Colin Lee: Players who have gone on to become proven managers

Keith Curle, manager of Northampton Town, and Charlie Goode, captain, lift the play-off trophy durin

Keith Curle, manager of Northampton Town, and Charlie Goode, captain, lift the play-off trophy during the Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final between Exeter City and Northampton Town in June at Wembley Stadium, London Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK. - Credit: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

It’s good to see some of the players I have worked with over the years who have stayed in the game and gone on to become proven managers.

Here are just a handful:


Phil joined Reading in the 1992 season and went on to make 361 appearances.

When he joined Reading he was a very competitive/aggressive player who wanted to compete for every ball and his game was focused on when the opposition had the ball. It was my job to teach him the other side to his game - when we have the ball.

I knew Phil would never lose his competitive side but it was important for him to recognise what was expected of him when the team was in possession of the ball.

He was a great learner and spent many hours perfecting the simple skills of receiving and passing the ball with accuracy.

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He became our deep-lying mid-field player who not only broke play down when the opposition had the ball but became more of a complete player having worked tirelessly managing the ball in possession. He was also a leader and a winner so it doesn’t surprise me to see him managing in football.

BRENDAN RODGERS – Leicester City

Brendan was another player I worked with at Reading FC. Brendan was a young player who joined Reading as an 18 year old in 1990. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to break into the team as a regular player and a knee injury forced him to retire at the age of 20.

He stayed on at Reading and eventually became academy director and played his football for a local team for several years.

He was an intelligent person who quickly fell in love with coaching and chose to spend time abroad widening his coaching understanding and studying various coaching methods.

In 2004, Brendan joined Chelsea as a youth manager and later was promoted to reserve manager in 2006.

On several occasions when visiting Chelsea’s training ground I spent time with Brendan talking about coaching and how Jose Mourinho encouraged him to join team meetings and watch how he dealt with certain situations and how he managed his daily responsibilities.

Mourinho’s attention to detail was second to none and part of Brendan becoming a member of his backroom team he had to learn Spanish due to the influx of overseas players at all levels of recruitment.

Brendan soaked up all the information he could and it was the beginning of Brendan becoming one of the most recognised coaches/managers in the Premier League today.

KEITH CURLE – Northampton Town FC

Keith joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1996 having played for Manchester City where he was also club captain making 174 appearances, he was also capped three times for England.

Keith was one of the best defenders I have worked with and his knowledge and understanding of the game for a young man was outstanding. Keith and I have stayed in touch and remain good friends.

I joined him as his first-team coach in the 2011- 2012 season at Notts County and had a great time helping him develop his team, in the first season finishing seventh missing out on the play-offs by goal difference.

And in the 2012-13 season, the team equaled a 41-year record by going unbeaten away from home in the League in ten consecutive games for the first time since 1971. The run finally ended on January 27, 2013, losing 2-1 to Leyton Orient.

Before that, the team had gone 22 consecutive away games without defeat.

In February 2013 for some unknown reason and the most bizarre decision I have ever witnessed in football, Keith was dismissed.

Keith is a born leader a very good coach and has a great ability to make decisions from the touchline to affect the game.

He has done a great job at Northampton Town and it was no surprise to me when they gained promotion last season.

DARREN FURGUSON – Peterborough United

I worked with Darren at Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was a left-footed mid-field player with good understanding but lacked mobility.

Darren was very competitive and was never frightened to speak his mind.

He always had an opinion and constantly talked about football tactics, players, and formations. For a young player, he had great knowledge what would you expect from Sir Alex Ferguson’s son? It was pretty obvious to me he would eventually become a manager.

He rarely talked about his dad but being brought up in the Ferguson family it was to become a big advantage when he joined Peterborough United as player manager in January 2007.

After two successive promotions and guiding the club to the second tier of English football for the first time in 17 seasons, Darren then went on to manage PNE for a short spell and re-joined Peterborough in January 2011 where he took the club to the play-off final at Old Trafford winning promotion to the Football League Championship.

After a further two seasons with Peterborough United, Darren left in June 2015 to join Doncaster Rovers but after two seasons resigned from his post on June 4, 2018.

Darren was then reappointed for the third time by Peterborough United in January 2019 after the dismissal of Steve Evans and this season under his management, Peterborough United sit top of Sky Bet League One – always going to be a football manager.


When I joined Leicester City in 1994 Simon (Larry) played in the team at right-back.

Simon was a quiet person who gave 100 per cent in everything he did and was a very consistent performer. I have to say I didn’t expect him to become a manager but I am delighted to see how successful he has been having managed Blackpool 2005-2008, Leeds United 2008-2012, Huddersfield Town 2012-2913, PNE 2013-2017, Sunderland 2017, Bradford City 2018 and Blackpool 2019-2020.

A really nice guy who has become a proven manager.

MARK ROBINS – Coventry City

Mark is known for his playing days at Manchester United between 1988 and 1992 and throughout his playing career totaled 106 goals in 375 games for various clubs.

I worked with Mark at Leicester City He was a great lad to work with and a player who had a great belief in his goal-scoring ability.

His strong personality. honesty and his work ethic to improve was infectious and it doesn’t surprise me he eventually went into management joining Rotherham United as an assistant manager in June 2000 and becoming manager in April 2007.

He went on to manage Barnsley 2009 resigning at the end of the 2010–11 season and took charge of Coventry City in September 2012. He then went on to manage Huddersfield Town between 2013, departing after the first game of the 2014-16 season following a 4-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.

In October 2014, Mark was appointed Scunthorpe United manager but after a poor run was sacked on January 18, 2016.

In March 2017, Mark was re-appointed Coventry City manager and won promotion to League 1 through the play-offs.

Mark went on to break numerous records at Coventry and in the 2019-20 season took Coventry City to the Championship after winning the League with just three defeats all season and unbeaten since December 2019. Mark won the LMA League 1 Manager of the year award. Well done Mark thoroughly deserved.

Please stays safe and stay positive through another difficult period.