It’s one of those debates that is very difficult to win. Just who is Britain’s greatest post-war manager?
From a World Cup win, to European successes, to lifting domestic titles, there are a number of candidates whose trophy cabinet and achievements make them more than a worthy candidate to be Britain’s best boss.
BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty has drawn up a shortlist of 14 managers and, after reading why he thinks they deserve to be on the list, you get the chance to vote for your winner at the bottom of the page.
Sir Matt Busby
Clubs managed: Manchester United 1945-1969 & 1970-71
Honours: European Cup: 1968. First Division title: 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1967. FA Cup: 1948, 1963.
Why is Busby a great?
The founding father of Manchester United, whose name still resonates around Old Trafford and whose statue looks down on supporters gathering at the so-called ‘Theatre Of Dreams’. Built a great side with ‘The Busby Babes’ to win three titles, then built another based around the great trio of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best after the Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958, in which he almost lost his life. The Holy Grail was claimed when United became the first English club to win the European Cup, as Benfica were beaten 4-1 at Wembley on 29 May 1968.
Clubs managed: Crewe 1951-53, Rochdale 1953-58, Sheffield Wednesday 1958-61, Everton 1961-73, Preston 1975-77
Honours: First Division title: 1963, 1970. FA Cup: 1966 (all with Everton)
Why is Catterick a great?
Catterick, outside of Merseyside, is the great forgotten manager of the 1960s and early 70s. This, in part, is down to his secretive, enigmatic personality that often bordered on paranoia. He was the anti-Shankly, media unfriendly to the point of announcing his team in alphabetical order, then taking issue with journalists who tried to interpret his selection. He even banned TV cameras from Goodison Park feeling Everton were over-exposed – unthinkable today. He once deliberately gave an ‘exclusive’ to a journalist that Howard Kendall was signing for Liverpool, knowing the player was moving from Preston North End to Everton, a deal that so enraged Shankly he threatened resignation. Catterick built two magnificent title-winning sides in 1962-63 and again in 1969-70 around the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Alan Ball, Kendall and Colin Harvey. He also won the FA Cup in 1966 when Everton came from two goals down to beat Sheffield Wednesday.
Clubs managed: Hartlepool 1965-67, Derby County 1967-73, Brighton 1973-74, Leeds United 1974, Nottingham Forest 1975-93
Honours: First Division title: 1972 (at Derby). European Cup: 1979, 1980. First Division title: 1978. League Cup: 1978, 1979, 1989, 1990 (at Nottingham Forest)
Why is Clough a great?
The maverick genius who performed the same incredible feat twice. Clough, in partnership with Peter Taylor, took Second Division clubs Derby County and Nottingham Forest from mediocrity to glory, making the latter European champions twice in succession. It is an achievement that is unlikely to be repeated, those two spells book-ended by a poor spell at Brighton and a sacking after 44 days at Leeds United. Clough’s methods were unorthodox but unquestionable. He won the title at Derby County, won it the season after promotion from the Second Division with Forest, then claimed those two European Cups in 1979 and 1980 – after reaching the semi-final with The Rams in 1973. He collected domestic silverware, although not the FA Cup, on a regular basis and even though his time at Forest ended in relegation in 1993, no praise is too high for a stunning body of work and success.
Sir Kenny Dalglish
Clubs managed: Liverpool 1985-91 & 2011-12, Blackburn Rovers 1991-95, Newcastle 1997-98, Celtic (interim) 2000
Honours: First Division title: 1986, 1988, 1990. FA Cup: 1986, 1989. League Cup: 2012 (at Liverpool). Premier League title: 1995 (at Blackburn Rovers). Scottish League Cup: 2000 (at Celtic)
Why is Dalglish a great?
Sir Kenny Dalglish was appointed Liverpool player-manager in succession to Joe Fagan after The Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. A surprise choice, its wisdom was proved by Liverpool winning their first League and FA Cup double in his first season. He then fashioned a magnificent side around new signings John Barnes and Peter Beardsley to win the title in 1987/88 and was only denied another double in 1988-89 by Michael Thomas’ last-minute winner for Arsenal. This came weeks after the Hillsborough disaster at the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest on 15 April which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. Liverpool won the FA Cup that year and another title in 1989-90 but Dalglish, worn down by pressures of maintaining Liverpool’s supremacy and the strain of Hillsborough and supporting the families, left the club in February 1991. He returned to management at Blackburn Rovers in October that year and, backed by local benefactor Jack Walker, realised the steel magnate’s dream of winning the Premier League. He then backed away from the management role before having a spell at Newcastle United. Dalglish was back as Liverpool caretaker manager in January 2011 after Roy Hodgson was sacked. He got the job full-time and even though he was sacked after one full season in 2011-2012, he still won the League Cup and took Liverpool to the FA Cup Final, where they lost to Chelsea.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Clubs managed: East Stirlingshire 1974, St Mirren 1974-78, Aberdeen 1978-86, Man Utd 1986-2013
Honours: European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1983. Scottish Premier Division: 1980, 1984, 1985. Scottish Cup: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986. Scottish League Cup 1986 (at Aberdeen). Champions League: 1999, 2008. European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1991. Premier League: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013. FA Cup: 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004. League Cup: 1992, 2006, 2009, 2010 (at Man Utd)
Why is Ferguson a great?
