English football has had more than enough names to remember since it’s official start 150 years ago, players such as Cantona, Best, Shearer, Henry, Di Canio, the list goes on and on. But behind all these established players, there is of course the man who makes the team tick, who spends every waking minute conjuring up ways of how to improve their team, that man is of course, the gaffer.
The FA has been under the spotlight many a time when it comes to appointing the right man to lead England to glory, and that job alone is one that most managers would love yet hate to take up. But before international glories, we have been lucky in English football to witness some of the masterminds in world football, the men who really know how to win trophies and turn a club around from the shadows of doubt, into the most successful teams to embark on a football pitch.
Here is an overview of ten of the most successful and decorated managers ever to step foot into English football, and why the beloved sport would not be the same without it.
Clough was a favourite among England fans, despite only gaining two caps for his country, but his club form for Middlesbrough and Sunderland was one to be proud of, acquiring 251 league goals from 274 starts. But Clough is not remembered in particular for his playing days, the man was the brains behind the ever so great success of Nottingham Forest and Derby County.
Clough’s success was never ending, he took the average Derby County from the Second Division slums, to finishing top of Division One in the 71/72 season and claiming their first Division One championship in their 88 year history.
Unfortunately Clough only had a short spell at Leeds United, and by short I mean seven games. He soon left after only winning one of his first seven games, and swiftly moved on to Nottingham Forest, where his CV boasted accolades many could only dream of. From the outset he won the First Division again (77/78), the League Cup four times, and most famously two back to back European Cups, shining amongst the top names in football. Even the Likes of Guardiola, Fergie and Mourinho cannot boast this achievement yet, and it could be a while before it ever happens again.
The Tesside born legend passed away on the 20th September 2004 at 69 years old. But his legacy lives on through his son Nigel Clough, who is currently at Derby County, but due to the financial gaps between clubs, it will be a long time for Nigel Clough to even dream of emulating what his father achieved.
Sir Alf Ramsey
The only England manager to win a World Cup could put his name in this list alone, but Ramsey was given the opportunity to lead our country to glories beyond a couple generations, due to his success at Ipswich Town. Ramsey took over in 1955, and was there for eight years, winning the Third (South), Second and First Division titles in the space of six years.
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." The man who loved football more than his wife, Shankly was a legend amongst the ranks of Liverpool and was behind the start of Liverpool’s dominance in world football. Shankly won three First Division championships, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup, and due to his premature retirement, the man could have taken the club onto more success, but he was the heartbeat of Liverpool, and the start to what would be Liverpool’s best years.
Liverpool were in need of a new manager to take over the ranks after Shankly, and Paisley created what was a team of Champions not only in England, but they were indefinitely the top dogs in Europe. Paisley took the Kop to six League championships, eight domestic cups, and three major European trophies, including the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup. Paisley’s success is untouchable for that era, and the Anfield legend has one theory behind not receiving a knighthood: “I wasn’t only here for the good years, one year, we came second!”
The Frenchman came along to Arsenal in 1996 with a new look that would change the way modern football is run forever. Wenger brought in a new diet for his players, new training plans, new tactics, he turned Arsenal upside down in order to build a club that still is the only team to win a whole Premier League season without losing a single match. The “invincibles” consisted of Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg, Pires, Viera, Campbell, and those names alone produced a new revolutionary style of football, in which passing play had a little more style and cohesion, and lead to Wenger winning three Premier League trophies, including four FA Cup trophies.
Although the Frenchman has come under criticism for his recent years at the North London club, Arsenal has always been a presence in European football despite no honours. Wenger can be criticised as much as people want to, but his enthusiasm and tactics in the late 90’s have helped English football evolve as more managers have decided to take up his managerial style.
Sir Matt Busby
Many football fans aren’t true lovers of Manchester United, but no one can say a bad word of the legend that is Sir Matt Busby. He built a team that would dominate the 50’s in England, but when the tragedy of the Munich aircrash occurred, Busby lost some of his closest friends yet was still able to make Manchester United a powerhouse in European football, by winning the 67/68 European Cup, and along the way being involved in the ever so famous “Busby Babes”.
