The Top 10 Greatest English Football Managers in History (Ranked)

England’s contribution to football is foundational, having not only originated the sport but also achieving sporadic international success, from the 1966 World Cup victory to the Women’s Euro triumph in 2022. Despite their intermittent success, England remains a constant presence at the sport’s highest levels.

The country’s lasting significance in football history is partly due to its production of not only skilled players but also, importantly, managers. While the current era may not feature many English managers leading elite clubs, England has historically boasted a roster of extraordinary coaches with significant accolades.

Contemporary figures like Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche have aimed to lead the new wave of talent, yet they fall short of the transformative impact made by legendary figures such as Brian Clough and Sir Bobby Robson. Here is a compilation of the ten most illustrious English managers, evaluated based on three main criteria:

Ranking Criteria:

  • Longevity: The most esteemed coaches have demonstrated dominance across various football eras.
  • Success: The extent of a manager’s achievements, particularly those earned with smaller clubs, adds to their legacy.
  • Influence: Beyond trophies and titles, a great manager’s enduring impact and legacy are what truly define their greatness.

10. Gareth Southgate

Managerial Career: 2006 – Present

Cc: The Independent

Gareth Southgate stands out as one of the modern managers who has a compelling case for being ranked among England’s all-time best. His accomplishments with the England national team have been substantial enough to consider him for this elite status.

After his tenure at Middlesbrough, Southgate moved into international coaching with the England Under-21s in 2013. He got his chance to lead the senior team when Sam Allardyce left, and Southgate stepped in as the interim manager. He then solidified his position by leading England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and the Euro final in 2021. While some have criticized his tactical abilities, Southgate’s influence on the national team’s culture is evident and has been a crucial element in one of England’s most successful periods in recent history.

Managerial Career Highlights:

  • Notable Teams Coached: Middlesbrough, England National Team
  • Major Trophies: None
  • Individual Honors: BBC Sports Personality Recognition

9. Tom Watson

Managerial Career: 1888 – 1915

Cc: Playup, Liverpool

Tom Watson may not be a well-known name among many football fans, but he stands as a pioneer in English football history. Renowned for his innovative tactical approaches, Watson played a key role in establishing the early dominance of two First Division teams.

Watson’s managerial career began with Sunderland, where he led the team to three league championships within four years during the 1890s. His success caught the attention of Liverpool, and he joined them in 1896. At Liverpool, he continued his winning ways, securing two First Division titles and guiding the team to their first FA Cup final in 1914. Watson’s 19-year tenure at Liverpool makes him the club’s longest-serving manager to date.

ALSO READ  5 Strongest Viking Warriors: Starting From Ivar The Boneless To Harald Hardrada

Managerial Career Overview:

  • Notable Teams Managed: Sunderland, Liverpool
  • Major Trophies: Five First Division Titles
  • Individual Honors: None Reported

8. Howard Kendall

Managerial Career: 1979 – 1999

Cc: The Independent

Howard Kendall is celebrated for his remarkable contributions to Everton, where he is seen as a legendary and transformative figure. As a player, he appeared in over 270 matches for Everton and later solidified his legacy by winning two League titles and an FA Cup as their manager. His tenure at Goodison Park ended when he moved to Athletic Club, driven by the exclusion of English teams from European competitions. There’s speculation that without the ban, Kendall’s impact could have been even greater, especially considering the talented squad he had, including stars like Gary Lineker and Peter Reid.

Managerial Career Summary:

  • Notable Teams Managed: Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Athletic Club, Manchester City, Notts County, Sheffield United
  • Major Trophies: Two First Division Titles, FA Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup, Three FA Charity Shields, Anglo-Italian League Cup
  • Individual Honors: Twice named English Manager of the Year

7. Don Revie

Managerial Career: 1961 – 1977

Cc: Daily Mail

Widely regarded as the most illustrious manager in Leeds United’s history, Don Revie became a cornerstone of English football in the late ’60s and early ’70s, fostering a legendary rivalry with Brian Clough. Known for pioneering advanced scouting and match preparation techniques, Revie built a formidable Leeds squad that solidified the image of English football as fierce and aggressive.

