Ranked! The 10 best managers in the Football League
10. Jaap Stam (Reading)
Reading didn’t win too many admirers for their slow-tempo, possession-based approach last term, and there were no shortage of doubters queueing up to discredit their third-place finish on the grounds of expected achievements.
The Royals actually had the third-worst shot ratio in the division, while 40% of their 68 goals came from set-pieces. Yet Stam’s ability to frustrate more talented opponents and land on the right side of fine margins was ably demonstrated in the two-legged play-off semi-final win over Fulham. Only time will tell if it’s a sustainable strategy, but the Dutchman merits a place in the top 10 on the evidence to hand.
9. Uwe Rosler (Fleetwood)
An 18-match unbeaten run propelled unfancied Fleetwood into the League One promotion reckoning last season, despite the fact Rosler wasn’t appointed until a week before the campaign began. In the end, their automatic hopes were dashed on the final day, leaving the emotional well dry in the play-off semi-finals against Bradford, but the German displayed incredible tenacity to keep such a young team in the hunt for so long.
A reputation left bruised by difficult spells in charge at Wigan and Leeds is now back in credit. When a dressing room is receptive, he clearly has the talent to achieve great things.
8. Keith Hill (Rochdale)
On the back of a second successive season spent almost exclusively in the top half of League One, it’s easy to forget that Rochdale had never accomplished the feat in 40 years before Hill’s arrival.
The Lancashire minnows have never quite managed to sustain a genuine promotion push as yet, succumbing to the metaphorical nosebleed whenever they do break into the top six, but the foundations are rock solid. A new five-year contract for Hill comes with expectation more than hope that Championship football will come to Spotland at some point in the duration.
7. Darrell Clarke (Bristol Rovers)
The shock sale of star striker Matty Taylor to arch-rivals Bristol City in January would have derailed most teams in their first season at a new level, but it served only to bring out the best in Clarke. The Rovers boss was defiant in the aftermath, preaching collective responsibility as the focus shifted on to the defence and results improved as important goals began to arrive from midfield.
It wasn’t quite enough to land a play-off berth in the end, but a third promotion in four years will be a realistic target if the Gasheads can lay their hands on another 20-goal marksman.