Liverpool FC: Ranking the Top 10 Liverpool Managers of All Time
Success is built on the foundation of solid leadership.
In football, that leadership is provided more by the manager than the actual captain of the team.
And to be as successful as Liverpool has been, it is imperative that the club would have seen some great managers at the helm.
Liverpool has been one of the more stable clubs in terms of the number of managers—the club has seen only 18 different full-time managers since the club was established in 1892.
From the times of Barclay and McKenna to the current reign of Kenny Dalglish, there have been many managers who have lent their valuable services to the club
Hence, it might be time to try and rank the top 10 managers that this great club has been privileged to have.
10. Roy Evans 1994-1998
Honors: 1994-95 League Cup
Roy Evans, in 1974, was a fringe player at Liverpool and at that time was made the coach of the reserves team.
The appointment of Evans to the staff was the brainchild of the legendary Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. It was then that Liverpool's chairman had made a bold statement that they were making an appointment for the future and Evans would one day become the manager of Liverpool.
Ultimately, that statement did turn out to be true but after a wait of over 20 years, after being a part of the staff under five different managers—Shankly, Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.
He was the last manager who was a part of the famous "Boot Room: of Liverpool.
Under his guidance, he transformed what had become a mid-table team under Souness, to a team that was challenging for the title again.
With players like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, he built the nucleus of the team that became famous for its attacking brand of football.
9. W.E.Barclay/John McKenna 1892-1896
Honors: Second Division 1894,1896
McKenna and Barclay were the first managers of Liverpool after the club was founded due to the departure of Everton from Anfield.
Barclay looked at the organisational part of the club whereas McKenna acted as the coach.
The team started by playing the in Lancashire League and at the end of the first season, winning it in their first season itself.
They built the team around players from Scotland and were responsible for getting Liverpool into the national League, when they won the Second Division title twice and also dabbled in the First Division for a season, before being relegated.
It was under their leadership that the people around the country started taking notice of Liverpool as a club due to the commitment on the field and the never-say-die attitude.
The contribution of both Barclay and McKenna along with John Houlding, was very important off the field as well as they were the people who were responsible for laying the foundations of the club that would go on to achieve such great heights in the future.
8. David Ashworth 1919-1923
Honors: 1922 First Division
David Ashworth, though he spent only three seasons at Liverpool, could be considered one of the better managers at Liverpool and also one who the fans could speculate as to what could have been.
He arrived at the club in 1919 after a disastrous start to the season when Liverpool had managed to win only two of their 11 matches in the league till then. He, however, was able to guide Liverpool to a fourth-place finish that season.
He guided the club to its third League title in 1922 after another solid fourth-place finish in 1921, building the foundation of the team around a solid defense.
He surprisingly left Liverpool, who were leading the table at that time, for his old club Oldham the very next season. However, he could not save Oldham from being relegated.
However, such was Liverpool's dominance in that season, that even though they won only one game in their last six, they won the league by a comfortable margin of six points.
7. Gerard Houllier 1998-2004
Honors: UEFA Cup 2001, UEFA Super Cup 2001, FA Cup 2001, League Cup 2001 and 2003, Community Shield 2001
Gerard Houllier was appointed in 1998 as the joint manager of Liverpool with Roy Evans. However, the arrangement did not work out, and Evans resigned in late 1998.
He started rebuilding the squad with the arrival of players like Sami Hyypia and Emile Heskey along with the increasing importance of Academy players like Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.
He also led a revolution that led to the facilities at the club being overhauled with the training facilities at Melwood being the biggest beneficiary.
His efforts seemed to bear immediate fruits with Liverpool winning the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup in 2001.
He suffered from a heart condition in 2001, which led to him being out of management for five months, when caretaker manager Phil Thompson guided the team to a second-place finish in the League.
He seemed to have a particular liking for French players, as he had been the head of technical development at French football association.
