On 2nd July 2016, it was announced that Alan Irvine had joined Alex Neil's backroom team at Norwich to replace Gary Holt. Irvine had left Blackburn the previous week where he was working with Paul Lambert. Neil said “Alan has worked with some top managers in his time, as well as having been a manager himself. He will bring a wealth of experience gained over the course of his career. It adds to us as a coaching team because he’s had real success at clubs. In terms of what we’ve got we’re now more diverse. He’s got a great reputation but also has the willingness and drive to be here, which is great.”
A winger as a player, he started his career with Scottish minnows Queens Park whilst working as an insurance broker, making his debut in 1977. After 88 appearances, and nine goals, he was signed by Everton in 1981. He played 60 games for the Toffees, scoring four goals. He moved to Crystal Palace in 1984 and played 107 games for the Eagles, scoring 12 goals. He returned to Scotland in 1987 joining Dundee United. After 24 games and 3 goals, he returned to England in 1989 to join Blackburn. He would play 58 games for Rovers, scoring three goals before announcing his retirement in the summer of 1992 after helping Blackburn win promotion to the new Premier League.
As a coach, he worked for Blackburn's youth team (1993-98), Preston as Assistant Manager (1998-2001), Newcastle's youth team (2001-05) and Everton as Assistant Manager (2005-07) before joining Preston as first team manager on 20th November 2007. He took them from a relegation struggle to a respectable 15th place in his first season before taking them to the Championship play-off finals the following season. He was sacked on 29th December 2009 after a poor run of results.
Irvine was then appointed manager of Sheffield Wednesday on 8th January 2010. It was an unsettled time at Wednesday with poor results, court cases and changes of ownership. Irvine was sacked in February 2011.
On 12th July 2011, he returned to Everton to manage the club's academy.
He took on the head coach role at West Bromwich Albion on 14th June 2014, managing for the first team in the Premier League. After only seven months in the role, on 29 December 2014, Irvine was sacked by West Bromwich Albion, with the team lying in 16th position in the Premier League having won only four of 19 league games under his managership, and just one point above the relegation zone.
He rejoined Blackburn as Assistant Manager to Paul Lambert in November 2015.
Following Alex Neil's sacking on 10th March 2017, Irvine was appointed as caretaker manager. He drew his first game 2-2 with Blackburn at home before winning 2-0 against Barnsley at Carrow Road. This was extended to the end of the season due to the club's restructuring which will bring in a head coach to work with Sporting Director Stuart Webber. He ended up managing for the final 10 matches of last season – which saw the team register five wins, two draws and three defeats in the Sky Bet Championship – including a 7-1 defeat of play-off finalists Reading at Carrow Road.
On 8th June 2017, Irvine left the Canaries. Daniel Farke had been recruited as the new Head Coach. Webber said ""We have had a chat together about a role here and Alan has decided that he would like to move on at this time to explore a future challenge and we respect his decision and wish him all the very best.".
On 6th November 2017, he joined West Ham as assistant to their new manager David Moyes with whom he had worked at Preston and Everton. Moyes and his coaching team, including Irvine, were sacked on 16th May 2018 after guiding the club to Premier League safety, finishing 13th and nine points clear of the drop zone.