Premier League Managers’ Playing Careers: Part I


Managers all started out on the other side of the touchline, but only some of the Premier League’s current bosses can look back on past glories from their playing days during these difficult times.

Before they hung up their boots, half plied their trade in the EFL but only a quarter gained full international caps – with most proving themselves more successful in the dugout than on the pitch.

From journeymen of varying standards and those who didn’t quite make the grade on the pitch, to the few former international stars who won it all, a majority of current top flight gaffers were defensive players.

Here are the first ten:

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)

credit: Sky Sports

Attacking midfielder Arteta starred in the Premier League for a decade, first at Everton and then at the club he now manages – where he won two FA Cups.

But before that, the Spaniard also played a pivotal role in Rangers’ 2002-03 treble winning side, under Alex McLeish.

Dean Smith (Aston Villa)

credit: Sky Sports

After over 500 appearances in the fourth tier – for Walsall, Hereford and then Leyton Orient – Smith, a centre-back, moved to second tier Sheffield Wednesday in early 2003.

At Hillsborough, he suffered relegation that summer and then captained a side that nearly went down again the following year.

Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)

credit: Sun

Howe, a defender, played all but two of his professional games for Bournemouth too, between 1995 and 2007.

The others came during a couple of years with Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth, where he was plagued by serious knee injuries, before returning to the Cherries.

Graham Potter (Brighton & Hove Albion)

credit: Express and Star

The epitome of a journeyman, Potter turned out at left back for Birmingham, Wycombe, Stoke, West Brom, Northampton, Reading, York, Boston, Shrewsbury and Macclesfield, during a career spanning thirteen years.

Sean Dyche (Burnley)

credit: Independent

Having been a crucial part of the third-tier Chesterfield team that were knocked out of the 1997 FA Cup in a semi-final replay by Middlesbrough, tough central defender Dyche went on to have spells at Bristol City, Luton, Millwall, Watford and Northampton.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

credit: Sky Sports

Lampard won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League in 13 seasons at Chelsea, after over 180 appearances at West Ham.

He also collected 106 caps and 29 goals for England, before a year at Manchester City and 18 months at sister club New York City.

The current Chelsea manager is also the club’s all-time top scorer with 211 goals in all competitions and the only midfielder to net over 150 times in the Premier League.

Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)

credit: Crystal Palace FC

Defender Hodgson had a modest playing career in the 1960s and 1970s. After a period with Crystal Palace’s youth team, Hodgson was restricted to a series of non-league clubs in Kent, aside from a brief spell at Berea Park in apartheid South Africa’s National Football League.

Carlo Ancelotti (Everton)

credit: Everton FC

The elite manager also enjoyed a glittering playing career as a versatile midfielder. During eight years at Roma, Ancelotti won four Coppa Italias and the 1983 Scudetto, before five seasons at AC Milan yielded two more league titles and consecutive European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

He also made 26 appearances for Italy, as part of the side that finished third at their home World Cup in 1990.

Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)

credit: Daily Record

The Northern Irishman was a promising defender at schoolboy level but never played professionally, having retired from Reading’s reserves aged just 20 due to an inherited knee condition.

Jürgen Klopp (Liverpool)

credit: Telegraph

Between 1990 and 2001, Klopp made over 300 appearances for Mainz 05 in 2. Bundesliga; he first lined up as a hard-working striker, before spending the second half of his career at right back.


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