Where do we start? Ferguson had already demonstrated his genius at Aberdeen, not only breaking up the ‘Old Firm’ domination of Celtic and Rangers domestically but winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup by beating Real Madrid in 1983. He endured tough early years at Old Trafford but, once he made the breakthrough with the FA Cup in 1990, United embarked on a golden era in which Ferguson’s inspirational leadership, charisma, fire and know-how was allied to an uncanny knack of knowing exactly when and how to dismantle and build great teams. The highlight was the unique treble of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999 – a truly remarkable feat no-one else in England has repeated. The old master retired after 26 years in charge in 2013, clutching his 38th trophy having won the Premier League for a 13th time. There will never be another manager, or era, like it.
Clubs managed: Millwall 1982-86, Arsenal 1986-1995, Leeds 1996-98, Tottenham 1998-2001
Honours: European Cup Winners’s Cup: 1994. First Division title: 1989, 1991. FA Cup: 1993. League Cup: 1987, 1993 (at Arsenal). League Cup: 1999 at Tottenham)
Why is Graham a great?
Graham’s career as Arsenal manager ended when he was sacked for accepting cash from agent Rune Hauge – but his record before that dismissal stands any sort of scrutiny and confirms what an outstanding manager he was. The Scot built a superbly organised side, assembling the defence of keeper David Seaman, full-backs Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon and central defenders Steve Bould and Martin Keown who, led by their great captain Tony Adams, were the bedrock of Arsene Wenger’s subsequent success. A low-key appointment from Millwall, Graham won the League Cup against Liverpool in 1987 before the drama of a last-minute title win at Anfield two years later. He built sustained success as he won the title again along with further domestic trophies before his last triumph at Arsenal when they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. Graham was a shock choice as Spurs manager in 1998 and, while many fans could not get past his Gunners’ links and success, it should never be forgotten he also brought them a trophy with the 1999 League Cup Final win over Leicester City at Wembley.
Clubs managed: Blackburn Rovers 1979-81. Everton 1981-87, 1990-93 & 1997-8. Athletic Bilbao 1987-89. Man City 1989-90. Xanthi 1994. Notts County 1995. Sheffield United 1995-97. Ethnikos Piraeus 1998-99
Honours: European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1985. First Division title: 1985, 1987. FA Cup: 1984 (at Everton)
Why is Kendall a great?
Howard Kendall survived tough early years at Everton to achieve the remarkable feat of wrestling away Liverpool’s supremacy at periods in the mid-80s, building sides that mixed elegance and power. It was seen at its best effect when Everton won the title and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985 and only lost in the FA Cup Final to Manchester United in extra-time. He arguably showed his brilliance and adaptability even more when he marshalled a team often stricken by serious injuries to the title again in 1986-87. Still only 41, frustrated by twice being denied the chance to compete in the European Cup with Everton as English clubs were banned after The Heysel Stadium disaster at the 1985 final between Liverpool and Juventus in which 39 Italian fans died, he then left for Athletic Bilbao. Kendall’s managerial career never touched those heights again. He returned for two subsequent spells at Everton but old glories could not be recreated.
Clubs managed: Tottenham 1958-74
Honours: European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1963. Uefa Cup 1972. First Division title: 1961. FA Cup: 1961, 1962, 1967. League Cup: 1971. 1973.
Why is Nicholson a great?
Look at longevity and look at the success. Honours spread from 1961 to 1973, silverware at home in and in Europe, including a historic League and FA Cup double in the 1960-61 season. No Spurs manager has won the title since. This under-stated Yorkshireman was a tactical visionary, built great teams around great players, such as Dave Mackay and Jimmy Greaves, playing superb football and fully deserves his place in the pantheon. One of the greatest figures in Tottenham’s history.
Clubs managed: Liverpool 1974-83
Honours: European Cup: 1977, 1978, 1981. Uefa Cup: 1976. First Division title: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983. League Cup: 1981, 1982, 1983.
Why is Paisley a great?
The quiet genius, who reluctantly succeeded Bill Shankly in 1974 after being at the Scot’s side in Liverpool’s early glory years. Paisley not only built on Shankly’s foundations but, against most expectations, improved upon them, adding an even more refined style of football that brought that historic first European Cup in 1977, added two more and brought six league titles. The master of spotting a player’s strengths and weakness as well as a great tactician. Had the steely edge behind the gentle public face to ensure Liverpool’s domination was rarely seriously threatened for any length of time while he was at the helm.
