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Ranked! EVERY England manager from worst to best

Bobby Robson England

15. Steve McClaren (2006-2007)

1 McClaren

Highlight:David Nugent scoring from 0 yards out (opens in new tab)

Lowlight: Wally with brolly

Second-choice Steve’s sole qualifying campaign was the stuff of first-class nightmares. He wasn’t the only manager who couldn't get a tune out of England’s ‘golden generation’, but taking a squad that regularly starred Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to third in their Euro 2008 qualifying group – level on points with Israel – was a dismal effort.

His end game came with a 3-2 loss to Croatia at Wembley, where McClaren had the audacity to use an umbrella to keep dry, depriving tabloid hacks of the rain-drenched Macca they apparently craved. Sorry Steve, sometimes nice guys finish last.

14. Graham Taylor (1990-1993)

Highlight:Sticking up for John Barnes (opens in new tab)

Lowlight: “Do I not like that?”

Taylor was a gent who conducted himself with dignity when root vegetables were being digitally merged with his head in the tabloids, but his team were dire to watch. England bored at Euro '92: three games, only one goal and Gary Lineker substituted with England urgently needing to score against Sweden. But at least they got there.

The failed qualification campaign for the 1994 World Cup was a debacle detailed in the riveting documentary An Impossible Job. Taylor’s use of language was the stuff of genius (“Can we not knock it?”) but his usage of England’s creative players was definitely not.

INSIDERS Making ‘An Impossible Job’: FourFourTwo's inside story from the men involved

13. Sam Allardyce (2016)

2 Allardyce

Highlight: 100% win record!

Lowlight: Pint of wine!

It’s hard to judge Big Sam on a tenure comprised solely of a forgettable 1-0 win over Slovakia (opposition Big Sam couldn't actually remember when FFT quizzed him on it recently). But lasting only 63 days in a job is ignominious, even if there wasn’t really a ‘smoking gun’ moment in the Telegraph sting (opens in new tab) in Wing's restaurant which ended his stint.

Allardyce clearly isn’t a bad manager. Yet would we have seen the fresh, free-flowing football introduced by Southgate under him? Few believe so, rendering him an unrequited figure – although we’ll set the record straight and say that was probably a light beer rather than an actual pint of wine Sam was supping (when he didn’t have a napkin over his head).

12. Kevin Keegan (1999-2000)

Highlight: Beat Germany

Lowlight: Quit in the loo

King Kev steered his side to Euro 2000, but performances underwhelmed. England’s leads against Portugal and Romania turned into 3-2 defeats, either side of a drab 1-0 win over Germany.

Accused of tactical naivety, Keegan later admitted he missed the day-to-day involvement of club management. “I found it hard to fill in the time,” he said. “I found myself going and training the blind team, the deaf team, working with the ladies team.”

Unfortunately, his tenure with the men’s team ended with a 1-0 defeat to Germany in World Cup 2002 qualifying. In the last game to be played at the old Wembley, King Kev abdicated by the throne, telling David Davies of his resignation inside a toilet cubicle.

11. Fabio Capello (2008-2012)

Highlight: Revenge over Croatia

Lowlight: Capello Index/Germany meltdown

It started so well. A once great manager, the no-nonsense Italian appeared a coup – even on megabucks wages – particularly after England steamrollered their way to World Cup 2010 qualification.

When there, England drew with the USA and Algeria before being put out of their misery by Germany in the last 16. That 4-1 defeat revealed Capello was a busted flush tactically as Germany’s between-the-lines attackers found gaps in England’s rigid, outmoded system.

Few were disappointed when Capello resigned in February 2012, after the FA stripped John Terry of the captaincy against his wishes.

NEXT: Fake sheikhs! Football’s coming home!! The World Cup!!!!!

10. Don Revie (1974-1977)

4 Don Revie

Highlight: Beating West Germany

Lowlight: Sneaking off to Dubai

A great manager at Leeds, Revie never got to grips with his role as Alf Ramsey’s successor. He failed to qualify for a major tournament, although the nature of a 16-team World Cup and four-team Euros worked against him. There were good results; beating world champions West Germany 2-0, a strong Czech team 3-0, plus Scotland 5-1.

Yet his mistrust of flair players, a strained relationship with FA bigwigs and England’s declining form lead to an abrupt end. Revie sensationally left England to manage the UAE, selling the story of his departure to the Daily Mail – “Revie Quits Over Aggro” – before the FA had received his resignation letter.

9. Roy Hodgson (2012-2016)

3 Hodgson

Highlight: Euro 2012 was quite fun

Lowlight: Freezing against Iceland

An avuncular old owl, The Hodgefather seemed a breath of fresh air compared to stern dinosaur Capello. He took charge in three major tournaments and was undefeated in qualifying games (16 wins, four draws).

The trouble is, England’s displays declined in each tournament. Euro 2012 had an entertaining 3-2 win over Sweden as England topped their group. Yet the 2014 World Cup saw England out after two games, before things somehow got even worse at Euro 2016.

The pitiful display against Iceland – opponents Hodgson had chosen not to watch live as he was on a boat cruise up the Seine with coach Ray Lewington – was startlingly inept. A grouchy Hodge stepped down in the aftermath.

8. Glenn Hoddle (1996-1999)

Highlight: World Cup qualification in Rome

Lowlight: Dubious reincarnation views

A mixed bag for Hoddle, who encouraged an attacking, passing style and whose victory at Le Tournoi is still recalled in revered tones in every office (OK, in FourFourTwo’s office).

