Saturday 21 April 2018

The Saturday List #173 - The Top Ten Football Managers of all Time

Image result for brian clough
Brian Clough - the all time greatest manager in England
Yesterday Arsene Wenger announced he was leaving Arsenal after 22 years. For many that is a lifetime. With three League Trophies and seven FA Cups, Wenger will go down as one of the greats. I thought I'd compile my Top Ten English Team Managers of all time. I've not included any current managers, apart from Wenger as he is in the departure lounge. I doubt that he'll do anything to enhance his legacy in English football from here on in.

1. Brian Clough (Derby, Nottingham Forest)

2.  Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

3. Bill Shankly (Liverpool)

4. Bob Paisley (Liverpool)

5. Sir Matt Busby (Manchester United)

6. Herbert Chapman (Huddersfield,Arsenal)

7.. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

8. Bill Nicholson (Spurs)

9. Joe Mercer (Manchester City)

10.  Don Revie (Leeds)

When I started to pull this list together, I thought it would be quite easy. It was anything but. How can you possibly say whether Herbert Chapman was a better manager than Arsene Wenger, given that both managed in different era's? Chapman won the league twice with two different clubs. He was the first English supermanager and died at his peak.

How could Alex Ferguson possibly lose out to Brian Clough? If it was a simple count of trophies, then of course Sir Alex Ferguson would be no 1. However, you also have to look at the club, the resources and the time. Clough won the league with two small town clubs and won the European Cup twice, taking both teams from the Second Division. In short he had a far steeper mountain to climb with far fewer resources. How could Shankly finish above Paisley, when Paisley won far more for the same club? That is perhaps easier, as Shankly built the team and put the structures in place for Paisley. No Shankly, no Paisley success.  How could Don Revie make the list and Kenny Dalglish not? Dalglish won three league titles with Liverpool and one with unfashionable Blackburn, wheras Revie only one one league title and one FA cup with Leeds? That was a very hard one, I omitted Dalglish as his reign really brought the golden years of Liverpool domination to an end. Whilst his achievements with Blackburn were impressive, the success was built on sand and evaporated as quickly as it appeared.

To make the list, the manager had to not only win things but transform the club. All of the managers on the list took the clubs to a higher level and built a legacy. Joe Mercer at Manchester City took a club languishing in the Second division won a league title, the FA Cup, the League cup and the European cup winners cup in short succession. The club threw his legacy away in the following decade with mismanagement, bad appointments and bad buys. Bill Nicholson was the first manager in the modern era to win the double, at a time when it was seen as nigh on impossible.

As I said, it was a hard list to put together, but I think it is just about right. If I put another one together, it will be interesting to see who of the current crop makes it. Will Pepe, Jose and Jurgen make it? I think that in the Premiership era, when it is almost impossible to "do a Leicester", the managers of the big clubs have to do far more than Revie to qualify for a place in the greats. Maybe if Sean Dysche wins the Premiership with Burnley, that would guarantee a place. I thought about Ranieri, his achievement with Leicester was awesome, but there was no legacy and to be a great you need more than one fantastic season. I suspect that Pepe needs a Champions League or two and a couple more league titles to get near Joe Mercer.

I am sure that there will be all manner of fans of all manner of clubs calling me an idiot as they read this. If you disagree, make your own list!

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