Ranking the Managers of the 2008-09 Premier League Season
With another season in the EPL at the close, it's time to look at what managers got the job done this season, and which managers failed.
As with any list, this is strictly subjective, but primarily based on not only results, but whether the side each manager led achieved, overachieved, or underachieved this season.
Also, it's important to note this is not a lifetime achievement award (we will leave those to the PFA), but rather an honest assessment of each manager this season.
1. Roy Hodgson (Fulham)
This season has been a minor miracle for the Cottagers, as Hodgson has taken a team that avoided relegation by the slimmest of margins last season, to a seventh-place finish this season.
Brought in to save Fulham from sure relegation after the disastrous start of last season under Lawrie Sanchez (who ironically was brought in to save Fulham from relegation under Chris Coleman), Hodgson did just enough to save Fulham last season.
This season, he has exceeded everyone's expectations by producing a side that won 14 matches and lost only 13, gaining points in 25 matches this season.
Taking a side with only one true "elite" player (Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer) and a roster full of "B-level" Englishmen, Danes, and Americans, Hodgson has pulled off what nobody thought was even possible at the beginning of the season.
A spot in Europe for 2009-10.
2. Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
What can be said about Sir Alex that hasn't already been said?
Love him or hate him, all the winningest manager in English football history does is continue to win.
3. Guus Hiddink (Chelsea)
Caretaker manager extraordinaire, and he had the results to back it up this season.
Aside from the Champions League semifinal spot, Hiddink has claimed 34 of a possible 39 points in league play since taking the reigns from Scolari in early February.
While nothing more than a short-term fix for a side with the most managerial turnover in the EPL, Hiddink has proven that he could do the job that a former World Cup winner could not.
4. David Moyes (Everton)
While Liverpool remains the glamour team on Mersyside, all David Moyes' Everton side continue to do is meet and exceed expectations.
If anyone thought 2007-08 was a fluke, Moyes led his side back to fifth in the table again this season, cementing their place as the best "non big four" side in the EPL.
Also a place among F.A. Cup Champions awaits Moyes if his surging side can knock off mighty Chelsea.
At this time, the only thing Everton supporters need worry about is if their manager might leave for greener pastures.
5. Tony Pulis (Stoke City)
Perhaps no manager did a better job with the resources they had than the Welshman at No. 5.
Odds on favorites for relegation, Stoke was never in serious danger of the drop after Christmas, and amazingly find themselves finishing near mid-table.
One of the most remarkable managerial jobs of the season and while the records say they dropped five more games than they won, make no mistake this was a successful season for the Potters.
6. Rafael Benitez (Liverpool)
How can any manager who claimed only two losses on the season be ranked so low?
The reasons are simple, no silverware on Mersyside, and a title ready for the taking lost in the second half of the season.
Liverpool supporters might take solace in the fact they trounced Man United at Old Trafford or that they played the more exciting brand of football - however they would have gladly traded both for the Premiership title.
7. Martin O'Neill (Aston Villa)
During the first half of this season the Villa boss would have almost been assured a top four spot on this list. However, a rash of negative results late in the season has sunk O'Neill to seventh.
While it is true that Villa matched their place in the table a year ago, their late form and nearly being overtaken by Fulham on the last day of the season have lowered his stock.
However, despite poor late season form, O'Neill was able to keep his side well in the top half of the table and secure a spot in the Europa League next season.
8. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
For some it might be an injustice to have one of the most successful managers in English football history ranked this low. However, it hasn't been a good season at Ashburton Grove by Arsenal standards.
With the talent Arsenal has on display it's almost inexcusable for "The Professor" not to have claimed any title for the Gunners over the past five years.
This season might have been the worst of the run for Wenger, finishing fourth in the table and 11 points adrift of third place Chelsea.
There are rumblings that Wenger might be on his way out at Arsenal. If he is staying and the results don't improve, next season might indeed be his last.
9. Gianfranco Zola (West Ham)
The former Italian talisman is becoming a sort of legend in London after his stint at Chelsea and his current tenure across town at West Ham.
While the results aren't what Zola would want (14-9-15 on 51 points), the side did rise a spot in the final table from a year ago.
Zola is determined to bring an Italian style of play to the Boylen Ground and while the improvement has been slow, there are signs that the Hammers might be ready to make a run at a European spot next season.
10. Steve Bruce (Wigan)
Last season, Bruce did just enough to keep Wigan supporters from having to worry too deeply about the drop in the final weeks of the season.
This season, Wigan showed some marked improvement under Bruce by finishing eleventh in the table with a roster that would be ranked in the bottom quarter in terms of talent.
While the results might not be eye popping, a club like Wigan just being comfortably safe during much of the second half of the season is an accomplishment enough.
11. Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur)
In his football book Fever Pitch, author Nick Hornby writes about supporting Arsenal sides of the 70's and early 80's that were never good enough to compete for a title and never bad enough to be relegated.
