Frank O’Farrell, 1968-1971
An ex-Republic of Ireland international wing-half who had played well over 300 games for West Ham United and Preston North End between 1948 and 1961, Frank was part of a group of players at Upton Park which included Malcolm Allison, Dave Sexton, John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Ken Brown and Malcolm Musgrove.
They all went on to have successful careers as managers and coaches. Between 1961 and 1965, O’Farrell cut his managerial teeth at Weymouth, winning the Southern League title in 1965, after which he went to Torquay United for three years, winning promotion from the Fourth Division at the end of his first season at Plainmoor.
When O’Farrell, with Malcolm Musgrove as his assistant, took over at Filbert Street in December 1968, the Club was near the foot of the First Division, despite the team containing quality players such as Peter Shilton, Peter Rodrigues, David Nish, John Sjoberg, Graham Cross, Bobby Roberts, Allan Clarke, Rodney Fern and Lenny Glover.
O’Farrell was a success at Upton Park with West Ham.
O’Farrell immediately set about masterminding an FA Cup run which culminated in the Final at Wembley against Manchester City, coached by his old West Ham teammate Malcolm Allison.
Defeat at Wembley was followed by relegation five games and three weeks later when, needing to win the last match of the season at Old Trafford to stay up, Leicester City lost 3-2. They were relegated after 12 years in the top flight. The following season, Leicester City just missed an immediate return to the First Division.
They finished third at a time when only the top two sides in the division were promoted. The following season, O’Farrell made two key signings.
These were midfielders Willie Carlin and Bobby Kellard who were both signed to add aggression and competitiveness to the side. O’Farrell called them his street fighters. This pragmatic approach worked with Leicester City returning to the top flight as the 1971 Second Division champions.
O’Farrell took the Club to an FA Cup Final.
This achievement resulted in Manchester United offering O’Farrell, (whose deal at Leicester was about to expire), a five year contract worth £15,000-per-year to be their new manager, with Musgrove as his assistant.
This turned out to be a poisoned chalice. The great Manchester United players from the 1960s were ageing.
Matt Busby’s continued presence at Old Trafford undermined O’Farrell’s authority. George Best was causing problems. O’Farrell’s team finished eighth at the end of his first season, but in December 1972, with his team struggling, he was replaced as Manchester United’s manager by Tommy Docherty.
A brief spell managing Cardiff City was followed by a two year interlude as manager of Iran between 1974 and 1976.
This preceded a return in 1976 to manage Torquay United before he moved to the United Arab Emirates in 1980 to manage Al Shaab. Finally he returned to Torquay United for a third time between 1981 and 1983.
He took retirement in Torquay and sadly died on 6 March, 2022, aged 94.
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