Throughout history, there have been some excellent British football managers. Some are remembered for their man-management skills and leadership qualities while others are recognised for creating dynasties and dominating eras by winning trophies and defending titles. We take a look at nine of the greatest British managers of all time, and discuss their achievements during their illustrious careers.
The greatest British football managers ever
9. Sir Bobby Robson (Ipswich Town, England, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Newcastle United)
Sir Bobby will always be remembered as one of the greatest British managers for his continued football success across a sustained period of time. The former Fulham striker began his managerial career at Craven Cottage after impressing there as a player, before moving on to manage Ipswich for over 700 matches. He achieved several accolades throughout his career, including the ‘European Coach of the Year’ in 1996-97, as well as winning various domestic league and cup competitions too. Robson had spells at the likes of Porto and Sporting Lisbon before ending his career at Newcastle United, after winning 718 of 1,446 matches as a manager.
8. Bill Nicholson (Tottenham Hotspur)
Nicholson devoted his entire career to the club, both as a player and a coach, and spent 36 years at White Hart Lane. The club legend was at the helm for Spurs’ greatest ever period as they won the First Division title, back-to-back FA Cup’s and became the first British club to win a major European trophy when they won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963. The club named a street after the great man, a fitting tribute to the greatest manager in Tottenham’s 132-year history.
7. Jock Stein (Dunfermline, Celtic and Scotland)
Stein became the first manager to lead a British side to European Cup glory in 1967 as Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the final. One of the greatest managers in Scottish history, he created a dynasty as the Hoops dominated – winning Scotland’s top division for nine years in a row between 1965 and 1974. Overall, he led the Glasgow outfit to 10 Scottish league titles, eight Scottish cup final victories and six Scottish league cup wins. With a win percentage of 63% in over 1000 matches in charge, there is little doubt that Stein is among the all-time greats.
6. Sir Alf Ramsey (Ipswich Town and England)
After leading England to World Cup glory in 1966, Alf Ramsey secured his place among the all-time managerial greats. He will always be remembered for his international success, but he also achieved at club level too – guiding both Tottenham and Ipswich to First Division titles after winning the Second Division in the previous year. He achieved a 61% win ratio in charge of the England national side – which will go down as one of the greatest records of all-time.
5. Brian Clough (Derby County and Nottingham Forest)
A highly regarded footballer, as well as a manager, Clough scored 251 goals in 274 matches as a player and remains one of the Football League’s highest goalscorers. Clough has often been labelled as the ‘greatest manager that England never had‘ – which shows just how high the football world rated him. Clough won the First Division title with both Derby and Forest but, despite winning these accolades, he will always be remembered for his excellent man management qualities and he always knew how to get the best out of his side.
4. Sir Matt Busby (Manchester United)
Matt Busby’s achievements throughout his career are unlikely to be replicated in the modern era and he sits fourth on our list of the greatever ever British football managers. After building ‘The Busby Babes’, the Munich Air Disaster of 1958 wiped out the majority of United’s talented squad but Sir Matt rebuilt the team and 10 years on, they won the European Cup – a true testament to the great man. Busby installed a ‘never say die’ attitude at United, something that is now clear to see in their philosophy, particularly during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at the club. With a number of league titles and FA Cup wins in the trophy cabinet, Busby ranks among the greatest coaches of all time – especially considering the circumstances.
3. Bill Shankly (Grimsby Town, Huddersfield Town and Liverpool)
The Anfield hero created a legacy that will never be forgotten at Liverpool as he led the side to various domestic titles and cup victories, as well as a UEFA Cup victory in 1973. Shankly is renowned for his infamous quotes, such as ‘there are only two teams in Merseyside: Liverpool and Liverpool reserves’. It could be argued that he set the platform for their future success under Bob Paisley, with the club acknowledging his effort and commitment by erecting a statue at Anfield, as well as ‘The Shankly Gates’ outside the ground too.
2. Bob Paisley (Liverpool)
Paisley managed the Reds during their glory years, and saw his side win three European Cups between 1975 and 1981. Although Shankly was an excellent manager, many view Paisley as the greater due to the success of his team – with the latter winning 18 major trophies during his 15-year tenure at the club. He famously said “Mind you, I wasn’t here for the good years. One year, we came second” when describing Liverpool’s era of dominance, after Paisley built up a side consisting of Ian Rush, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.
1. Sir Alex Ferguson (Aberdeen and Manchester United)
Without a doubt, the Scot is the greatest of the British football managers and deserves to sit at first place on our list. From winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and breaking the ‘Old Firm’ dominance with Aberdeen, to winning Champions Leagues and creating a dynasty that has dominated the Premier League era with Manchester United, Sir Alex has done it all. In England, he was been voted Manager of the Year 10 times and received 26 Manager of the Month awards, as well as guiding his United side to 48 major trophies. The North Stand at Old Trafford was renamed to acknowledge his achievements and although ‘Fergie Time’ is now up, his legacy will live on at United forever.
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