That is where Spurs supporters find themselves under Harry Redknapp.
Redknapp occupies the eighth position on this list because his teams are usually never in danger of the drop yet also never quite good enough to compete for a European spot either.
While Spurs did make a run at cross town Fulham late in the season for a much coveted Europa Cup spot it was too little, too late for Harry and Spurs.
12. Sam Allardyce (Blackburn Rovers) and Paul Hart (Portsmouth) -Tie
Two caretaker managers give the job to do just enough to keep their respective sides afloat in the EPL for another season, and with the limited task both were successful.
Once a man who might have been at the top of this list not too many years ago, "Big Sam" was given the task of keeping Premiership mainstay's Blackburn afloat.
Blackburn were struggling under former England international Paul Ince, and it was Allardyce who came in just before Christmas and got points in his first six matches.
However, the record of 2-1-3 in his last six matches saw Rovers limp to safety down the stretch.
Portsmouth were the darlings of last season with their best finish in decades. However the strains of the EPL and European competition took their toll on Tony Adams.
Hart came in and secured a much needed 17 points to keep Pompey in the top flight for next season.
However, a finish seeing the side go 1-1-4 in their final six matches will almost assure that Pompey will be looking for a new manager to lead them next season.
14. Phil Brown (Hull City)
When you were the playoff winner in your first season of Premier League football, there is something to be said for barely getting by.
That is the position the Hull boss finds himself in, and while the results were dismal at Hull, Brown did do just enough to insure the club a second season in the top flight.
The 19 losses accumulated would have been too many in most years to stay up, but the sub-par play at the bottom of the table allowed Brown's Hull side to do just enough to stay afloat.
However, his rant at halftime of the match with Manchester City and the sides collapse afterwards might be enough for management to lose faith in Brown.
15. Mark Hughes (Manchester City)
One of the biggest disappointments of this years' Premier League season has been the play of Man City under Mark Hughes.
With new ownership coming from the Middle East, an unlimited cash flow, and the signing of Robinho, big things were expected out of City. Unfortunately, Hughes did not deliver.
Quite honestly there was too much talent and too much promise on this side to finish 10th in the table and lose three more games than they won.
At some point during the offseason, the money men from the Emirates may ask if Hughes is the man to lead their investment into the future in reaching their goal of making the "top four" a top five.
16. Gary Megson (Bolton)
True, Bolton has never been a major player in the EPL, and they did improve three spots from last season to 13th place. However, stagnant might be the best description of the state of football at Bolton.
With other middle-of-the-pack clubs like West Ham and Fulham showing marked improvement since their current managers took over, Bolton finds themselves still worried about the threat of relegation.
Megson may not have the most talent to work with. However one has to wonder how content the board at Bolton will be with a manager who lives on the edge so often.
17. Ricky Sbragia (Sunderland)
Like Bolton, Sunderland are a side that are content to just stay afloat in the top flight, however shouldn't their supporters expect more?
For the past two seasons, Sbragia's side has flirted with disaster and finished lower in the table this season than they did last.
Given the available talent, nobody expects a club like Sunderland to compete with "the big four" or even compete for a spot in Europe.
However, the sign of a good manager is the ability to get talent to overachieve, and Sbragia has taken talent just good enough not to get relegated and keep them from barely getting relegated.
18. Tony Mowbray (West Brom)
After winning the Championship last season, Mowbray came into this Premiership season promising not to compromise his attacking style in the top flight.
He found his club at the bottom of the table.
No club in the EPL gave up more goals than West Brom, and while the offense would show flashes of brilliance on occasion, the defense was a disaster and not good enough for top flight play.
What some might call principle, others call stubbornness. While Tony Pulis was more pragmatic and had Stoke near the middle of the table all season, Mowbray stuck to his system and will have to fight for promotion again next season.
19. Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough)
In the history of the EPL no club has so delighted in underachievement as Middlesbrough.
After finishing a mediocre 13th in the table last season, the wheels fell off this season as Boro fought and lost the relegation battle for most of the season.
While nobody expected 'Boro to even compete for a spot in the top half of the table, nobody expected them to finish in 19th place with seven wins to 20 losses and a dismal 32 points either.
The long-suffering fans at the Riverside Stadium know they don't have the resources to expect a European spot every season. However they also deserve better than the elevator football that managers like Southgate has produced every season.
20. Alan Shearer (Newcastle United)
In America there is a phrase used to describe things like Alan Shearer's tenure as caretaker manager at Newcastle: train wreck.
While Shearer has had a tough job in a season or turmoil at Tyneside, three managers in three months and the Barton saga have made life difficult for the former Toon Army favorite.
However, it has been Shearer's fault that he has had no real coaching philosophy nor does he appear to have had any desire to settle on one.
The results have been a disaster (one win and five points out of a possible 24). Shearer is clearly in over his head as a manager at the Premier League level.
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