Europe's Stans: How a set of young managers got a chance to lead their nations

The mid-2000s saw Klinsmann, Van Basten and more given the reigns of their national teams

Steve Staunton, Ireland,

Steve Staunton ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

January is quite a significant month for Steve Staunton.

Not only does his birthday fall on the 19th of the month, but it's also the same time of year when he was entrusted with the role of Ireland national football team manager.

On January 13th 2006, the now 47-year-old was announced as the replacement for Brian Kerr, with ex-England, Ipswich and Newcastle boss Bobby Robson coming in as an experienced consultant to help a playing great whose only main coaching experience came as he briefly served in a player/assistant role for Walsall.

That dark period and difficult time for Staunton while in charge of the Boys in Green was something we looked back at on Team 33 with our regular panellist Conor Neville of Balls.ie:

You can listen in to this week's episode on the podcast player just below or download on iTunes:

But as we briefly touched on the show, Ireland was not the only country in the mid-2000s which took a chance on appointing inexperienced former international playing greats as managers in that era.

For Staunton, his reign was ill-fated. But the other examples around Europe involved some ups and downs.

Jurgen Klinsmann

Germany are the reigning world champions now, but back in 2004 when he was appointed national team manager, the country's football team was at a low ebb.

Knocked out of Euro 2000 and 2004 at the group stage, Germany's journey to the 2002 World Cup final was an anomaly in a dark period.

The German FA recognised that changes were needed to a football landscape that had become stale and undertook sweeping changes at underage level which eventually spawned the talented generation which led them to world glory two years ago.

Germany's soccer coach Juergen Klinsmann celebrates during a farewell ceremony at the World Cup soccer fan mile in Berlin, Sunday July 9,2006. Germany captured the third place after defeating Portugal by 3-1. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Klinsmann, who had won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 as a player, was chosen as the figurehead despite no management experience.

But with the prospect of potential embarrassment with a home World Cup on the horizon in 2006, he set about building a new team with an ultra-attacking identity.

Criticised by the German press as teething problems occurred, the current USA manager made them eat their words at the World Cup by leading his young team to a semi-final spot where they fell to a cannier Germany.

The likes of Philippe Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger had already been capped pre-Klinsmann but they and the likes of Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker became established internationals under his watch.

He left the role in 2006 as a popular figure and with a win percentage of 58.8%, above that of his predecessor and former Germany team-mate Rudi Voller (54.7%).

Marco van Basten

Forever immortalised in clips of his famous volley in the Euro 88 final in the Netherlands, the AC Milan legend was appointed Netherlands manager in 2004 which just a season in charge of Ajax's youth team under his belt.

Quick to put his stamp on the Oranje squad, fading greats like Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids were among those phased out of the national team picture, with some previously unheralded names coming in.

It was the time in which ex-Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar and ex-2010 World Cup finalist Joris Mathijsen became national team figures, as did former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt who made his debut under Van Basten.

Leading the Netherlands to the 2006 World Cup, they performed respectably in reaching the last-16 but fell to Portugal in the Battle of Nuremburg, which was not so much a football match, but an opportunity for both sides to kick each other into oblivion:

Similarly, Euro 2008 saw Van Basten's Netherlands excel at the group stage as they outclassed France, Italy and Romania.

But Guus Hiddink's Russia proved too much for his time as Andrei Arshavin and co shocked them in the quarter-final.

He left the top job with a healthy 67.3% win ratio, but his time in management post-Netherlands met with failure at Ajax, Heerenveen and AZ.

He has since admitted that the stress of full-time management caused him to resign as AZ boss in 2014.

Roberto Donadoni 

Van Basten's former Milan team-mate won 63 caps as a player, representing Italy at Euro 88, Euro 96, Italia 90 and USA 94.

Unlike Van Basten and Klinsmann, he had some experience as a manager prior to being appointed Italy manager, having coached Lecco, Genoa and Livorno. 

Impressing at Livorno, Italy took the chance on him in 2006 in the wake of the Azzurri's World Cup triumph.

Despite a slow start to qualifying, Donadoni got Italy to Euro 2008 but the tournament proved a disappointment.

Sneaking into the last-8 after an underwhelming group performance, a penalty shoot-out defeat to eventual champions Spain proved enough to force his exit with a win percentage of 56.5%.

His post-Italy career has had more downs than ups at Napoli, Cagliari and Parma, although the latter was an impossible task in his final season due to crippling financial problems.

Slaven Bilic

A defensive lynchpin of the Croatia side which reached the 1998 World Cup, the current West Ham boss took charge of his country in 2006 after a time as manager of Hajduk Split and his country's U21s.

Croatia head coach Slaven Bilic watches the action during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group C match between Italy and Croatia in Poznan, Poland, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

He earned respect in England during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign with a crop of talented players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic which beat Steve McClaren's Three Lions home and away.

Taking Croatia to the Euro 2008 quarter-finals where they surprisingly lost to Turkey, failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup did not see him sacked, as he had one last run at a major tournament at Euro 2012.

He finished with an excellent win percentage of 64.6%, which is far higher than Staunton's final tally of 35.3%.