clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Leeds United's Managers of Yesteryear: Who will Garry Monk most resemble?

As Garry Monk sets out on his first season with Leeds United, I take a look the best and worst managers to grace the dugout at Elland Road.

Leeds United's best manager?
Leeds United's best manager?
Dan Smith/Getty Images

A new manager can turn the tide on a failing team in a short period. Even the worst of teams can see a bump in results with a new man yelling in the ear of the talent. And now we have a new manager at Elland Road, so what should we expect? Maybe a look at our previous managers will help tell the tale.

Leeds United aren't a woeful team, they have the foundation of a good side. A new manager can bring out the best of players who are again playing for their place. Unless that is the new manager has decided to have a long and slow intro to their heavy metal rendition of football. We found that out at the start of last season when a likable but slow starting Uwe Rosler decided to build at snail pace instead of building momentum.

This season our new manager had better learn quickly to get some momentum moving, and his preseason successes look to be a good start. Win the first three matches that count and march on from there. Rosler was not the worst Manager United have had in recent times, and he got the boot by not starting quickly. So with the new season about to kick off, let's take a look at the best managers United have had, and some of those that have flopped. Let's hope someday we can put Garry Monk down in the best managers category.

Some of our Famous Flops:

Terry Venables

Venables had an illustrious Managerial career, that is until he came to Leeds. He had Managed several high profile clubs in a list that include: Barcelona, taking them to the European cup final for the first time in 36 years; Tottenham Hotspur, winning the FA Cup with them and signing Linenaker and Gascoigne; The England National team, where he took them to the semi final of the 1996 Euros; Australia, he took the Socceroos to the final of the Confederations cup; and Middlesbrough, he was appointed chief firefighter to help them avoid relegations (which he did).

His statistics aren't the worst but I've classed El Tel as a flop for 2 reasons: the first being a comparison to his own past successes and those of the previous manager, David O'Leary, who took the same squad to the Champions League semi-final. The second being my memories of disappointment  at his appointment and subsequent poor team performances at a  time when we needed someone to build on recent successes. Instead the door was opened to the vortex that would suck Leeds into a downward spiral. Perhaps this is an unfair appraisal given that he had the carpet pulled from under him with the sale of players he had been promised Leeds would retain. However, there was no mistaking this former great had had his day and was perhaps better suited to charity golf days in Malaga than the dugout at Elland Road. El Tel had a 43% success rate in his 7 and a half months in charge.

Brian Clough

Arguably one of the worst (statistics-wise) to manage at Leeds. He had undoubted talent, which he was later to prove by winning 2 European cups, yet he couldn't cut the mustard at Leeds. He wanted to do things his way and change a successful yet aging team too quickly. Instead of going on a charm offence, he alienated himself and so his tenure was possibly where the phrase "lost the dressing room" originated. Lasting only 44 days (and Cellino wasn't even involved at United then) his stats are played 7, won 1, drew 3 and lost 3. Success ratio 28.57%

Brian Clough Charity Shield

Brian Clough & Leeds United. Charity Shield v Liverpool

Darko Milanic

Being the first ever non British Manager at Leeds, Milanic was to be the start of a new era as the new Italian owner wanted a European style injected into the Whites format. Sadly the experiment was to prove fruitless, unless watermelons are your choice of fruit. He lasted one month chalking up a disastrous 16% success rate.

Enough of that. On to the top five.

Some of our Best Managers:

Dick Ray

Leeds United was formed in 1919 from the remnants of Leeds City who had been thrown out of the football league for financial irregularities. Leeds were made scapegoats, whilst other teams escaped punishment (sound familiar?).

