Why Lee can make it on his own

After 14 years as a top coach, Sammy Lee has finally been given the chance to prove he can cut it as a Premiership manager.

He was part of the first intake of English coaches to gain the Uefa Pro Licence, in 2002, and has earned a reputation for innovation and effectiveness during spells with Liverpool, England and Bolton.

But is he capable of making the step up from number two to supremo? It's not hard to think of successful assistants, men like Brian Kidd and Stewart Houston, who have failed to make the transition.

Alan Hansen, who played with Lee for eight years at Liverpool, during which time the Reds won two European Cups and three league titles, is in no doubt that Lee can do it.

"I've known Sammy for a long time and think he will make a really good manager," Hansen told BBC Sport.

"He's got a great football brain and can be very single minded. He has had a lot of experience under different coaches, men like Gerard Houllier, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sam Allardyce, and it's time for him to move up into management.

"Sammy has got a vast knowledge of football, is good with people and, like I say, he can be very single-minded. It all augurs well for Bolton."

Tord Grip says he saw the makings of a good manager when he worked with Lee in the England coaching set-up from 2001 to 2006.

"I think he can make the step up and be a very good manager," Grip told BBC Sport.

"He was certainly a very good coach and Sven and I loved him. He was very lively on the training pitch, taking all the warm-ups and a lot of the training sessions.

"The players liked him and I know his approach at Bolton is very hi-tech, using computer programmes to analyse players' performance and taking a scientific approach to their training and preparation.

"He is also ambitious and determined."

Lee was a tenacious, strong-running midfielder who fulfilled his dream of playing for his hometown club, Liverpool, and won 14 caps for England.

Hansen says he never had any doubt that Lee would move into coaching at the end of his playing career.

"I always thought Sammy would stay in football, because he loves the game," says the Scot.

"It was a natural step for him to go into coaching and now management.

"He was a great player and his enthusiasm for the game is probably greater than anyone I have seen." 

Graeme Souness handed Lee his first break in coaching when he made him Liverpool's reserve-team coach in 1993.

Houllier then promoted the diminutive Scouser to first-team coach in 1999, and they guided the Reds to their unique treble of FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup in 2001.

Lee joined Eriksson's England on a part-time basis in 2001, before leaving Anfield to take up his role full-time in 2004.

He joined Bolton in June 2005, succeeding Phil Brown as Allardyce's assistant. The duo forged a successful partnership, with Allardyce relaying instructions from the stand to Lee in the dugout on match days.

Much of Allardyce's success has been built on astute work in the transfer market and effective man management.

He got the best out of the likes of Ivan Campo, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kevin Davies when other managers had written them off.

It is difficult to say whether Lee will be as effective in this regard, and Hansen admits it will be difficult for his friend to take over from someone as successful as Allardyce, who transformed Bolton from First Division strugglers to a Premiership power during seven-and-a-half years in charge.

"It's going to be hard, because of what Sam did," Hansen says. "But at the same time, I think that when Sammy goes in there he will have his own ideas and will do very well.

"I think he will keep to the principles and style of play Sam used, because you don't change something that has been really successful. But he will also have his own methods."

Grip agrees that Lee is strong enough to be his own man. "Sammy is a very, very nice person, but that shouldn't disguise the fact that he is ambitious and determined.

"He always wanted to be a manager, which is why he went to Bolton in 2005. He has waited for this moment and thought about it a lot. I think he will be ready."

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