“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.” These words were soon to become some of the most famous quotes in Premier League history. Chelsea had a new owner under oil-rich Roman Abramovich, and Mourinho’s recent Champions League success lead to him becoming manager of the Blues, and creating history at the Bridge. Mourinho went on to win two Premier League titles, three domestic trophies and the FA community shield. But Mourinho’s game was cut short by Abramovich and the Premier League had lost the special one.
Mourinho not only brought us special moments on and off the pitch, he brought in the likes of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, and may more players that gave Man United and Arsenal a new team to worry about for the league. Since then he has won the Champions League with Inter Milan as well as the Serie A Title, and he finally pipped Pep to the La Liga title with Real Madrid last season. But his time looks to be running out soon at the Spanish giants, and with his consistent desire to return to the Premier League, there could be more to come from the special one.
Sir Bobby Robson
One man wasn’t loved as much in world football as Sir Bobby, his character was inspiring and his managerial career was one to be remembered, and after his tragic death in 2009, football has had a huge whole ever since.
Robson had a successful campaign at Ipswich Town, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Cup around the late 70’s early 80’s. Robson was then given the role of England manager and sent England to the semi-finals of World Cup 1990, he then went on to win domestic and a European Super cup with Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and FC Porto.
Robson came back to management in England for Newcastle United in 2004, and was a living legend at his time there. The man will be missed forever more in the game, as his presence in football was known worldwide and his influence on the game will always be remembered.
Although Moyes hasn’t had the titles to boast among the likes of the other managers within this list, Moyes is the only manager to win the LMA Manager of the year three times, alongside Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scotsman has worked on a shoestring at Everton, and most clubs would not have the patience to keep him when he first started, but Moyes took Everton to the Champions League in 2005, the UEFA Cup and soon to be changed Europa League three years in a row, reached the FA Cup final but unfortunately lost to Chelsea, and has produced the likes of Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines, Mauroane Fellaini and many more into the Premier League.
Moyes has continuously been linked with jobs elsewhere such as Tottenham, Chelsea, and even Man United. But Moyes looks to stay at Everton and do as good a job as he can until a time does come for him to move on, and with a manager of his stature in the game to work on such a small budget year in year out, the future can only be bright for the Everton manager.
Sir Alex Ferguson
12 League Titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League trophies, four other European and World trophies, and ten Community Shields, of course it is none other than Fergie. The most decorative manager in the Premier League and in world football, Fergie has been the drive behind Man United, it took him four years to win his first trophy there, and since then he has gone on to win trophies year after year, building team after team. The class of 92’, Cantona, Ronaldo, and Rooney, all of these names plus many more have come into United by the influence of the gaffer. His main ambition was to knock Liverpool off their thrown, and he did so during the 10/11 season after acclaiming the Red Devil’s 19th league title, surpassing Liverpool’s total of 18.
He is not a man short of controversy, the infamous “Fergie Time”, his rants to match officials, throwing boots at players and selling whoever underestimated him, the list continues. But after being at Old Trafford for 27 years you would expect this plus more, and yet he has continued to bring success to Manchester after fighting off the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Fergie has new rivals for the title in the form of the noisy neighbours Man City, and Fergie will relish the challenge they oppose to him, but undeniably there has not been a single manager as successful as Sir Alex Ferguson. And as he continues to rule the reigns at Man United, the Premier League will benefit from his excellence for however long he remains in football.
Of course there have been other managers who could compete to be amongst the ranks of these men, Harry Redknapp known as the ultimate wheeler-dealer, Rafa Benitez was inspirational at Liverpool giving us a Champions League final to remember, Big Sam and Martin O’neill have always been around the Premier League giving us something to talk about, and no one will ever forget Ian Holloway’s special season with Blackpool.
The FA can take pride over the last 150 years of the managers that have stepped foot into the English leagues, and from what they have produced so far, the future can only look bright, football is always growing and the veterans of the game now could turn out to become world class managers.
All Caricatures by Graeme Bandeira