s and first half of the 1990s. The Scot was in charge of the Gunners from 1986 to 1995, winning two top-flight titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup at Highbury, before he was sacked for admitting to receiving an “unsolicited gift” from a Norwegian agent.

After serving a year-long ban, Graham returned to the dugout with Leeds United. His final job in management saw him return to north London, guiding Tottenham to the 1999 League Cup before stepping away from the game two years later.

Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth/Southampton)

After nine years at Bournemouth and seven at West Ham United early on in his managerial career, Redknapp would never spend more than four consecutive seasons at any other club. He did, however, manage more than that across two spells at Portsmouth, who he first joined in 2002.

Redknapp led the south coast side into the top tier and then avoided relegation the following season, but a falling-out with chairman Milan Mandaric saw him depart Fratton Park in November 2004. A few weeks later he rocked up at fierce rivals Southampton, who he was unable to rescue from relegation trouble in his only campaign in charge. Redknapp then returned to Pompey and eventually led the club to FA Cup glory in 2008.

Brian Clough (Derby County/Nottingham Forest)

Perhaps the most famous example of a manager crossing the divide, Clough is still adored by fans of both Derby and Forest. He made his name as a top-level coach with the former, with whom he won the First Division title and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup against all odds.

After short-lived spells at Brighton and Leeds, Clough joined Forest in 1995 and led them to unforeseen glory too. Alongside trusted assistant Peter Taylor, Ol’ Big ‘Ead won the First Division crown and back-to-back European Cups at the City Ground, confirming him as one of the greatest managers in the history of European football.

Billy Bonds (West Ham United/Millwall)

It is difficult to find a player more inextricably linked to a single club than Bonds, who had a stand at West Ham’s London Stadium named after him last season. The defender-cum-midfielder may have begun his playing career at Charlton, but he went on to become a Hammers legend after making a club-record 799 appearances in 21 seasons at the club.

He later took charge at Upton Park, managing his adopted club between 1990 and 1994. It therefore came as a surprise when he accepted the job at Millwall in 1997, but Bonds did not last long and remains a West Ham legend.

Frank Burrows (Swansea City/Cardiff City)

There are few rivals as fierce as the one which pits Swansea against Cardiff in south Wales, but Burrows had no problems with managing both clubs. He began with the Bluebirds in 1986, spending three years at Ninian Park, before assuming control of bitter rivals Swansea in 1991.

Burrows departed in 1995 and was then out of the game for three years, before being offered the chance to return to Cardiff for his final job in management.

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