Neil McCann following a long line of managerial gambles

© Getty
Paolo Di Canio enjoys one of the better afternoons in his short time with Sunderland.

Rookie manager Neil McCann taking over at Dundee is being viewed as a left field gamble by many. Here are five other appointments that veered away from the norm.

1 Gary Neville

Dundee aren’t the first club to pluck a manager out of a Sky Sports studio. Andy Gray came very close to making the jump when Everton approached him in the 1990s but opted to stay where he was. His successor as Sky’s chief pundit, Gary Neville, couldn’t resist an offer from Valencia, though. It didn’t work out well. Valencia – who were in a bit of a mess when Neville arrived – were in even more of a mess when he left a few months later. As with McCann, Neville’s coaching qualifications had been as a number two. Now back with Sky, we’re unlikely to see him in a dug-out again anytime soon.

Gary Neville.© Getty
Gary Neville.


2 Paulo Di Canio

When Sunderland appointed Paulo Di Canio to replace Martin O’Neill in the spring of 2013, their situation was pretty similar to Dundee’s just now. Possibly a bit healthier, actually. The Black Cats were one point above the relegation zone and had seven games to play. After having to field questions about fascist leanings and a pretty light CV, Di Canio’s unique brand of shock treatment did the job and Sunderland stayed up, with victory over Newcastle and Di Canio’s famous suit-ruining knee-slide at St James’ Park the highlight. The mistake was giving him a two-and-half year deal as it unravelled from day one of the next season and the fiery Italian was on his way after a disastrous start to the campaign.

Paulo Di Canio.© Getty
Paulo Di Canio.


3 Ian Cathro

This was arguably the most talked-about managerial appointment of modern times in Scottish football. Safe to say, Cathro getting the Hearts job split opinion. To some it was an example of ground-breaking vision by Craig Levein and Ann Budge to hire a man whose lack of a playing career and a traditional coaching background broke the mould. For every member of the Team Cathro fan club, however, there was a traditionalist who questioned his credentials and capacity to command dressing room respect. The first few months of his reign – with Hearts now long-shots to finish higher than fifth and the team a shadow of the one he inherited from Robbie Neilson – have done nothing to quieten the “dinosaurs” and “Luddites” in the football community.

Ian Cathro.© SNS
Ian Cathro.


4 Ron Noades

There are plenty of chairmen out there who think they can do a better job than their manager and their patron saint will be Ron Noades. Noades hadn’t shown any inclination to pull on a tracksuit when he was chairman at Crystal Palace but when he switched boardrooms to Brentford he appointed himself as boss in 1998. Much to the League Managers Association’s disgust, no doubt, he actually made a decent fist of it at the start, and won Division Three in his first season. It didn’t take long for the “I told you so” brigade to be proved right, however. Results turned, there was an embarrassing FA Cup exit and Noades the chairman/manager became Noades the chairman. Mutual consent, presumably.

Rom Noades.© Getty
Ron Noades.


5 John Brown

Dundee Football Club have always had the capacity to shock. In the grand scheme of things, an untried manager like McCann straight out of TV-land is pretty tame. When John Brown was tasked with saving the Dark Blues from relegation back in 2013 that was a proper eight or nine out of 10 in the shock stakes. Bomber’s only previous experience as a number one was with Clyde some four years before and that hadn’t ended well. Dundee claimed he was “perfect” but not many supporters shared their faith. It wasn’t actually an unmitigated disaster. They were all but doomed when he took over from Barry Smith but Brown did get a reaction of sorts and, if nothing else, the mind-games with relegation rivals St Mirren were great entertainment. And when Paul Hartley succeeded him in February 2014 Dundee were in reasonable shape to get promoted back to the top flight.

John Brown.© SNS
John Brown.