Premier League manager returns: memorable club comebacks - from Jose Mourinho to Kevin Keegan

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Frank Lampard and Roy Hodgson have both returned to manage their former clubs this season

“Never go back” the old saying goes but that isn’t always advice that is followed by Premier League clubs and Frank Lampard is the latest manager to return with former club Chelsea - just over two years after the club sacked him. Lampard is the second manager to return to his old dugout this season and he follows in the footsteps of Roy Hodgson who also returned to an old-flame in Crystal Palace on 21 March 2023.

Both Lampard and Hodgson have joined their former teams on an interim basis in the hopes of reviving their seasons. Rekindling the spark of a first managerial spell can often be very difficult to do and many managers have struggled to replicate the same level of success that they had when they first arrived at a club.

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Here we take a look back at all the managers who have returned to their former clubs during the Premier League era and assess how they got on during their second spell.

Steve Coppell: Crystal Palace (1984-93), (1995-96) (1997-98), (1999-2000)

Steve Coppell had four stints in charge of Crystal Palace. (Getty Images)Steve Coppell had four stints in charge of Crystal Palace. (Getty Images)
Steve Coppell had four stints in charge of Crystal Palace. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Former Manchester United midfielder Steve Coppell has remarkably had four different spells as manager of Crystal Palace, with two of those coming in the Premier League.

Coppell first joined Crystal Palace in 1984 at the age of 28 and he enjoyed a successful nine year stint in charge. During his first spell with The Eagles he led the club to the top-flight via the play-offs in 1989 and finished runners up in the FA Cup final the following year in 1990.

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Coppell left Crystal Palace at the end of the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93 after suffering relegation.

Coppell rejoined Palace mid-way through the 1996/97 season and he once again guided the team into the Premier League via the play-offs. His team struggled to adapt to life in the top-flight and he was sacked mid-way through the following season with the club bottom of the table.

Howard Kendall: Everton (1981-87),(1990-93), (1997-98)

Howard Kendall enjoyed great success with The Blues during his three spells in charge. (Getty Images)Howard Kendall enjoyed great success with The Blues during his three spells in charge. (Getty Images)
Howard Kendall enjoyed great success with The Blues during his three spells in charge. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Howard Kendall had two separate spells in charge of Everton during the Premier League era but he is best remembered by fans for his first spell with the club in the First Division from 1981 to 1987.

During his first stint with The Toffees, Kendall made Everton one of the best teams in English football - lifting the First Division title twice in 1985 and 1987 and the FA Cup once in 1984.

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Kendall left Everton in 1987 to take on a role at Athletic Bilbao in Spain. As he was frustrated by the European ban imposed on English clubs at the time.

Kendall returned to Merseyside three years later in November 1990 and successfully steered the team away from a relegation battle in his first few months.

Kendall spent a total of three years with the Blues and mainly kept the club in mid-table. He was sacked mid-way through the 1993/94 campaign.

The Everton icon returned for a third and final time in the 1997/98 campaign and faced a difficult relegation battle. The Blues retained their Premier League status on goal difference ahead of Bolton.

Kevin Keegan: Newcastle United (1992-1997) (2008)

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Kevin Keegan pictured on his first match back at St James’ Park. His return was short lived, lasting just eight months. (Getty Images)Kevin Keegan pictured on his first match back at St James’ Park. His return was short lived, lasting just eight months. (Getty Images)
Kevin Keegan pictured on his first match back at St James’ Park. His return was short lived, lasting just eight months. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Newcastle icon Kevin Keegan did an exceptional job on Tyneside during his first five year stint with the club.

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner inherited a Newcastle side struggling in the second division and quickly turned their fortunes around.

First he got them promoted to the Premier League in 1993 and then he built one of the most entertaining teams in Premier League history, just falling short of the 1995/96 title race after conceding a 12 point lead at the half-way mark.

Keegan surprisingly resigned from the role as Newcastle boss at the start of the 1996/97 season.

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Keegan returned 11 years later in 2008, with the aim of reviving the club’s fortunes in the Premier League. Keegan steered the Magpies away from relegation in 2007/08 but resigned for a second time in September the same year after disagreements with owner Mike Ashley.