Who better than to manage the new team than the Captain of the old Leeds City team?  Dick Ray's career with Leeds spanned 30+ years. In the those years Ray played for and captained Leeds City, he took a break from football to join the Great War, returning to manage Leeds United in 2 separate stints.  He was Leeds United's first Manager in 1919 and then after returning for his second spell he got the Peacocks (as they were known) promoted to the old First Division in 1927-28 and 31-32 seasons. With owners like Cellino around now, a manager is lucky to stay beyond 2 seasons. Dick deserves a mention for his length of service alone, never mind popping off to join the army and winning promotion twice.  Dick Ray's second spell was his best and his success rate was 48.83%

David O'Leary

Howard Wilkinson brought O'Leary to Elland Road in the twilight of his playing career with coaching in mind. He made just 12 appearances as a player but had firmly established himself in the backroom by the time he was appointed number 2 to George Graham, the man who replaced Wilkinson.  It seemed he could do no wrong and in one famous incident his quick thinking was praised as he helped Leeds players off that crashed aeroplane as they returned from a midweek away at West Ham. It wasn't long after that O'Leary was given a chance of coaching the Leeds first team when Graham turned his back on United for money, joining Spurs.

I had to drive around friend's houses to see who had a power supply so I could watch the game.

The Irishman seized upon the chance to impress and after the dour displays of a Graham side, O'Leary's men shone. Playing with an attacking flair and preferring to blood younger players, his new young Leeds side were beginning to win new friends and put to bed the Dirty Leeds tag of old. Many neutrals and pundits alike were impressed by this new young side and their fortnightly televised European games were box office. This is absolutely true, locally, such was the interest in one particular European match that the sheer amount of viewers that tuned into watch the match simultaneously blew a fuse in the local electricity supply circuit causing black outs in my locale. This was before mobile phones were common and so I had to drive around friend's houses to see who had a power supply so I could watch the game.

Then what was promising to be the dawn of an exciting new dynasty imploded. O'Leary inexplicably gave his young starlets permission to go out and party. Who knows what really happened that one fateful night, but after several arrests and police investigations the result of a brawl became a court case which led to infighting and disillusionment within the team. Astonishingly, O'Leary decided to cash in and released a book about the case in which he tries to exonerate himself and point the finger at others.

A team which had prided itself on its togetherness could not function as before. Despite spending £100m of borrowed money, O'Leary failed to qualify for the Champions League (the premise of which the transfer spend was dependant). He was sacked ending his 4 year coaching association with the Whites. In that era though we all revelled in the performances and the European nights, ignorant of what it was costing behind the scenes, we had no knowledge and didn't care. O'Leary took us to the UEFA Cup semi-final and the Champions League semi-final. His success rate was an outstanding 57.76%, so he ends up here. On the pitch, he's one of the top.

Jimmy Armfield

Armfield moved to Leeds following his 3 years in charge of Bolton. He was tasked with rebuilding the ‘Mighty Whites' of the Revie era whilst replacing Brian Clough. It was a big ask for any manager especially for someone in his 2nd managerial post. Nevertheless, United were still reigning champions when he took the helm. Perhaps learning from Clough's mistakes, he changed the team slowly; one of his notable signings being Tony Currie.

In his first season in charge, he took the Whites to their most prestigious cup final ever, the European Cup Final of 1975. Handicapped by some atrocious refereeing which saw United have two penalty shouts denied, a Beckenbauer hand ball offence going unpunished and a Lorimer goal disallowed after Beckenbauer's intervention, the match ultimately ended in a 2-1 defeat. Leeds United Supporters incensed at the poor refereeing decisions rioted and United were subsequently banned from playing in European cup competitions for four years (reduced to 2 on appeal).

Perhaps without that incentive to succeed, Leeds and Armfield remained without silverware for the rest of his tenure before he ultimately left Leeds and retired from Management in 1974. Beckenbauer has since been embroiled in the FIFA corruption scandal. To this day, Leeds United fans around the globe chant "We are the Champions, the Champions of Europe" in recognition of their teams efforts that night and of the title that should rightfully have been theirs had there been correct refereeing decisions made. Despite that night and no silverware, Armfield's success rate is an impressive 53.2%, and we can only dream Monk can match that.

And of course, the clear top two:

Howard Wilkinson

The Leeds teams I went to see in the 80s didn't perform that well before Wilkinson arrived but still we loved that mid-80s team for who they were, their attitude and never say die approach. Wilkinson seemed able to tap into that. In rebuilding he had a job to do, no doubt about it. Yet Sergeant Wilko built a team that was better than before but still able to retain that Leeds identity, a Leeds we all wanted. Not just a hard working side that would get stuck in but one that contained guile and skill.

