Football: Stand-ins who stand out: Adventures of five famous caretaker managers

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The Independent Online
Malcolm Crosby

He was the caretaker who was too good to be brushed aside. He was supposed to keep the seat warm for Denis Smith's replacement at Sunderland but proved too hot himself. He collected the Manager of the Month award at the end of his first four weeks in charge and led Sunderland to the 1992 FA Cup final. A one-year contract followed, but he was sacked after a Pools Panel "defeat" at Tranmere.

Joe Mercer

In the hiatus between the fall of Sir Alf Ramsey and the appointment of Don Revie, Joe Mercer succeeded in putting the smile back on the face of English football. Entertainment was a hallmark of the seven matches which spanned Mercer's caretakership in 1974. The pity was that when the World Cup finals came round Mercer was in the ITV studios, drooling over "Joe-Han Crufts".

Stewart Houston

Had David Seaman not been Nayim-ed from the half-way line at Parc des Princes, the sign bearing Stewart Houston's name may well have been screwed, rather than Blu-Tacked, to the door of the manager's office at Highbury. Guiding Arsenal to the 1995 Cup-winners' Cup final was not deemed good enough. After twice responding to emergency boardroom calls the Scot was appointed manager at Loftus Road.

David Webb

The Three-month period Webb spent in charge at Chelsea in 1993 was officially described as a trial. In effect, though, the FA-Cup-winning hero of 1970 merely filled the gap between Ian Porterfield's departure and Glenn Hoddle's arrival. He followed a run of six win-less home games with five victories and a draw in six matches at Stamford Bridge. A permanent place in the hot-seat, however, proved a bridge too far.

Mario Zagalo

He was the man to whom Brazil turned on the eve of the 1970 World Cup finals. Joao Saldanha was dismissed after locking horns with Pele in a troubled qualifying programme. It was feared that Zagalo's initially stop-gap appointment would lead to a negative, defensive showing in Mexico. Instead, the outside-left from the World Cup winning teams of 1958 and 1962 produced the richest Brazilian blend of all time.

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