Within three years of his 1961 appointment, he elevated Leeds from the second division to the top flight in 1964. His leadership brought two First Division titles, an FA Cup victory, and his legacy is commemorated with a statue at Elland Road. Revie’s achievements with Leeds led to his appointment as the England manager, where he won the British Home Championship in 1975.

Managerial Career Highlights:

  • Notable Teams Managed:
  • Leeds United
  • England National Team
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Al-Nasr
  • Al-Ahly
  • Major Trophies Won:
  • Two First Division Titles
  • FA Cup
  • League Cup
  • FA Charity Shield
  • Two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups
  • British Home Championship
  • Individual Awards:
  • None

6. Bill Nicholson

Managerial Career: 1958 – 1974

Cc: British Football History, Soccer History

Bill Nicholson, often regarded as the most distinguished manager in Tottenham Hotspur’s history, dedicated 36 years to the club, both as a player and manager. His name now graces a street in North London. Under his leadership, Spurs experienced a golden era, securing their most recent League title in 1961, along with three FA Cups, two League Cups, and two European titles.

Nicholson is celebrated for achieving the first 20th-century League and Cup double in English football and for being the first English manager to win a major European trophy. In recognition of his contributions to football and Tottenham, he received an OBE in 1975 and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

ALSO READ  Explanation: Why Chelsea Enjoys a Free Week Before Carabao Cup final, while Liverpool Will Face Luton on Wednesday.

Managerial Career Overview:

  • Notable Team Managed:
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • Major Trophies Secured:
  • First Division
  • Three FA Cups
  • Two League Cups
  • Three FA Charity Shields
  • UEFA Cup
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup
  • Anglo-Italian League Cup
  • Individual Honors:
  • None

5. Herbert Chapman

Managerial Career: 1907 – 1934

Cc: Sound Cloud

Herbert Chapman, a pioneering figure in English football, made an impact similar to Bill Nicholson’s, albeit 30 years earlier, by securing major trophies for Arsenal. Chapman’s managerial career began with significant success at Huddersfield, where he won two First Division titles and an FA Cup. Upon joining Arsenal, he transformed the team from relegation contenders to first-time winners of three league titles and an FA Cup, establishing their dominance in English football throughout the 1930s.

Chapman was a trailblazer in professionalizing football in the UK, advocating for fair player compensation and introducing innovative training methods, including the use of physiotherapists and massage therapists.

Managerial Career Summary:

  • Notable Teams Managed:
  • Northampton Town
  • Leeds United
  • Huddersfield Town
  • Arsenal
  • Major Trophies Achieved:
  • Five First Division Titles
  • Two FA Cups
  • Four FA Charity Shields
  • Individual Accolades:
  • None

4. Sir Alf Ramsey

Managerial Career: 1955 – 1978

Cc: TransferMarkt

Sir Alf Ramsey remains a monumental figure in English football history, celebrated for leading England to their historic World Cup victory in 1966. His firm, no-nonsense approach and tactical brilliance were crucial in achieving this landmark, which earned him the honor of having a street in Ipswich named after him. His legacy is further commemorated by a statue at Wembley Stadium, unveiled in 2009. During his eight-year tenure at Ipswich Town, he remarkably secured a First Division title in 1962, right after their promotion, in their inaugural season in the top division.

This success led to his appointment as England’s manager, where his innovative narrow formation strategy brought the nation its only major football championship. His tenure also included a semi-final run and a third-place finish at Euro 1968, but it ended with his dismissal following England’s failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Despite some controversy, Ramsey’s legacy is unmatched, as he remains the only manager to have led England to victory in a major football tournament.

