In terms of managerial experience, you would be hard pressed to find someone with more of it than (for the time being) Crystal Palace caretaker manager Lennie Lawrence. He is part of a very select club that includes the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. A club so exclusive that Jose Mourinho is nowhere near being admitted. The club? Managers who have more than 1,000 games under their belts.
Lawrence, born in 1947 (20 years before the Summer of Love, for you Football Ramble listeners), has been professionally managing football teams since 1978. That year, he was handed the caretaker role for Plymouth Argyle but he failed to win any of his five games in charge, taking just two points in that spell.
Following his stay at Plymouth, Lawrence moved to Lincoln City where he worked as a coach. That stint was succeeded by a move to Charlton Athletic in 1981where he joined the staff as a reserve team manager. He was promoted shortly thereafter to be the first team manager and he stayed there for nine seasons. This period was a very tough one that Charlton fans will never forget. During this spell, Charlton were in dire need of money and went into administration after their ownership group left.
A supporters' trust acquired the club but could not get their stadium, the Valley, which was held by the previous ownership group. The stadium needed a myriad of expensive improvements in order to meet safety codes as the large terraces of the old Valley were deemed hazardous. In 1985, Charlton Athletic moved to Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace, and began the first ground sharing program in the Football League.
Despite not having their own ground and dearth of funds, Lennie did phenomenally well with the London club. In his nearly nine years at the club, he managed 393 games for the Addicks, winning 30% of those and drawing a further 27%. Even with all of the club's issues, Lawrence kept them in the old second division (with relegation to the third division a major threat at that point) and even got the club promoted to the top flight in 1986, keeping them there for four years. In 1988, the Charlton ownership would regain control of the Valley but the stadium was deemed too unsafe to play in. They were relegated in 1990 and Lawrence left the club the season after. In 1991, construction began on the new Valley as Charlton played their games at West Ham's Upton Park.
Following his stay at Charlton, Lawrence continued managing all the way up to the present day. He was in charge of sides like Middlesbrough, Bradford City, Cardiff City, and Bristol Rovers, among others. In January 2011, he was hired by Crystal Palace to return to Selhurst Park as an assistant manager to then-new manager Dougie Freedman, who had been in the job for some nine days before Lawrence's arrival. The two managed to keep relegation-threatened Crystal Palace up that season, finishing in relatively comfortable 17th place, before taking them all the way up to fourth this season, before Dougie left for Bolton.