Harry Redknapp: Portsmouth (2002-04), (2005-2008)

Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup during his second spell at Portsmouth. (Getty Images)Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup during his second spell at Portsmouth. (Getty Images)
Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup during his second spell at Portsmouth. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth won promotion to the Premier League in the 2002/03 campaign. It was the club’s first promotion to the top-flight for 15 years.

Pompey adapted well to life in the Premier League and they finished 13th the following season.

Redknapp resigned as manager in November 2004 after a series of disputes with owner Milan Mandaric. He controversially joined rivals Southampton just a few weeks later.

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Southampton struggled for form under the management of Harry Redknapp and they were relegated in 2004/05 - ending their 27 year stay in the top-flight.

Redknapp’s decision to join the Saints angered large sections of the Portsmouth fan-base but he was incredibly welcomed back with open arms in December 2005, with Pompey deep in relegation trouble.

Redknapp steered Portsmouth to a great escape in 2005/2006 and finished in the top half of the table in both of the following two seasons.

Redknapp guided Portsmouth to their first ever major trophy in 2008 by beating Cardiff in the FA Cup final. Five months later he left Portsmouth again to join Tottenham Hotspur.

Kenny Dalglish: Liverpool (1985-1991), (2011-2012)

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Kenny Dalglish pictured on transfer deadline day 2011 with signings Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. (Getty Images)Kenny Dalglish pictured on transfer deadline day 2011 with signings Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. (Getty Images)
Kenny Dalglish pictured on transfer deadline day 2011 with signings Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. (Getty Images) | Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Kenny Dalglish was already a very popular figure at Liverpool when he became player-manager in 1985.

The Scottish star guided Liverpool to three league titles as a manager - adding to the five he had already won as a player.

Dalglish enjoyed success in the FA Cup lifting the trophy on two occasions in 1986 and 1989. The Liverpool icon resigned from the role in 1991 after six seasons in the dugout.

Dalglish made a shock return to Liverpool 20 years later, replacing Roy Hodgson, initially on an interim basis. The Liverpool icon enjoyed a strong start to life back at Anfield and was rewarded with a three year contract after a 6th place finish.

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The following season Dalglish led the Reds to their first trophy in six years by winning the League Cup.

However, he struggled to replicate the same momentum in the league and he was dismissed from his role in May 2012 after an 8th place finish.

Eddie Howe: Bournemouth (2008-2011), (2012-2020)

Eddie Howe enjoyed two successful spells with Bournemouth. (Getty Images)Eddie Howe enjoyed two successful spells with Bournemouth. (Getty Images)
Eddie Howe enjoyed two successful spells with Bournemouth. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe first rose to prominence with Bournemouth and he is remembered fondly by fans for both of his spells on the south coast.

Howe first arrived at Bournemouth in December 2008 with the club marooned in the relegation places of League Two after a 17 point deduction at the start of the season.

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Howe, who was the youngest manager in the Football League at the time, quickly revitalised the club’s fortunes and steered them to safety that same season. The former Bournemouth defender led the club to promotion just a year later in 2009/10 despite the club having a transfer embargo at the time.

Howe left Bournemouth in January 2011 to join Championship side Burnley but he rejoined the Cherries less than two years later in October 2012. Howe continued where he left off with Bournemouth and helped guide them to two further promotions in three seasons - reaching the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.

Bournemouth were tipped to instantly drop down to the Championship after their promotion but Howe’s side defied expectations to remain in the top-flight for a further five seasons. Howe stepped down from Bournemouth in 2020 after suffering relegation.

Jose Mourinho: Chelsea (2004-08), (2013-15)

Jose Mourinho won three Premier League titles across two spells as Chelsea manager. (Getty Images)Jose Mourinho won three Premier League titles across two spells as Chelsea manager. (Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho won three Premier League titles across two spells as Chelsea manager. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

The self-proclaimed Special One arrived in England in 2004 with a point to prove and he quickly established himself as one of the most talented managers in world football.

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Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea dethroned Arsenal’s invincibles in his first season - winning the Premier League title in 2004/05 with a then record points tally of 95. It was the club’s first title in 50 years and they conceded just 15 goals all season.

Chelsea defended the league title the following season and added to their trophy tally in 2006/07 by lifting both the League Cup and FA Cup.

