Sometimes, in football, it's better the devil you know. That's certainly the case for Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson, who have become partners in crime once again following Patrick Vieira's sacking last week.
Roy started his humble playing career at Palace, eventually returning as manager in 2017 after a mammoth 21 managerial appointments. Hodgson then took a break from football at the end of the 20/21 season before taking the Watford gig, leaving with their relegation in 2022.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Roy might've wanted to lie back somewhere warm and sunny. You would, however, be wrong, as the oldest man to manage in the Premier League has been parachuted back into his boyhood club to stave off relegation. He's not the first manager to return to an old stomping ground, however: there are plenty of coaches that have answered the call of an ex, with varying results.
Roy Hodgson – Inter Milan
It seems Roy isn't one to hold a grudge – then again, with the number of teams he's managed, it must be difficult for the influential Hodgson to actually find a new project. His first stint as Inter Milan manager came during a significant rebuild: the Italian giants had finished thirteenth a couple of seasons before his appointment, and were in danger of stagnating as a mid-table team. Hodgson guided them to third in the league and the UEFA Cup final, kick-starting Inter's gradual rise back to the top of Italian football, despite unpopularity in some quarters of the fanbase and squad.
Hodgson returned to the San Siro in 1999, when Inter Milan invited him back first as technical director and then as caretaker manager during a chaotic season that saw four managers sit in the dugout – Watford, eat your heart out.
José Mourinho – Chelsea
The Special One has a knack for galvanising players, and had just left Real Madrid under a cloud of chaos and bad blood, so it seemed like a perfect rematch when Chelsea brought Mourinho back for a second Stamford Bridge bite. All in all, it didn't go too badly: a Premier League title and a Champions League semi-final in a couple of years. As usually seems to be the case, however, his relationship with some of the players turned out to be the ending of him, with Eden Hazard et al. souring to his coaching methods and only gaining 11 points in the first 12 games of the 15/16 season.
Harry Redknapp – Portsmouth
Like a complicated Shakespearean antihero, Harry Redknapp somehow crossed the south coast divide – and back – and lived to tell the tale. Redknapp took over at Portsmouth with the club on the brink of promotion to the Premier League and duly led them to the Division One title. He resigned in 2004 over arguments with the Pompey owner, and stuck the knife in by moving a few miles down the road to bitter rivals Southampton.
While Portsmouth's fans were furious, this fury likely turned decidedly more cheerful as Redknapp couldn't help Southampton survive in the top division. He stayed with the Championship Saints until December 2005, when he resigned… and rocked up at Portsmouth again. Cue Premier League survival and Pompey's famous 2008 FA Cup win, marking Redknapp as the last English manager to win a major English trophy.
Kenny Dalglish – Liverpool
If there's anyone who would be forgiven for failing, it would be King Kenny at Liverpool. The striker helped the Reds to six titles, three European Cups, four League Cups, five Charity Shields, a European Super Cup and the FA Cup. He became player-manager in 1985, and won a further three titles, two FA Cups and four Charity Shields in five years.
Twenty years away from the Anfield dugout saw Dalglish win the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers and finish second with Newcastle United, before a decade of charity work. He was tempted back to Liverpool as caretaker after the sacking of our old friend Roy Hodgson, becoming the permanent boss at the end of the 10/11 season. He won the League Cup and reached the FA Cup final (and also brought in one Luis Suárez), but Liverpool finished eighth in the league and he was dismissed soon after. The blow was softened a few years later when the Centenary Stand was renamed in his honour. Not a bad leaving present.
Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane is rightly recognised as one of the greatest players to ever pirouette around a ball, but his managerial performance isn't that far behind. It seemed natural for Zizou to take over at Real Madrid once he retired, and he did so in 2016 after coaching the B team for a couple of years. Within a few months, Zidane had led Real to an eleventh Champions League title. A year later, they bagged their twelfth. The year after, he completed the hat trick. The third title came at the expense of the league, however, where Real finished third, and Zidane resigned.
It didn't take long for Real to make the call. A trudge of a season resulted in two sacked managers and a Zizou unveiling in 2019. He won the Spanish Supercup and La Liga in 2019/20, with the team breaking league records left, right and centre, but once again resigned the next year after a trophyless season. Expect him to be back at the Bernabéu some time in the middle of next year.
Jupp Heynckes – Athletic Bilbao, Bayern Munich (x4), Borussia Mönchengladbach
Jupp Heynckes is football's equivalent of your friend who's not able to stay away from their on-again-off-again former partner. The free-scoring forward has had a managerial second wind to be proud of, especially when it comes to leaving on good terms. He's managed his hometown club, Borussia Mönchengladbach, twice (with a 20-year gap between spells), Athletic Bilbao twice and Bayern Munich a staggering four times.
In his last Bavarian stint, for the 2017/18 season, Heynckes led Bayern to 22 wins out of 26 Bundesliga matches and only lost once in ten Champions League games, setting a new competition record with 12 consecutive wins as a manager. There's nothing like an amicable ex.
Kevin Keegan – Newcastle United
Kevin Keegan has always been one for a sensational moment. He joined second-tier Newcastle as a two-time Ballon d'Or winner, scored for fun and retired two years later, stating he would never go into management. Eight years on, he became Newcastle manager, kept the club in the second division in his first season, led them to promotion as champions in his second, and immediately came third in the Premier League. The 95/96 season produced some of his Newcastle's best and worst performances, with a big lead at the top of the table overturned by Manchester United with a few games to go. He left the season after, managing Fulham, England and Manchester City before retiring from football again in 2005.
It didn't last long, as he was named Newcastle manager in 2008 with thousands of fans flocking to St James' Park to greet their hero's return. The return didn't quite start the way he planned, as Newcastle went eight games without a win, but the team did enough to finish twelfth in the table. Tensions arose during the summer between Keegan and Newcastle's universally-loved former owner Mike Ashley, and the manager left in September 2008. Keegan later won a tribunal that ruled he had been constructively dismissed by the club's board. Reports say that he loved it when he beat them.
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur?
Ever since Pochettino left Spurs in 2019, after five years of impressive progress that culminated in a Champions League final, we've never been more than a couple of clicks away from a rumour of his return. A short stint at PSG was bogged down by prima donna antics, but Poch could've taken Real Madrid down to the third division and many of the Spurs faithful would still fancy him back in North London.
It's not out of the realms of possibility – Antonio Conte's days at Spurs are numbered, especially after his magnificent (and arguably pretty accurate) post-match dismantling of the club's hierarchy. With Roy back at Palace, let's manage like it's 2018, and see the return of the Poch.