Managerial Career Accolades:

  • Distinguished Teams Coached:
  • Ipswich Town
  • England National Team
  • Birmingham City
  • Prestigious Trophies Secured:
  • First Division
  • World Cup
  • British Home Championship (9x)
  • Individual Distinctions:
  • English Football Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Ipswich Town Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Mussabini Medal Awardee

3. Sir Bobby Robson

Managerial Career: 1968 – 2004

Cc: Sports Mole

Sir Bobby Robson is celebrated as one of England’s most esteemed football managers, noted for the breadth and longevity of his career. Spanning 36 years, his management tenure saw him adeptly navigate the evolving landscape of modern football with great success. Robson’s extensive trophy collection includes four league titles, the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup, and numerous other domestic cups. His profound impact on the sport earned him numerous individual honors and a knighthood, underscoring his dedication to the betterment of football.

He is revered in Ipswich as the club’s most successful manager, surpassing Alf Ramsey’s legacy by securing European silverware for the Tractor Boys. Additionally, Robson is celebrated for being among the first English managers to leave a significant mark on European football, leading several of the continent’s premier clubs.

ALSO READ  Ethan Mbappe has Issued a Heartfelt Statement On Exit from PSG, with Favorites in the Race to Sign Him.

Managerial Career Summary:

  • Prominent Teams Managed:
  • Fulham
  • Ipswich Town
  • England National Team
  • PSV Eindhoven
  • Sporting CP
  • Porto
  • Barcelona
  • Newcastle United
  • Major Trophies Acquired:
  • UEFA Cup
  • FA Cup
  • Texaco Cup
  • Eredivisie (2x)
  • Johan Cruyff Shield
  • Primeira Divisão (2x)
  • Taça de Portugal
  • Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira
  • Copa del Rey
  • Supercopa de España
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup
  • British Home Championship
  • Individual Honors:
  • European Manager of the Year
  • FWA Tribute Award
  • UEFA President’s Award
  • Inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame
  • BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Inductee into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame

2. Brian Clough

Managerial Career: 1965 – 1993

Cc: The Telegraph

Brian Clough’s impact on English football is immense, as he not only led Nottingham Forest to the summit of European football but also began his remarkable journey at Derby County. At Derby, he achieved promotion to the First Division within two years, a milestone that showcased his exceptional managerial talent during a time of shifting competitive balance.

Clough then replicated this success with Nottingham Forest, earning promotion in 1977, winning the league title in 1978, and securing back-to-back European Cup victories in 1979 and 1980. He maintained Forest’s competitive edge for many years, accomplishing this without the financial resources of top clubs, a feat considered extraordinary today.

Managerial Career Overview:

  • Teams Managed:
  • Hartlepool United
  • Derby County
  • Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Leeds United
  • Nottingham Forest
  • Significant Trophies Won:
  • Two First Division Titles
  • Texaco Cup
  • Watney Cup
  • Four League Cups
  • Two Full Members Cups
  • FA Charity Shield
  • Two European Cups
  • European Super Cup
  • Anglo-Scottish Cup
  • Individual Accolades:
  • Manager of the Year
  • Inductee into the LMA Hall of Fame
  • Inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame
  • Inductee into the NFFC Hall of Fame
  • Honored on the Made in Derby Walk of Fame

Bob. Paisley

Managerial Career: 1974 – 1983

Cc: This is Anfield

Bob Paisley is often celebrated as the most decorated English manager in football history. Following Bill Shankly at Liverpool, Paisley shaped a team that not only sustained but also enhanced the club’s legacy, making them a dominant force in both English and global football. During his tenure at Anfield, he secured an impressive six League titles, three League Cups, three European Cups, and one UEFA Cup. His achievements are unmatched by any other English manager and are rivaled by only a few in the sport’s history, with Carlo Ancelotti surpassing him in European competition wins and Sir Alex Ferguson in English league victories. While some see his success as building on Shankly’s foundation, Paisley’s unique approach and strategic acumen ensured Liverpool’s continued dominance in English football.

Managerial Career Achievements:

  • Renowned Team Managed:
  • Liverpool
  • Prestigious Trophies Garnered:
  • Six First Division Titles
  • Three League Cups
  • Six FA Charity Shields
  • Three European Cups
  • UEFA Cup
  • UEFA Super Cup
  • Intercontinental Cup
  • Individual Honors:
  • Football Manager of the Year Award (6x)
  • FWA Tribute Award
  • Inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame

Leave a Comment