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 By Nick Miller
Jul 29, 2014

Top Tenner: Managers and favourite players

Harry Redknapp did not hesitate to sign Peter Crouch at Portsmouth in 2008.
Harry Redknapp did not hesitate to sign Peter Crouch at Portsmouth in 2008.

With Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho reuniting with Didier Drogba, we look at some other managers who have a particular favourite player ...

10. Sven-Goran Eriksson and Darius Vassell

Darius Vassell has 22 England caps. Matt Le Tissier and Andy Cole have 23 between them. The disparity in talent is of course huge, but what Le Tissier and Cole lacked was an international manager who not only truly rated them, but could find a place for them in his team. Vassell most definitely had that with Sven-Goran Eriksson, who first selected the then-Aston Villa striker in his heady early days as England manager, when the likes of Gavin McCann, Chris Powell and Michael Ricketts all won caps, and then took him to two -- two! -- tournaments, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. In fairness, Vassell always "did a job" for Eriksson, but even Eriksson didn't/couldn't pick him again after he missed the final penalty in England's shootout defeat in Portugal. The pair was reunited in 2007, when Eriksson took over at Manchester City, but surprisingly enough Vassell was deemed surplus to requirements when Eriksson was shown the door and Sheikh Mansour and his cash arrived in 2008.

9. Fabio Capello and Christian Panucci

By the time Fabio Capello took over as England manager, Christian Panucci was 34, but you suspect that if it weren't for the defender's pesky Italian-ness, he would have received a call-up. Capello first signed Panucci back in 1993, picking the youngster in the 1994 Champions League final win over Barcelona, and thus started something beautiful. One of the first things Capello did upon taking charge of Real Madrid in 1996 was to recruit Panucci, and he called on his old faithful charge once again after taking over at Roma. Capello didn't let Panucci's retirement get in the way either, appointing him as a coach for the Russian national side in 2012, although the younger man had the sense to cut and run after their recent calamitous World Cup campaign.

8. Harry Redknapp and Peter Crouch

Or Jermain Defoe. Or Niko Krancjar. Or Rio Ferdinand. Harry Redknapp certainly has players he likes, but when you've bought and sold as many as him, there are bound to be one or two who crop up a few times. Crouch has been a favourite of Redknapp's for some years, signing him twice (three if you count the first time he moved to Portsmouth, when Redknapp was director of football), as well as making him the focal point of Southampton's attack during the ill-fated spell at St Mary's. The pair was almost reunited again last summer as Redknapp tried to recruit him for QPR, and while that move didn't come off, the two did team up for a TV advert for a popular broadband company, in which Crouch "acted" and Redknapp provided the voiceover. You just can't keep them apart.

7. Jose Mourinho and Didier Drogba

Jose Mourinho makes such a habit of building up his players that it's often difficult to work out when he's being honest and when it's ego-stroking and bluster. In his first spell at Chelsea, he said Frank Lampard was the best player in the world, at Inter it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and of course at Real Madrid he had eyes only for Cristiano Ronaldo. However, his affection for Didier Drogba is obvious and genuine, as could be seen from his words after the striker re-signed for Chelsea. "First of all when he came, it looks like he never left the club," he said. "It was so normal, nothing new at all because he knows everybody and everybody knows him. He was ever present even when he wasn't here. Chelsea belonged to him, even in the last two years when he was away playing in a Galatasaray and Shanghai shirt. So it looks like he just went for a short holiday and came back."

6. Arsene Wenger and Abou Diaby

Abou Diaby's injury history is, quite obviously, an absolute horror show. The French midfielder has had, by a rough count, 16 different ailments of varying seriousness since signing for Arsenal in 2006, so it's perhaps a surprise that he has started as many as 92 league games for Arsene Wenger's side. Still, since he arrived, Arsenal have played 322 times in the Premier League, so throw in his substitute appearances and the occasions when he wasn't selected for tactical reasons and so forth, he's basically been available for a third of their games in just under nine years. With any other manager, he would have been quietly released years ago, but Wenger has extended his contract in that time, and the closest thing to his departure has been switching his squad number from 2 to 24 last season. This is due either to Wenger's legendary stubbornness, some sort of misguided sentimentality or a strange obsession that Diaby will one day stay fit and regularly produce the sort of performances of which he's very occasionally capable. It's never going to happen, Arsene.

