5 managers who made long-awaited returns to Scottish clubs

Jim Jefferies had two spells as Hearts manager nine-and-a-half years apart. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jim Jefferies had two spells as Hearts manager nine-and-a-half years apart. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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John Robertson has become manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle nearly 13 years after leaving the Highland club. In honour of Robbo’s decision to turn back the clock, we look at five other Scottish bosses who returned home following a significant period of time away.

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Jim Jefferies - Hearts (left 2000; returned 2010)

The former captain was a hero in his first spell as Tynecastle boss, taking the club from relegation candidates to title contenders and Scottish Cup winners in just three seasons. Though the success could not be sustained, another European qualification was achieved before he departed in November 2000, taking over the reins at Bradford.

Jefferies returned over nine years later in what must surely be considered the most dramatic Friday afternoon in the club’s history. In the space of a few hours, manager Csaba Laszlo had been booted out of Tynecastle and officially replaced with the prodigal father. Though Hearts enjoyed moderate success in his second spell, even mounting a brief title challenge in 2010-11, he and assistant Billy Brown were sacked two games into the following campaign.

Walter Smith - Rangers (left 1998; returned 2007)

Just a couple of months into 1997/98, it was announced Smith would depart Rangers at the end of the season. Though it was reported at the time that the highly-successful manager was content to stand down from his position, it later emerged that he was sacked. This was despite his impressive haul of 13 trophies in six-and-a-half years. Smith and Rangers would fail to add to this collection and he exited the following summer.

Fast forward to 2007 and the aftermath of the disastrous Paul Le Guen era. Rangers needed a steady pair of hands to ensure they didn’t finish outside the top two in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1980s, and so they called on Smith. Even though his eight trophies over the next four-and-a-half years wouldn’t match the haul of his first, his second spell as manager was arguably more impressive given the club’s budget constraints, which they defied to reach the Uefa Cup final.

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Alex Totten - Falkirk (left 1984; returned 1996)

Just the 12 years between Totten’s managerial spells in charge of Falkirk, who were his local club as a youngster and a side he represented as a player as well. After leaving to become assistant boss of Rangers in 1984, he would come back to the club in 1996 following his sacking as manager of Kilmarnock.

As fate would have it, he’d line up against his old side - and the man who replaced him, Bobby Williamson - in the 1997 Scottish Cup final. After beating Celtic en route to the final, Totten’s First Division underdogs could not repeat their heroics, going down 1-0 to a Paul Wright goal. He would manage Falkirk for a further five years before becoming director of football.

Jim Leishman - Dunfermline Athletic (left 1990; returned 2005)

The bona fide club legend earned his status, in large part, to a highly successful period as manager which engulfed most of the 1980s. Taking over a side bottom of Scottish football’s third tier - and at just 28 years of age, too - Leishman masterminded a terrific turnaround in Dunfermline’s fortunes as they marched back to the Premier Division. There they sat in 1990 when he exited in acrimonious circumstances. Asked to step upstairs into a general manager role by the chairman, Leishman decided to leave instead, much to the fury of the fans who would protest in vain for his immediate reinstatement.

Ironically, he returned in 2003 as director of football, but would eventually take over the reins once more in 2005, keeping the club safe from relegation by winning two of their final three games. Though he kept them up the following season as well, the lack of progress saw him step aside early into the 2006/07 campaign, going back to his role in the boardroom.

Jocky Scott - Dundee (left 1988; returned 1998) & (left 2000; returned 2008)

The man who loved to manage Dundee. Similar to another Scottish football favourite in ex-Partick Thistle boss John Lambie, Scott had three spells in charge of his provincial club through the 80s, 90s and 00s. Earning his stripes after stepping into the dugout following his retirement, Scott accepted the offer to become joint-manager with Alex Smith at Aberdeen.

Subsequent spells in charge of Dunfermline and Arbroath, and a coaching role at Hibs, saw little stability, so he agreed to come back to Dens in 1998. Two years later he would be gone again, leaving to take over Notts County just as Dundee were embarking on their continental experiment involving the likes of the Bonetti brothers, Claudio Caniggia, Juan Sara and Georgi Nemsadze.

Long after that particular house of cards had come crashing down, Dundee called for Scott once more, this time in the autumn of 2008. Not all that surprisingly, it didn’t last long. He was sacked in March 2010, even though the club was still firmly in the First Division title race.

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