Top Managers in the History of Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs have employed over thirty managers in their long history and from Frank Brettell through to Mauricio Pochettino, all have made some impact on the club – good or bad. Some, like Martin Jol, have made an indelible mark without ever winning a cup while others have made a significant contribution to the trophy cabinet.
But who are the best of the bunch? Here is our rundown of the men at the top.
1. Bill Nicholson
Football is a game of opinions but we don’t think too many readers will argue with this one. Former player Bill Nicholson took over at the helm in 1958 and wouldn’t leave for another 26 glory-laden years. In his time, Bill oversaw the great double winning side of 1961 and while that was undoubtedly his finest achievement, the former England international landed three FA Cups, two League Cups, the European Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup.
During his tenure at White Hart Lane, Bill also recorded a number of firsts – we were the first club to win the double in the 20th century, the first British side to win a European Trophy and the first club to win that newly-formed UEFA Cup.
Most Spurs fans, even those who weren’t born before 1974 will acknowledge that Bill was the best. Surprisingly, the bare stats don’t quite back that up and they therefore show how meaningless these numbers are at times. Nicholson left the management side with 401 wins from 823 matches and, as we’ll see when we work through this list, a win ratio of 48.72% is down when compared to many others
2. Keith Burkinshaw
‘There used to be a football club over there.’ Those words formed a sad epitaph to the managerial career of Keith Burkinshaw when he left White Hart Lane in 1984. Behind him, the likeable Yorkshireman had left a legacy of eight memorable years that included two FA Cup triumphs and an unforgettable UEFA Cup final performance against Anderlecht in 1984.
Keith had inherited the job from Terry Neill who had jumped ship to join Arsenal in 1976. In those post-Nicholson years, the club were in something of a decline and the following year, a poor Spurs squad dropped down to the old Division Two.
Fortunately, these were the days when clubs kept faith in their managers: In the modern era, Burkinshaw would have undoubtedly been sacked but he led the side back to division one the following year. Having scooped the world by signing World Cup winners Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in the summer of 1978, Keith began to assemble the team that would win back-to-back FA Cups in the early 1980s.
But what about those stats you ask? Burkinshaw left us following those immortal words and a career record of just 42.23% – possibly distorted by those struggling early years.
3. Arthur Rowe
Those who can still remember would suggest that it’s sacrilege to put Arthur Rowe behind Keith Burkinshaw on this list. After all, the great Push and Run side would be the first Tottenham team to win the league title in 1951.
This was also a breeding ground for great future managers such as Alf Ramsey and Bill Nicholson. Both went on to glory themselves and would have learned so much from Rowe. Perhaps, therefore, his legacy was greater than his achievements but how do those bare stats stack up?
135 wins from 278 games leaves a percentage of 48.56. That leaves Arthur Rowe down among the numbers from our 32 full time managers but, as we saw with Billy Nick, stats can be meaningless as times.
4. David Pleat
This will undoubtedly be a controversial selection but anyone who argues too vehemently against it has probably never seen the Spurs side of 1986/87. And, if we’re getting into a debate over the best Tottenham manager to have never won a trophy, we think we have the perfect candidate.
Pleat arrived from Luton to replace Peter Shreeves (or was it Shreeve) in 1986. It was something of a surprise appointment but he inherited a side that Shreeves, up to this point, hadn’t quite managed to gel as a unit. His predecessor had been unlucky with injuries – most notably to Clive Allen who would start 1986/87 in rude health before going on to score an incredible 49 goals across the campaign.
Allen was backed up by quality across the pitch: Hoddle and Waddle combined better on the field than they did in the recording studio while the manager had also made the shrewd signing of Richard Gough. At a time when Tottenham was known for leaky defences, Gough and Mabbutt were the best pairing up until Toby and Jan.
How Spurs didn’t win a trophy in that year is baffling but Pleat left in ignominy the following season. A pardon was clearly forthcoming as he enjoyed three stints as caretaker boss and 60 wins in 119 matches leaves him with a career percentage of 50.42%.
5. Mauricio Pochettino
We’re hoping that time will prove that we’ve saved the best for last. Mauricio is, if you believe the gossip columns, ready to jump ship and head for Madrid or Manchester United but he has remained loyal up to this point. The key for the future is whether the board, at their fantastic new stadium, will choose to back Poch with a heavy transfer fund.
Tim Sherwood will doubtless be quick to tell anyone that cares to listen that he discovered Harry Kane but it was Pochettino that turned him into a World Class striker. Christian Eriksen wasn’t a Poch signing either but when Kane, Eriksen, Son and Alli combine, Spurs can look like world beaters.
It’s a style of football that surely the great Bill Nicholson would approve of. Hopefully he’s looking down and comparing, perhaps unfavourably, some of this current side to the double winning greats.
But having got all misty eyed, we will need to answer the critics who say we’ve never won a trophy under Mauricio. There are no cups for putting the pressure on Barcelona – ha ha, yawn etc.
Three straight years in the Champions League is, however, a serious achievement that should be acknowledged by all. A fourth is in the balance as I write and that could also be a factor in his future. For now, we must harness that hope that has so often destroyed us in the past and look positively to a bright future with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm.
With matches coming thick and fast, win percentages are going to be very fluid for the Argentinian but he reached his 150th victory for Spurs after 263 games leaving a very healthy ratio at 57.03%.