Mourinho was surprisingly sacked at the start of the 2007/08 campaign after a slow start to the season.

Mourinho returned to Chelsea in 2013. In his second season back he helped The Blues lift both the Premier League and League Cup double.

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Mourinho was sacked for a second time in December 2015 with Chelsea struggling in 16th position.

Quique Sánchez Flores: Watford (2015-16), (2019)

Quique Sanchez Flores had two short lived stints as manager of Watford. (Getty Images)Quique Sanchez Flores had two short lived stints as manager of Watford. (Getty Images)
Quique Sanchez Flores had two short lived stints as manager of Watford. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Watford have been synonymous for hiring and firing managers over the last 10 years with Quique Sanchez Flores having two different spells as manager in that time frame.

Flores inherited a newly promoted team when he arrived at Watford and he helped The Hornet record a solid mid-table finish despite being the bookmakers favourites for the drop. Flores was sacked in May 2016 and was deemed unfortunate to lose his job by many football pundits.

The Spainard returned for a second spell at the club in September 2019, replacing Javi Gracia who was dismissed the same month. Flores failed to replicate the success of his first spell and he was sacked after recording just two victories from 12 games.

David Moyes: West Ham (2017-18), (2019 - Present)

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David Moyes has guided West Ham United to Europe on two occasions. (Getty Images)David Moyes has guided West Ham United to Europe on two occasions. (Getty Images)
David Moyes has guided West Ham United to Europe on two occasions. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

David Moyes has impressed in both of his two spells with West Ham United.

Moyes joined the London club in November 2017 with the Hammers deep in a relegation fight. Moyes turned the club’s fortunes around in the second half of the season and recorded a 13th place finish.

Despite his achievements the West Ham board opted to go in a new direction and instead appointed Manuel Pellegrini in May 2018.

Moyes returned as West Ham manager 18-months later in December 2019 and once again found himself in a relegation battle. The Hammers retained their Premier League status in 2019/20 and have since recorded back to back top-half finishes in 6th and 7th respectively.

Roy Hodgson: Crystal Palace (2017-2021), (2023-Present)

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Roy Hodgson made a winning start to his managerial comeback against Leicester. (Getty Images)Roy Hodgson made a winning start to his managerial comeback against Leicester. (Getty Images)
Roy Hodgson made a winning start to his managerial comeback against Leicester. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Roy Hodgson has stunned football fans by coming out of retirement to rejoin Crystal Palace. He is now the oldest manager in Premier League history at the age of 75. The former England manager replaces Patrick Vieira and is tasked with keeping The Eagles in the top-flight after a poor start to 2023.

Hodgson enjoyed a successful four year stint during his first spell at the club - he inherited a Crystal Palace team who were winless at the start of the 2017/18 season and avoided the drop. The following year he equalled the club’s record point tally by reaching 49 points in the Premier League and finishing 12th.

Crystal Palace finished in 14th in both of Hodgson’s final two seasons and he announced his retirement from football management in 2021.

Frank Lampard: Chelsea (2019-2021), (2023-Present)

Frank Lampard is set to return to Chelsea on an interim basis. (Getty Images)Frank Lampard is set to return to Chelsea on an interim basis. (Getty Images)
Frank Lampard is set to return to Chelsea on an interim basis. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Frank Lampard has returned to Chelsea on an interim basis until the end of the season and he replaces former manager Graham Potter in the dugout. Lampard is viewed as one of Chelsea’s greatest ever footballers, he is the club’s all time top goalscorer from midfield and he enjoyed a glittering playing career which saw him lift three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the Champions League, two League Cups and one Europa League title.

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Lampard first arrived as Chelsea manager in 2019 after an impressive spell at Derby which saw The Rams narrowly miss out on promotion. Lampard joined Chelsea at a time when the club had a 12 month transfer embargo and he was praised for harnessing the talent of youth prospects such as Mason Mount and Reece James as The Blues recorded a 4th place finish in his first season.

The former Chelsea midfielder was handed a huge budget to push for the title the following campaign but The Blues struggled to reach their best form and Lampard was sacked in January 2021 with The Blues placed 9th in the Premier League table. Lampard returns to Chelsea just over two years later and it is his first managerial job since being sacked by Everton in January 2023.

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