Carlton Palmer was given the opportunity to begin his managerial career with Stockport County in November 2001 with the club lying bottom of the First Division.
Carlton began his 17-year playing career at West Bromwich Albion in 1984. Once a record-breaking athlete at school level, he impressed a former West Brom boss, Ron Atkinson, sufficiently to earn the towering midfielder a move to Sheffield Wednesday in 1989 for £750,000. It was at Hillsborough where his reputation was earned with some impressive displays in the midfield for the Owls and it was this period that helped him to break into the full England side after he won five caps at under-21 level.
A combative defensive midfielder who had direct experience of many of the game's top managers – including Howard Wilkinson, Graham Taylor and Ron Atkinson – Carlton's ability to win the ball and his aerial strength were valued throughout his career.
Carlton spent five seasons in South Yorkshire until he moved to Leeds United in 1994. After three years at Elland Road, he moved to Southampton, where he played in midfield with Kevin Richardson, then to Nottingham Forest and finally to Coventry City.
From Coventry he spent a brief spell on loan at Watford and then back at his old club Sheffield Wednesday, helping The Owls climb away from the relegation zone towards the end of the 2000/2001 season.
The professionalism he prided himself on and popularity that he enjoyed in the dressing room were under-exposed qualities in a career in which he made a total of 645 appearances and won 18 full England caps.
While in his second spell at Hillsborough and following the dismissal of Peter Shreeves, Carlton made it known that he would be interested in moving into management and initially applied for the vacant manager's post there, but having heard of the vacant managerial position at Stockport County following Andy Kilner's departure, Carlton met with the Club's chairman Brendan Ellwood and was soon appointed as First Team manager.
He was presented to the press and supporters as the manager of the Edgeley Park club on Tuesday 6 November 2001 along with his assistant, former midfield colleague Kevin Richardson, and the Club's new Director of Football Colin Murphy.
Despite getting off to a good start, with a goal and a victory in his first game in charge, Carlton could not save The Hatters from relegation.
An unexpected win over eventual champions Manchester City gave Stockport fans something to cheer about but the former England international knew he had a tough job on his hands if he was to ever take them back into the First Division.
The 2002/03 season saw County involved in another relegation battle but a strong run towards the end of the campaign ensured they were out of danger with a few games to spare.
The following season saw things take a turn for the worse however as they picked up just one win from their first eight games and Carlton was sacked by the club on September 19 2003, with Director of Football John Hollins – brought in over the summer – and coach Kevin Richardson taking temporary charge.
Carlton told the press following his exit from Edgeley Park: "I'm obviously disappointed. It's more to do with politics than football, but I don't want to elaborate.
"Over the last five matches we've won one, drawn three and lost one so on that basis every manager in the First, Second and Third Division should get the sack.
"But I've built up a very good young side and the supporters and staff at the club have been fantastic. We've come on leaps and bounds and the club is in a much better state than when I arrived a couple of years ago. I'm a proud person and I think I have done good things for the club."
He gave his backing to John Hollins and Kevin Richardson, saying: "There'll be no changes at the club and I have lots of faith in John Hollins and Kevin Richardson and I have told them I do not want them to resign. It's a great young team and they are in good hands."
He added: "I'm just going to go [to Portugal] and take some time out and just think about things. I'm a football person though, I love the game, and I will want to get back into it. I've already had a couple of offers to play on Saturday which is nice, but I'm going to go to my house in Portugal for a bit and spend some time with my family."