Leeds United is one of the biggest football clubs in England. Many great managers have managed the club and contributed to its legacy. In this article, let us have a look at some of the best Leeds United managers ever.
Here are the ten best Leeds United managers ever.
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10. Arthur Fairclough
After Leeds City were disbanded, Leeds United were soon formed. Hilton Crowther, the chairman of Huddersield, took over at Leeds and brought with him Arthur Fairclough. Fairclough became the manager of Leeds United on 26 February, 1920.
Fairclough built the squad along with Dick Ray, Fairclough’s assistant. Bringing together players from local junior clubs and experienced professionals. The first three season were not the best for Fairclough’s Leeds United.
Fairclough, then acquired the services of Blackpool’s Dick Norman and fortunes changed almost immediately. Leeds United became champions of second division in 1923-24. Squad strengthening followed with the arrival of stars in the caliber of Willis Edwards and Russell Wainscoat.
At the end of season 1926-27, Fairclough resigned after a series of poor performanes by the club. Fairclough despite the latter downturn, built and left a very good side at Leeds.
9. Billy Bremner
Bremner was appointed as Leeds United manager having impressed the boardroom with his work at Doncaster. In the early Eighties he led Doncaster Rovers out of the fourth division, then returned to Leeds in 1985, where he had three years as manager before again returning to Doncaster.
He managed 148 games with a win percentage of 40.45 for Leeds United. Bremner did not enjoy a good relationship with the club’s board, who felt him to be uncommunicative with them, and after a poor start to the 1988–89 season he was sacked in September 1988.
8. Raich Carter
Horatio Stratton Carter, universally known as The Silver Fox – Raich Carter – wonderful inside forward and self assured managerRaich and nicknamed The Silver Fox for his grey hair and wily play, was one of the greatest inside forwards ever produced by England, an ice cool player who always seemed to be the one pulling the strings and making things happen.
He had won every honour the English game had to offer by the age of 24 and, even though his managerial feats never equalled the extraordinary playing achievements, he was still good enough to help Leeds United regain their First Division status in 1956. He is vividly remembered among one of the the best Leeds United managers ever.
After the 1957-58 season, the Leeds board shocked the football world and did not renew his contract. He felt hard done by after he had gained the club promotion and felt the board provided inadequate funding.
7. Simon Grayson
The Leeds United academy graduate enjoyed a wonderful return to his boyhood club when he was appointed manager in 2008.
Three days in to the 2010s, he masterminded a brilliant giant-killing 1-0 victory over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, then Champions of England, in the third round of the FA Cup.
A few months later, he led Leeds back up into the Championship, clinching promotion from League One in the most dramatic of final days, before assembling a flawed but brilliantly entertaining side back in the second tier. Had he received a little more investment in the defence, he may well have managed back-to-back promotions.
He was sacked after a run of poor performances in Feb 2012. But he is undoubtedly one of the best Leeds United managers ever.
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6. David O’Leary
In the 1996/97 season Leeds’ last League title winning manager Howard Wilkinson was relieved of his duties. His replacement was former Arsenal boss George Graham, back after serving a one-year ban for accepting illegal payments from agents in dodgy transfer deals. Graham installed his former Arsenal centre-back and Republic of Ireland international David O’Leary –who had just finished his playing career at the Yorkshire Club- as his assistant manager.
Early in the 1998/99 season Graham left after accepting the newly vacated managerial position at Tottenham Hotspurs. The board therefore decided to advance the young and untested assistant manager O’Leary.
O’Leary utilised the youthful exuberance of his squad in order to implement an energetic and attacking style of play in which emphasis was placed on being creative and pressing high up the pitch. This allowed technically gifted players such as Lee Bowyer and Harry Kewell, who had failed to flatter under Graham, to absolutely flourish.
By June 2002, O’Leary had spent almost £100 million on new players in less than four years for no reward in terms of trophies, but he had never finished outside the top five as a manager. Ridsdale sacked O’Leary as Leeds manager in the summer of 2002, replacing him with Terry Venables. O’Leary’s departure signalled a downhill spiral for the club – highly attributable to the financial state that saw the sale of several key players.
5. Dick Ray
Dick Ray was one of the most loyal servants ever at Elland Road, serving both Leeds City and United for well over thirty years, although he had a number of breaks from the place. As well as being the manager of United in two separate spells, he was also player and captain of City, as well as being a committeeman and secretary with United.
In his first season in charge and Ray pushed Leeds back to division one. He stuck mainly with the good squad that was left by Fairclough and a significant signing by Ray was Charlie Keetley, who scored 18 goals in 16 appearances.
Ray quit his £1,000 a year post on 5 March 1935, deciding he had taken United as far as he could. A month later, he took over from Jack Peart as Bradford City manager.
4. Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa is one of the most influential football managers in the world. He became Leeds United’s new head coach in June 2018 to replace Paul Heckingbottom. He signed a two-year contract with the option of a third year, after two weeks of negotiations with the club. In doing so he became the highest-paid manager in Leeds United history.
Bielsa brought back Leeds United in the Premier League ahead of the 2020-21 season. Under him, Leeds have been playing great football and it has attracted praise from all over the world. It will very interesting to see how he guides his team in the most-watched football league in the world.
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3. Jimmy Armfield
Jimmy Armfield’s time in management is often overlooked and that’s understandable in a way because it came between very successful and long careers as a player and a commentator. But it shouldn’t be forgotten he had success as the manager of Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United.
He took Leeds to the European Cup final in 1975. He is still fondly remembered as one of the best Leeds United managers ever, but he would have been hero-worshipped to this day if we had beaten Bayern Munich in Paris.
He was the same as a manager as he was a man. He was quiet, certainly not a shouter and bawler like some of the other managers. He was thoughtful, knowledgable, and good.
2. Howard Wilkinson
In October 1988, Howard Wilkinson was appointed manager of Leeds United, tasked with transforming the club’s fortunes before it was consigned to middling obscurity.
Leeds had been playing second-tier football for six years by that point and were not playing bright football. However, four years later, they were crowned champions of England. To date, he remains the last English manager to win the top-flight league in England.
Yet his astonishing achievement is rarely spoken about. As the last champions of the First Division before the advent of the Premier League, Leeds wrote the final chapter of a book which nobody particularly cared about the ending of – a new genre was on its way.
1. Don Revie
A pragmatic tactician and astute man manager, Don Revie built a legacy at Leeds United which still exists to this day.
Don revie came to Elland Road as a player in 1958, skippering the Whites as they successfully staved off relegation. Coming towards the end of his playing career, he considered moving into management – almost taking charge at Third Division side Bournemouth – and was offered the chance to take the reins at Leeds United in a combined player-manager role.
The new manager was transforming the Yorkshire club from the ground up. He developed a successful youth academy, becoming a father figure to the team’s younger players, and created a sense of family and togetherness within the Elland Road ranks.
Under Revie’s management, Leeds became a major force in English football, winning the Second Division in 1963–64, the First Division in 1968–69 and 1973–74, the FA Cup in 1972, the League Cup in 1968, the FA Charity Shield in 1969, and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971. Additionally, Leeds were First Division runners-up five times, twice FA Cup runners-up and runners-up in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Don Revie and Leeds United had proved a perfect match for over a decade. The schemer took a middling team in a rugby-oriented city and transformed it into one of the country’s leading outfits, and will forever be remembered for putting Leeds on the footballing map.
Also Read : 10 Greatest Leeds United Players Ever