5. Bobby Robson and Luis Enrique

Managers love utility players. Understandably so, especially when so many players throw a tantrum when asked to perform a role that is slightly different from their favoured one. It's therefore no wonder that Bobby Robson was so enraptured by Luis Enrique when the pair was at Barcelona, for he could not only play in pretty much any outfield position, but do so brilliantly, excelling at right-back, in midfield, on the wing and up front. Robson managed some of the greatest players of the past 25 years, like Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Romario, Paul Gascoigne and Luis Figo, but he always ranked Enrique among them. The feeling was mutual too, with Enrique saying upon Robson's death in 2009: "Although he was only on the bench for a year, Robson was a manager who left his mark."

4. Neil Warnock and Paddy Kenny

Brian Clough's old contention was that a team needed to start building with a goalkeeper -- once you've got a good No. 1, you're halfway to a decent side -- so it's understandable that if a manager rates a goalie, he will sign him at every possible opportunity. Neil Warnock has taken that to faintly ridiculous lengths with Paddy Kenny, signing him four times with four different clubs, starting with Bury in 1998, Sheffield United in 2002, QPR in 2010 and Leeds in 2012. Indeed, aside from coming through the youth ranks of Bradford Park Avenue, Kenny has never been signed on a permanent deal by any other manager. However, with the rather robust goalie now seemingly out of favour at Elland Road and Warnock out of work, what will become of Kenny?

3. Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan

And what would become of either Kevin Nolan or Sam Allardyce if one day they should be torn from each other? The two men seem like they are simply meant to be together, if occasionally parted, their styles so perfectly suited to each other that the world just seems right when they are as one. Allardyce has not only signed Nolan a couple of times but completely built his team around him, first at Bolton and then later at West Ham, relying on the old "big man up top, Nolan to pick up the knock-downs" theory, that in fairness has often worked pretty well. It will be interesting to see how Allardyce, with pressure from above at West Ham to produce a slightly more creative style of football, deals with his favourite player this season.

Kevin Nolan has always had the trust of current West Ham boss Sam Allardyce.
Kevin Nolan has always had the trust of current West Ham boss Sam Allardyce.

2. Brian Clough and John McGovern

A midfield general has to be imposing, with either his body or personality, and ideally both. Neither of those qualities was obvious in John McGovern, to whom Brian Clough gave a debut at Hartlepool aged just 16. He then took McGovern with him to Derby, winning a league title, then the ill-fated spell at Leeds when McGovern was seen by all the players still loyal to Don Revie as a symbol of their hated new manager, and finally to Nottingham Forest, where the pair won the league again, along with two European Cups. At all of those clubs Clough's loyalty to McGovern was questioned, but his faith was unwavering, as Doug Wetherall, a journalist for the Daily Mail, recalled: "I said to Clough I'd looked at McGovern and I couldn't see what he saw in him. He said, 'That's why I'm a manager and you're a reporter.'" McGovern, quite understandably, spoke fondly of his time with Clough, saying in 2009: "The beauty about working for him was that he never asked you to do things you weren't capable of doing. When I was at Derby I moved to play in midfield where you do become more involved in the physical side of the game and he said 'I don't expect to you to tackle like Dave Mackay but I expect you to try.' And that was the essence of what he did. Everything he taught you made common sense."

1. Peter Taylor and Junior Lewis

In a love affair that started over 20 years ago at Dover Athletic, Peter Taylor has taken having a favourite player to almost comical levels with Junior Lewis. After leaving Dover, Taylor signed his muse on no fewer than five occasions, firstly at Gillingham, then Leicester, Brighton, Hull and Stevenage Borough, and that's just as a player. When Taylor took over at Wycombe in 2008, Lewis had retired, but that didn't stop him picking up the phone and appointing his old friend as a coach, which he did once again after getting the Bradford job in 2010. "I know how the manager works and how he likes things done," said Lewis, displaying heroic levels of understatement just after joining Bradford. And you'd rather hope so, after working with a man at eight different clubs.