The Top 5 Managers in the History of Tottenham Hotspur

Sam Rooke@@SamRooke89Featured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2015

The Top 5 Managers in the History of Tottenham Hotspur

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    The anniversary of the birth of Bill Nicholson, Mr. Tottenham himself, is always cause for celebration among the Tottenham Hotspur faithful. 

    The man who joined the club in 1938 became a permanent fixture until his death in 2004. 

    His place among the pantheon of great British managers was assured when his Spurs team became the first to win the League and FA Cup double in the 20th century, but he went on to add many more prizes to his trophy cabinet. 

    His philosophy of playing entertaining football still defines the club that he helped to build, and his commitment to the fans made him beloved from his earliest days in charge. 

    Bill Nic stands alone as the greatest figure in the history of Tottenham Hotspur. But who else belongs on the list of Tottenham's great managers?

Harry Redknapp

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    In what may be seen as a controversial choice by some fans, Harry Redknapp comes in at No. 5 on our list. 

    Redknapp was never the most popular Tottenham manager because of his links to both West Ham United and Arsenal. His willingness to sign ex-Arsenal players like Emmanuel Adebayor and William Gallas didn't help that reputation. Redknapp's relationship with the press also caused consternation among the fans, with his rent-a-quote style jarring to many. 

    Despite the fact that he was not beloved, Redknapp made a huge difference to Tottenham. 

    His time at the club saw them take the crucial step from Martin Jol's nearly-men to Champions League contenders. Some of the greatest moments in the club's history came under Redknapp. 

    When he arrived at the club, Spurs were infamously bottom of the league with just two points from their first eight games. Spurs had prised Redknapp away from Portsmouth, where he had built a remarkably strong team and won the FA Cup. 

    His Spurs career began with a bang. A 4-4 draw away at the Emirates, headlined by David Bentley's stunning volley, was just the beginning. His Tottenham team became the first to beat Liverpool in the 2008/2009 season—the remarkably mismatched game saw Roman Pavlyuchenko score the most unlikely of winners. 

    Redknapp almost saw Spurs defend the League Cup, but his first trip to Wembley with Tottenham ended in a defeat on penalties to Manchester United

    The next year—his first full season in charge—saw Spurs beat off the challenges of Aston Villa, Liverpool and Manchester City to claim fourth place and a spot in the Champions League. 

    The European campaign was unforgettable, with the victories over reigning champions Inter and against Milan at the San Siro two of the great nights for Spurs in Europe. 

    Redknapp's time at Spurs eventually unravelled, but he built an attractive, attacking team around some of the best players that have been seen at White Hart Lane. Players like Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale made coming to the Lane a privilege, and Redknapp deserves credit for that. 

    Had Chelsea not won the Champions League and pushed Spurs out of the their qualifying position, Redknapp might have found an even higher place on this list. 

Martin Jol

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Martin Jol won no trophies at Tottenham Hotspur and won just 44 percent of his matches as manager. 

    Despite lacking the headline-grabbing achievements of his colleagues on this list, Jol deserves his place. 

    When Jol took over early in the 2004 season, little was known and even less was expected of the Dutchman. 

    Tottenham had been mired in mediocrity for a decade under the rudderless guidance of Alan Sugar, and Jol's team was lacking in real quality and had not finished higher than eighth since 1996. 

    In Jol's first full season, he came within a single match of beating Arsenal to fourth place and a Champions League appearance. The story of that day against West Ham is well known to Spurs fans, but the fact that he took that team so close is an achievement in itself. 

    Despite falling at the final hurdle, Jol took Spurs into Europe, signed Dimitar Berbatov and finished fifth again. 

    Jol did what no manager had done since Keith Burkinshaw and kept Spurs in the top five of the table in consecutive seasons. 

    The next summer, he signed Gareth Bale, convincing the Southampton youngster and his parents that Spurs would be a better place for his development than Manchester United. Given the impact that Bale would leave on the club, that signing alone is almost worthy of a place on this list, but Jol laid the groundwork for Harry Redknapp and the era of sustained competitiveness that Tottenham still enjoy. 

    Before Jol, Spurs were routinely poor and offered little joy to the fans. After Jol, expectations followed growing performances, and it is now unthinkable that Spurs could finish in the bottom-half of the table. 

    That is the legacy of Martin Jol at Tottenham, and that is why he finds himself on this list. 

