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.
Jimmy Armfield 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, knowledgeable, 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.