Yet Hoddle didn’t always get selections right. At the 1998 World Cup, his decision not to start a red-hot Michael Owen in the first two games was a head-scratcher. At least Owen was in the side for the epic 2-2 draw and subsequent shootout loss to Argentina in the last 16.

Hoddle’s own exit was less epic. After intimating that people with disabilities may be paying for sins in a former life, he was let go, despite Hoddle’s claim that his words had been misinterpreted.

7. Ron Greenwood (1977-1982)

5 Greenwood

Highlight: Two major tournaments

Lowlight: Two dour draws

A manager defined less by who he was than who he wasn’t. Brian Clough was the popular choice to become England boss, but the FA chose the less irascible option of Greenwood, manager of a stylish West Ham side in the 1960s.

An able pair of hands, Greenwood took England to the 1982 World Cup after the failures of 1974 and 1978. His team topped their first group in Spain but back-to-back 0-0s in the second group stage spelled doom, with some suspecting that defensive-minded coach Don Howe had too much influence.

Greenwood retired in 1982, but there’s one additional note on his reign. In 1978, he called up Viv Anderson, who became the first black footballer to play for England. "Yellow, purple or black – if they're good enough, I'll pick them,” said Greenwood.

6. Walter Winterbottom (1946-1962)

Highlight: World Cup quarter-finals (1954, 1962)

Lowlight: Humbled by Uncle Sam

England’s first full-time manager, pipe-smoking Winterbottom guided England to four successive World Cups (which is good) but lost 1-0 to a semi-professional USA side in 1950 (which is very bad).

Winterbottom’s 16-year spell had other ups and downs. He convinced the FA that a manager should have sole control over team selection before he left the role, and repeatedly warned that sides in Europe and South America were surpassing England.

Yet despite that astute analysis, Winterbottom didn’t seem able to learn from England’s chastening 6-3 and 7-1 defeats to Hungary. Perhaps his hands were tied by a lack of control, and he did inspire many fine young coaches, including Bill Nicholson and Bobby Robson.

5. Sven-Goran Eriksson (2001-2006)

6 Eriksson

Highlight: 5-1

Lowlight: Fake sheikh shenanigans

A mild-mannered chap who provokes fiercely differing opinions. On the one hand, England’s first foreign manager bested an admittedly piss-weak German side 5-1, took England to a World Cup quarter-final and generally delivered better results than the managers before or after him.

Detractors point out that Sven had a gifted crop of players at their peak yet never got past the last eight of a major tournament. Even the off-field scandals were either damaging or amusing depending on where you sat (one involving Eriksson telling a ‘fake sheikh’ he’d take the Aston Villa job after England won the World Cup clearly belongs in the realms of sci-fi).

Perhaps Sven’s own catchphrase sums up his reign: “First half good; second half not so good.”

4. Terry Venables (1994-1996)

7 Venables

Highlight: Football’s coming home (or being on the first cover of FFT 25 years ago... you decide)

Lowlight: El Tel left early

Venables was a slick operator with the media and a renowned coach. He used the Euro 1996 warm-ups to fine-tune his ‘Christmas tree’ formation with Alan Shearer the burly fairy up top.

It paid off in a tournament lit up by Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland and a 4-1 demolition of the Netherlands. England were lucky to sneak past Spain in the quarter-finals, but had chances to beat Germany in the semis before the inevitable exit on penalties.

It was Venables’ last game in charge. El Tel stood down post-Euros, believing that the FA were unlikely to back him during the ongoing business and legal disputes which played out in the background of his tenure.

3. Gareth Southgate (2016-present)

8 Southgate

Highlight: Football’s coming home: part II

Lowlight: How do you break an arm while jogging?

The hard currency that gets The 'Gate this lofty perch is unexpectedly leading England to their joint-best-ever World Cup finish away from home. Yet 2018’s semi is only part of the story. It was equally remarkable to see a happy group of players not weighed down by the shirt, an attacking gameplan, the fans revelling in it and England’s manager making articulate, intelligent statements.

Extra time against Croatia proved a bridge too far. But at least we all got to hear a crowd – nay, a country – serenade the England manager with: “Southgate you’re the one; you still turn me on”, which didn’t feature in even the wildest pre-tournament predictions.

2. Bobby Robson (1982-1990)

9 Robson

Highlight:Nessun Dorma

Lowlight: Hand of God

Memories of Robson’s reign focus on his twinkly-eyed charm and the glorious oh-so-near of Italia ’90 but it wasn’t always such a love-in. After exiting the 1986 World Cup to Argentina, Robson felt the venom of the press when Euro 1988 went badly wrong (three games, three defeats).

All that changed when England reached the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, taking eventual winners West Germany to penalties only to lose the shootout.

That campaign played a big part in sparking the football renaissance in England during the 1990s, yet it’s the loyalty he inspired in players as varied as Gascoigne, Lineker and Terry Butcher that define Robson. A terrific man-manager and a terrific football man.

BIG INTERVIEW Bobby Robson, One-on-One

1. Alf Ramsey (1963-1974)

10 Ramsey

Highlight: Take a wild guess...

Lowlight: Substituting Charlton in 1970

Contrarians might point out that Ramsey is the only England boss fortunate enough to have the advantage of a World Cup on home soil. He also had a formidable group of players to pick from, including Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks.

However, other England managers have boasted world-class players and never come close to finding a system to unlock their talent. Ramsey did.

His ‘wingless wonders’ won the World Cup in 1966, and while it’s a shame his time in the job ended with the sack after failure to qualify for 1974 the World Cup, his legacy was secure by then. A sunny afternoon at Wembley; Bobby Moore lifting the trophy as the team hoisted their captain aloft; Ramsey watching on, letting his players soak up the adulation.


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