Arthur Rowe

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    Arthur Rowe managed Tottenham Hotspur to the club's first League Championship.
    Arthur Rowe managed Tottenham Hotspur to the club's first League Championship.Associated Press

    Bill Nicholson is the biggest name in the history of Tottenham Hotspur, but there was one man who came before him that one could argue had a similarly lasting impact on the club. 

    Ajax is often thought of as the origin of modern football. The DNA of the club and its philosophy stretches out across Europe through huge figures like Johan Cruyff. Ajax's clearly defined philosophy can be traced to Vic Buckingham, who introduced many of the principles that came to define the Dutch giants. Buckingham learned those same principles as a player under Arthur Rowe at Tottenham. 

    Rowe is credited with revolutionising British football at a time when Britain was still arguably the centre of the sport. His push-and-run style saw Spurs win the second division and first division in consecutive seasons. That used to be a more common occurrence but was still a remarkable achievement. 

    His footballing ideals were passed on to more than just Buckingham. Another of Rowe's players was Bill Nicholson himself. 

    Tottenham's pursuit of glory is central to their identity. That identity was installed by the huge impact of Nicholson, but Mr. Tottenham learned those ideals from Rowe. 

    This delightful piece from The Blizzard magazine (h/t Sabotage Times) follows his fascinating career in great detail. 

    Rowe is a name that is sometimes omitted from the pantheon of great Tottenham figures, and yet he is arguably the most significant. He dragged the footballing world forward, and his players took that philosophy across Europe. A truly remarkable man, Rowe richly deserves his place on this list. 

Keith Burkinshaw

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    Keith Burkinshaw (pictured second from right).
    Keith Burkinshaw (pictured second from right).Getty Images/Getty Images

    Keith Burkinshaw was the man who led Spurs out of the footballing wilderness and back to their rightful place as one of England's top teams. 

    When he took the role as manager, Spurs had been staving off relegation for several seasons, and the luck they had enjoyed finally ran out. 

    The club were relegated, but Burkinshaw stayed and began the process of rebuilding. He gave academy starlet Glenn Hoddle a central role as Spurs bounced straight back to the first division after a single season. Hoddle, of course, went on to become possibly Spurs' best ever player, and Burkinshaw was the man with the foresight to put him at the centre of his team. 

    In the summer of 1978, Burkinshaw pulled off one of the great transfer coups by signing a pair of World Cup winners from Argentina. Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa would write themselves into Tottenham folklore, and it was Burkinshaw that brought them to Spurs. 

    With Hoddle, Ardiles and Villa, Spurs were ready to take on the world. A pair of FA Cups and a UEFA Cup triumph were the highlights of his reign at Tottenham. 

    The team that he built remained competitive throughout the 1980s and arguably reached its apogee in 1987, when the club were narrowly beaten to the first division title by Everton and were shocked in the FA Cup final by Coventry City

    Tottenham have enjoyed two truly great decades. The 1960s and the 1980s. Bill Nicholson was the architect of the first, but Burkinshaw richly deserves his place in the Tottenham pantheon for the second.

Bill Nicholson

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    Don Morley/Getty Images

    There could never be any question who would sit atop this list. Bill Nicholson is the titanic figure in the history of Tottenham Hotspur. 

    His philosophy, learned under Arthur Rowe, has come to singularly define his club. 

    The famous quote, "It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory" is etched around White Hart Lane. Although some have disputed whether he ever actually said it, it sums up his teams and ideals that are in the very DNA of the club that he built. 

    Tottenham would exist without Bill Nicholson but not in anything like the way that we recognise. Spurs, as they are, exist only because of him. 

    His achievements at Tottenham are unmatched, and he will always be the most important man in the history of Spurs. 

    After a playing career of over 300 first division matches for Spurs, Bill returned to take charge as manager in 1958. His first match, against Everton, perfectly represents his footballing philosophy. Spurs conceded four and scored 10 in response. It was a remarkable beginning to a remarkable career. 

    He shrewdly constructed one of the greatest teams in history and brought many of the greatest Spurs players to the club. From Dave Mackay to Pat Jennings and Jimmy Greaves, Nicholson signed them all. 

    He managed the club for over 800 matches and collected 11 trophies in his 16 years as manager. 

    Nicholson's death in 2004 was a heartbreaking moment for all Spurs fans, but his presence in banners and statues around the ground ensure that he is still there at every Tottenham match. 

    On the 96th anniversary of his birth, Nicholson remains the greatest figure in the history of Tottenham Hotspur and one of the great football men.

    Follow me on Twitter @SamRooke89

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