Sir Alf Ramsey
Clubs managed: Ipswich 1955-63, England 1963-74, Birmingham 1977-78
Honours: First Division title: 1962 (at Ipswich). World Cup: 1966 (with England)
Why is Ramsey a great?
Sir Alf Ramsey’s greatness is assured by leading England to the World Cup in 1966 – the only man to do so and indeed the only manager take them to a final. Let’s not forget how he got that job, however, and it was by a work of brilliance in taking Ipswich Town from the old Third Division South and Second Division as champions then achieving the seemingly impossible by winning the First Division title in their first season back in the top flight in 1961/62. A taciturn man who engendered unswerving loyalty from his players, Ramsey will be immortalised with England but his brilliance was on display at Portman Road.
Clubs managed: Leeds 1961-74, England 1974-77, UAE 1977-80, Al Nasr 1980-84, Al Ahly 1984-85
Honours: Inter Cities Fairs Cup: 1968, 1971. First Division title: 1969, 1974. FA Cup: 1972. League Cup: 1968. (at Leeds)
Why is Revie a great?
Don Revie was a brilliant, albeit maligned, club manager at Leeds United. He built a magnificent side that endured for a decade around the brilliance of those who came through the ranks such as Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray, bolted on to brilliant signings such as Bobby Collins and John Giles. Leeds’ uncompromising approach and many near misses saw a great side and manager never get the plaudits they truly deserved. Look at that honours list domestically and in Europe, though. Revie’s spell with England ended acrimoniously when he resigned to take a job in the Middle East – but he achieved greatness at Elland Road.
Sir Bobby Robson
Clubs managed: Fulham 1968, Ipswich 1968-82, England 1982-90, PSV Eindhoven 1990-92 & 1998-99, Sporting Lisbon 1992-94, Porto 1994-96, Barcelona 1996-97, Newcastle 1999-2004
Honours: Uefa Cup: 1981. FA Cup: 1978. (at Ipswich). Eredivisie: 1991, 1992 (at PSV Eindhoven). Primeira Divison: 1995, 1996 (at Porto). Copa del Rey: 1997. European Cup Winners Cup: 1997 (at Barcelona).
Why is Robson a great?
One of British football’s most popular and enduring figures, Robson was allowed to build an outstanding side in sleepy Suffolk. After early struggles, Ipswich Town finished in the top six of the First Division in nine of his last ten seasons, twice finishing second. When they finished a lowly 18th in 1977-78 Robson compensated with an FA Cup Final win over Arsenal at Wembley. Ipswich, inspired by Dutch masters Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, won the Uefa Cup in 1981. Robson left Ipswich to succeed Ron Greenwood as England manager in 1982, taking them to the World Cup quarter-final in 1986 and semi-final four years later. He then enjoyed huge success abroad, winning titles with PSV Eindhoven and Porto as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona in 1997.
Clubs managed: Carlisle 1949-51, Grimsby 1951-54, Huddersfield 1956-59, Liverpool 1959-74
Honours: Uefa Cup: 1973. First Division title: 1964, 1966, 1973. FA Cup: 1965, 1974. (at Liverpool)
Why is Shankly a great?
Shankly may have left Liverpool in 1974 but he is regarded, alongside Sir Kenny Dalglish, as the most significant figure in the club’s history. What Liverpool have today, and have had since he arrived, is built on Shankly’s emotion, drive and connection with the supporters that he built as he took the club from the old Second Division to domestic domination. This, backed up by brilliant management and famous oratory that inspired almost God-like status with fans. And, like many of the greats, he built two successful sides – one that claimed title and FA Cup glory in the 60s then another in the early 70s that won titles, the Uefa Cup and in his last competitive game the FA Cup against Newcastle United in 1974.
Clubs managed: Dunfermline 1960-64, Hibernian 1964-65, Scotland 1965 & 1978-85, Celtic 1965-78, Leeds United 1978
Honours: Scottish Cup: 1961 (Dunfermline). European Cup: 1967. Scottish First Division: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977. Scottish Cup: 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977. Scottish League Cup: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1975. (Celtic)
Why is Stein a great?
Simple. The first British manager to win the European Cup, winning the great prize by beating the formidable Inter Milan side 2-1 in Lisbon in 1967 with a team built from around the Glasgow area. Celtic were already aware of Stein’s brilliance as a manager when he guided Dunfermline to their first Scottish Cup victory against them in 1961, winning 2-0 after a replay. Stein was a colossus, winning the Scottish title nine times in succession as well as losing another European Cup Final to Feyenoord in 1970, and the inspiration for two generations of Celtic greats such as those “Lisbon Lions” captained by Billy McNeill and latterly Kenny Dalglish. Had a short spell at Leeds United in 1978 before leaving to manage Scotland, who he was in charge of when he died at the end of a World Cup qualifier in Cardiff in September 1985. A great man and manager.