The fact that he had previously won promotion with Sheffield Wednesday establishing them as a stable first division side meant he was the ideal candidate to take over from the string of former Leeds greats that had failed to return United back to the glory days as managers.  And he was a Yorkshire man to boot. After just 2 seasons, United were back and way ahead of the schedule he had set. He made astute signings in Gordon Strachan and Vinnie Jones that were able to ignite the passion of the fans in the right way, creating a buzzing atmosphere at a once again packed Elland Road.

Wilkinson actually was a genius who used everything he had at his disposal to Leeds advantage, including the fans. Wilkinson's tactic was to get at the opposition from the kick off, which excited the crowd and intimidated the opposition. Captain Gordon Strachan said that the visiting team were intimidated into submission by a combination off nonstop attacking football and the Elland Road atmosphere. Often games were won within the first 20 minutes.

In creating this new era, Wilkinson famously had all relics of the Revie era removed. Old pictures were taken down and placed in storage. There was to be no looking back for Wilko. In Leeds United's second season back in Division 1, they were once again crowned Champions of England.

Wilkinson brought in United icons such as Gary McAlister, Gary Speed, Vinnie Jones, Gordon Strachan, Tony Yeboah, Lucas Radaebe, Rod Wallace and Mel Sterland, yet it was in my opinion the players he brought in in his final years that diluted his side and added to his down fall. Letting players like Speed and Batty go, he replaced them with Thomas Brolin, Frank Standli and I would also include Carlton Palmer in a host of players that should never have worn the famous white shirt. They were not good enough to complete at the highest level, the league that Leeds were now in.

United finally parted company with Wilkinson in 1996. In his time at Leeds he set up the youth academy, brought us the Second Division title, the First Division title (now Premier League), a League Cup Final appearance, European club competitions, and had firmly established United as a stable top division club. His success rate was 52.80%

Don Revie

Without doing a disservice to his predecessors, we all know that Don Revie made Leeds United. Under his tenure, the club won a glittering array of silverware including all the top domestic cups, league titles and European honours.  However it wasn't always that way. He joined Leeds as a player towards the end of his career in 1958.  He'd had moderately successful playing days including big money moves (for the period) and won England caps. He was a less than pacey (thwarted by injury) centre forward and had to invent a new style creating the false number 9 much vaunted by recently deposed European Champions Spain. But it should be Revie, in perhaps an early display of his tactical genius, who should take credit for that.

In 1961 after 3 years as a player he took on the role of player /manager at a time when United were perilously close to being relegated to the 3rd division and in dire financial straits. Without the mega bucks that slosh around in football today, he set about rebuilding and revolutionising what would in effect become his club. He took responsibility for everything from coaching to player transfers and knowing everyone involved in the setup from tea ladies to Directors, instilling a family atmosphere.

He couldn't go out and buy players, so he built his side with youth, giving the likes of Eddie Gray his debut at 18 years. The players had to meet his ethos of hard work and commitment. He handpicked his backroom staff introducing diet and military style fitness regimes that would hone his troops into one of the most potent footballing forces ever seen.

By 1964, Leeds were champions of Division 2 and gained promotion to the top tier where they rightly belonged. In their first season back in Division 1, they almost clinched the title losing out only on goal difference to Matt Busby's Manchester United, perhaps setting the stage for the Leeds and Manchester rivalry that still exists to this day.

Revie's 13 years as manager brought the highest honours in English football to Elland Road and established the team as a force in Europe. The highest UEFA fixture ever attended was the European cup semi final against Celtic at Hampden Park. It was an astonishing 136,505.

Leeds under Revie should've won more than they did. Being victims of their own success, United often found themselves fighting on all fronts in four separate competitions. But in the days where playing squads were restricted to 20, fixture pile ups and injuries hampered their chances. Still, the Don's stats read an incredible 62% success rate, the best of any Leeds United manager.

Need proof? Take a look at the Don's 1972 side demolishing of Southampton.

Thank you very much for reading. Please take part in my fun poll below and let me know your thoughts on the best and worst Managers in the comments below. You can get all the updates on our new manager, Garry Monk, throughout the season here at Through It All Together or by following us on Twitter and Facebook. #MOT