However, toward the end of his reign, his negative tactics as well as a number of failed signings led to him leaving Liverpool by mutual consent in 2004.
6. Rafael Benitez 2004-2010
Honors: UEFA Champions League 2005, FA Cup 2006, Community Shield 2006, UEFA Super Cup 2005
Rafael Benitez arrived from Valencia in 2004 after the departure of Gerard Houllier.
At Valencia he was able to guide them to two La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004.
He had a task at hand as soon as he arrived as he had to convince his top stars to stay. He was able to convince Steven Gerrard to stay but decided to let Michael Owen go.
He brought in several players from the La Liga during his reign including players like Luis Garcia, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres, most of whom turned out to be important players for Liverpool under Rafa's reign.
He won the UEFA Champions League in his first year, which saw arguably the best Champions League final to date, when Liverpool came down from 3-0 at halftime against AC Milan to win through a penalty shootout.
He then managed to win the FA Cup the following year and also finished third in the league, missing out on second place by a single point.
He continued rebuilding the squad coming agonizingly close to winning the league in 2009, when Liverpool finished with 86 points, a total that would have been enough to win them the league in most seasons.
However, with the departure of key players like Arbeloa, Garcia and Alonso, Liverpool struggled in the following season, finishing seventh in the League. This, coupled with a group stage exit in the Champions League, forced Benitez to leave by mutual consent at the end of the 2010 season.
5. Joe Fagan 1983-1985
Honors: League Championship 1984, League Cup 1984, European Cup 1984
A founding member of the original "Boot Room," his appointment was the logical choice for Liverpool after Bob Paisley's retirement in 1983.
Most people expected him to do well, as he had the team that had been dominating the English and the European scene for a long time. Also, he had been with Liverpool for a long time, which gave him the advantage.
And he did the job with great success, winning the treble of League Cup, English League and the European Cup in 1984.
Though after just two years in charge, he announced his retirement, just hours before the European Cup final in 1985.
Most people believe that Liverpool would have won their fifth European Cup that day, if disaster had not struck in the form of the Heysel disaster.
In just two years at the helm, he made a great impact at Anfield, enough to be counted among the great Liverpool managers of all time.
4. Tom Watson 1896-1915
Honors: First Division 1901, 1906, Second Division 1905
Tom Watson was brought to Liverpool from Sunderland by John McKenna, after a highly successful stint at Sunderland, where he led the to three league titles in the early 1890s. He is still the most successful manager in history for Sunderland.
Only 37 years of age when he took over the reigns at Anfield, he guided Liverpool through a phase of continuous improvement.
In the 1899 season, Liverpool just missed winning the League by a solitary point (losing to Aston Villa in the last match, when a draw would have clinched the league), a feat they were able to accomplish two seasons later in 1901.
He was responsible for getting the talented Elisha Scott, Sam Hardy, Jack Parkinson and Alex Raisbeck to Liverpool.
However, things took a turn for the worse as Liverpool were relegated in 1904. However, they bounced right back by winning the Second Division in 1905 and the First Division title the following year in 1906.
He however, was extremely unlucky when it came to the FA Cup, losing in the semifinals six times and being the runners-up once.
He retired in 1915, after 19 seasons in charge, still a club record. His record of leading the club in the most matches was only broken by Bill Shankly.
He died soon after he relinquished his post in 1915.
3. Kenny Dalglish 1985-1991, 2011-
Honors: First Division 1986, 1988, 1990, FA Cup 1986, 1989, FA Charity Shield 1986(shared), 1988, 1989, 1990(shared)
If one takes into account the overall services to the club, both as a player and as a manager, then Kenny Dalglish would probably be at No.1 on the list.
He was a player for Liverpool for over 13 years, when he along with Ian Rush, formed a deadly striking partnership for Liverpool.
After Joe Fagan retired in 1985, the Liverpool management decided to give Kenny the charge of the team, and hence he became the first player-manager for Liverpool.
