Tactical masterminds and tabloid scapegoats. The job of the football manager is one of constant ups and downs. A lifelong dedication to their craft, years of accumulated knowledge of the game and a keen eye for talent is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being successful on the touchline and all are vital to becoming one of the longest serving managers of the day, let alone in football history.
High performing managers are able to motivate, inspire and propel their players to greatness. With an ability to communicate team-strategy yet encourage individual brilliance at the same time. Discipline, effort and hard work are the three staples of any winning lineup, and the best in the business know-how to bring that out of their team week-in-week-out, whereas others simply fall short of the mark. Taking up that sideline spot is not for the faint of heart, so today we take a look at those managers that stood the test of time. This is our list of football’s longest serving managers, past and present.
Football’s longest serving managers ever
5. Willie Maley
A name that will most likely only be known by Scottish superfans or football masterminds. William Maley was one of football’s longest serving managers and led Celtic in a huge 1,611 games.
Born in 1868, Maley was Celtic’s first-ever manager, taking on the role at just 29 back in 1897. Having won 16 league titles, 14 Scottish Cups and 14 Glasgow Cups, the former player turned manager claimed his spot as a local legend after a lofty 43 years with the Bhoys.
4. Alec Stock
Another name that may have fallen through the cracks of managerial rankings is that of Alec Stock. Nicknamed ‘the first gentleman of soccer,’ Stock’s prominence in English football grew after a notable FA cup run with Yeovil Town in 1949. The Glovers managed to beat league leaders Bury and Sunderland, only to then be hampered in their tracks by an 8-0 hammering at Old Trafford in the next round.
In a 34 year career, Stock was the leading man for Yeovil, Luton Town, Leyton Orient, QPR, Roma, Fulham and Bournemouth, overseeing a grand total of 1,618 games.
3. Graham Turner
Next on our list of football’s longest-serving managers is Graham Turner.
Recently retired in 2014, Turner’s managerial career spanned across 36 years in English football, sitting at the helm of 4 clubs; Shrewsbury Town, Aston Villa, Wolves and Hereford United.
His life in football was a long mix of player, manager and chairman, with a total 1,659 games under his belt as head coach.
In 1984, Turner parted ways with Shrewsbury Town after a 6-year stint and a Third Division title win. 26 years later he returned to the Shrews to see off his final days on the touchline from 2010 to 2014, leading his team to League Two promotion (and a not so favourable relegation at the end of his tenure).
2. Arsene Wenger
One of football’s most well-known and well-liked managers, Arsene Wenger was Arsenal’s leading man for 22 years from 1996 all the way through until 2018.
Outside from his move to England and time with the Gunners, “Le Professeur” also had a studious career with Monaco, leading them to a Division 1 title in 1987
Some of Wenger’s most notable moments at Arsenal include the league & FA Cup doubles both in 1998 (just two years after he joined) and again in 2002, the Invincibles season in 2004, 3 Premier League titles, 6 FA Cups – as well as a grand total 1,701 games as a manager across his entire career.
Titles and cups aside, Premier League fans would consider the signing of a young Thierry Henry from Juventus in ‘99 to be one of Wenger’s crowning achievements, with Henry progressing to be one of the League’s all-time most exciting strikers.
1. Alex Ferguson
No prizes for guessing who tops our list of football’s longest serving managers.
The most decorated manager in the history of the game and one of the greatest tacticians to stand by the sideline, Alex Ferguson oversaw a whopping 2,155 games across his managerial career.
A professional lifetime spanning 39 years, Ferguson led his teams to 49 trophies, with 38 of them coming during his 26-year reign at Manchester United.
The 1999 treble, 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 2 Champions League trophies and countless other personal accolades and achievements, it’s hard to see anyone taking Fergie’s spot anytime soon.
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