In his first reign in charge, Liverpool dominated English football, winning the league three times and finishing second the league twice.
It was highly unfortunate that he never got the opportunity to lead the side in European competitions, as a result of a ban on English clubs in the aftermath of the Heysel disaster.
He managed the twin roles as the player and a manager perfectly. However, during the later years of his managerial career, he gave himself less playing time.
He was already a Kop legend, but his conduct in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster led to him being etched in the memories of all Liverpool fans and indeed fans across the globe.
When Liverpool was going through another rough phase in the current season under the reign of Roy Hodgson and the new owners decided to get rid of him, Kenny again stepped up to get his club out of trouble.
His arrival to the helm after 20 years, resurrected the Liverpool squad and turned the gloom into happiness in a very short span of time. Most fans want him to be given a longer contract so that he is able to take Liverpool back to the heights of the '80s and '90s.
2. Bob Paisley 1974-1983
Honors: First Division 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983; League Cup 1981, 1982, 1983; European Cup 1977, 1978, 1981; UEFA Cup 1976; European Super Cup 1977; FA Charity Shield 1974, 1976, 1977(shared), 1979, 1980, 1982
Retiring as a one-club man in 1954, his career was cut short due to the WWII.
He joined the Liverpool back-room staff the same year and was one of the founding members of Bill Shankly's "Boot Room" after his arrival in 1959.
Following Shankly's resignation in 1974, the Liverpool management offered the role to Paisley. Though it was difficult to fill the shoes of the legendary Bill Shankly, Paisley was able to do the job entrusted to him with tremendous success.
Though the spotlight-shy Paisley was initially reluctant to take up the job, the club and his family persuaded him to take up the job.
In his nine seasons in charge, he won a trophy in eight of them, winning 20 trophies during his managerial stint at Liverpool.
During his reign, he led Liverpool to six League titles, three League Cups and also the club's first three European Cups.
The only trophy that eluded him during his tenure was the FA Cup.
He was the person who was responsible in getting the legendary players such as Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness, Bruce Grobelaar and Ronnie Whelan to the club, who were instrumental in Liverpool's dominance of world football during the '70s and the '80s.
He remains the only manager till date to lift three European Cups.
Even after his retirement, he served on the Liverpool board until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1992.
One of the gates at Anfield was renamed as the Paisley gates to compliment the existing Shankly gates.
1. Bill Shankly 1959-1974
Honors: First Division 1964, 1966, 1973, Second Division 1962, FA Cup 1965, 1974, UEFA Cup 1973, FA Charity Shield 1964(shared), 1965(shared), 1966
He may not have as many trophies in the cabinet as his successor Bob Paisley, but Bill Shankly is, without doubt, the greatest ever Liverpool manager.
When he arrived in 1959, Liverpool were a club in decline, languishing in the Second Division and with crumbling infrastructure.
He released 24 players as soon as he arrived at the club and started rebuilding the club along with the members of his famous "Boot Room"—Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett.
He signed players such as Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, Gordon Milne and Peter Thompson, which started Liverpool's resurrection.
Liverpool won the Second Division in 1962 to gain promotion back to the First Division.
Liverpool won the FA Cup in 1965 and went one better and won the league in 1966, reaching the finals of the European Cup as well in the same year.
Shankly oversaw another transitional period in Liverpool's history when great players such as St. John, Roger Hunt and Tommy Lawrence were sold and Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Ray Clemence were brought in.
Liverpool again started competing for the title coming close in 1972. However, they were able to achieve the double of the League and the UEFA Cup in 1973 and won the FA Cup in Shankly's last game in charge in 1974.
Shankly's legendary status is also due to his relationship with the fans. He was known to personally reach out to fans, replying to letters individually and also helping the fans get tickets when in need.
If he had not been present, Liverpool might not have the history that it currently has, as he not only won championships for the club but develop a philosophy for the club and developed the "Boot Room" which produced a number of leaders for the club.