Pearson

Leicester City’s Top 10 Greatest Managers

It’s one of the classic debates had between fans of every football club the nation over. Yes, we all know who’s going to win this ranking but let’s at least revel in his nine runners-up before we once again bask in the greatness of City’s greatest ever manger as chosen by the fans.

 10. David Halliday

Average rating: 5.21/10
Win rate: 64-27-54 (44.14%)
Tenure: 1955–8

Accolades: 1956–7 Second Division Champions

In truth, Halliday’s reign at Leicester City wasn’t too eventful. Whilst he did guide the Foxes to their fourth of a record seven second tier titles in 1957 following a successful spell as manager of Aberdeen. During his stint at Filbert Street, Halliday got the Foxes firing presiding over the career of legend Arthur Rowley in a championship winning season that saw the Foxes set a club record 109 goals. But perhaps, despite a solid but unremarkable record at the Foxes, his lasting legacy will be laying the foundations for what would be Leicester’s longest stint in the top-flight. In fact, Filbert Street would be Halliday’s final footballing destination. Following his exit from the manager’s role in 1958, he retired from football management and passed away some twelve years later.

 9. Frank O’Farrell

Average rating: 5.9/10
Win rate: 51-28-35 (44.74%)
Tenure: 1968–71

Accolades: 1970–71 Second Division Champions, 1969 FA Cup finalists

Frank O’Farrell’s tenure was all too typical of Leicester City’s history overall. Under the Irishmen’s tutelage, City experienced relegation, winning the second tier and of course FA Cup final defeat. Of course, those three eventualities seem to define City’s existence but O’Farrell can take great pleasure in being the only manager to lead the Foxes to all three before swanning off to emerging European giants Manchester United in 1972.

8. Jock Wallace

Average rating: 6.46/10
Win rate: 69-51-69 (36.51%)
Tenure: 1978–82

Accolades: 1979–80 Second Division Champions

Whilst widely regarded as one of Rangers’ best ever managers, Wallace’s City career was slightly less glamorous. The Scot was famous for the brutal, in your face style of management he employed, scaring the wits out of Gary Lineker during his tenure. Wallace led City to yet another second tier title and a famous double over European Champions Liverpool, who had gone 85 games unbeaten at Anfield at the time, despite this feat City were relegated that season but not without pulling off what would be the biggest transfer in the club’s history; an audacious bid for Johan Cryuff.

7. Brian Little

Average rating: 6.51/10
Win rate: 76-58-54 (42.70%)
Tenure: 1991–94

Accolades: Promotion to the Premier League 1993–94

Brian Little never brought any real hardware to Filbert Way. But he did set up the Leicester City pitch at Wembley that would last throughout the 1990s, meaning only England played at the famous ground more in that decade. Little transformed the hapless Foxes from a side waiting for their first relegation to the third tier in to play-off finalists three years running. The memories of heartbreaking near misses against Blackburn Rovers and Swindon Town were all made worth it, when Brian Little’s side silenced the Rams in 1994, giving Leicester their first ever promotion to the newly found Premier League.

6. Peter Hodge

Average rating: 6.69/10
Win rate: 159-110-141 (38.78%)
Tenure: 1919–26, 1932–34

Accolades: 1924–25 Second Division Champions

It seems fitting that City’s first ever manager go down as one of their best. Back in their early years, the Foxes were a club slapped with a small-time label; low attendances, struggling in the second tier, occasional applications for re-election and so forth. When money worries hit the club, Leicester did away with the use of footballing boards and secretaries in managing the team appointing Hodge as their first ever leader. During a difficult socio-economic period, Hodge brought stability to the club and team. In his first stint, Hodge led the Foxes to their first ever promotion, first ever league title and trebled home attendances. When he rejoined Leicester from Manchester City in 1932, he took the club to their first ever FA Cup final before taking ill over one Summer. He died 18 days after relinquishing the manager’s post.

5. Willie Orr

Average rating: 7.1/10
Win rate: 131-78-126 (39.10%)
Tenure: 1926–32
Accolades: 1928–29 First Division Runners-up

Willie Orr was the manager bookended by Peter Hodge. In his first three seasons at the club, City set a new highest ever league finish, going from 7th in the top flight to 3rd to runners-up in 1929, a record that remains intact today. Orr built on the work started by Peter Hodge and managed the side to a close second to then-named the Wednesday, in true Leicester fashion, they were on course to win the title for much of the season but didn’t quite make it. Form didn’t stay with the Foxes though and Willie Orr bowed out allowing Peter Hodge to return and pick up where he left off.

4. Nigel Pearson

Average rating: 7.72/10
Win rate: 130-64-73 (48.69%)
Tenure: 2008–10, 2011–
Accolades: 2008–09 Football League One Champions, 2013–14 Football League Championship Champions

Current leader Nigel Pearson is one of the best. Before the Foxes, Pearson’s experience as manager was minimal but he was still able to guide the declining Foxes out of the painfully unfamiliar third tier and in style, before guiding the Foxes to the record-breaking seventh second tier title in his second stint. In fact, breaking records was a real feat for Leicester last season when the Foxes smashed points totals, winning runs, consecutive away wins records among many others. In fact, in all of Pearson’s full seasons so far, the Foxes have claimed a top six finish, although we can all agree we won’t achieve that this season, having  finally landed back in the top-flight. As being responsible for a quarter of the club’s league titles, Pearson also boasts the highest win rate of any of the club’s longest serving manager too. And if you can’t appreciate these achievements you can “f**k off and die!”

3. Jimmy Bloomfield

Average rating: 7.74/10
Win rate: 85-104-96 (29.82%)
Tenure: 1971–7

The fact Jimmy Bloomfield has reached the top three is remarkable given his distinct lack of accolades, however this is a strong case to place him in the bronze medal position. During the early 1970s, Bloomfield was able to fashion a Leicester side renowned for flair, skill and free-flowing football, whilst running the team on a shoestring budget. Legends like Frank Worthington, Lenny Glover and Keith Weller were all apart of the side that dazzled the top flight for six years. If there was any doubts about the substance to Bloomfield’s attractive side then note that Leicester were relegated as the bottom club the season after his departure.

2. Matt Gillies

Average rating: 7.77/10
Win rate: 201-123-184 (39.57%)
Tenure: 1958–68
Accolades: 1964 League Cup winners, 1965 League Cup runners-up, 1961 FA Cup runners-up, 1963 FA Cup runners-up

The best of the rest is Leicester’s longest serving manager, Matt Gillies. The savvy Scot led to Leicester to more cup finals than any other manager in history, winning admiration from esteemed contemporaries like Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly in the process. In fact, had City not been cursed by being a nearly club, the Foxes may have had three more major trophies to boast about today. In fact, had Gillies been able to carry Leicester over the line, he may have been a place better off. But still, Gillies’ reign was filled with successes, he was the first manager to lead the Foxes in to Europe, where typically they were unstuck by the pesky Atletico Madrid. If all of this wasn’t enough, when Gillies walked out on the Foxes after a dispute with the board, he went up the A46 and relegated Nottingham Forest. Happy days.

 

1. Martin O’Neill

Average rating: 9.09/10
Win rate: 85-68-70 (38.12%)
Tenure: 1995–2000
Accolades: 1997 League Cup winners, 2000 League Cup winners, 1999 League Cup runners-up

Shock horror! From “O’Neill out” to “Don’t Go Martin”. O’Neill’s stewardship at Leicester City is considered something of a fairytale on Filbert Way some twenty years on. Having fashioned an unlucky winning run that took City towards the most valuable shin in football and a place in the Premier League, it was only up from there. The Foxes would go on to rock the Premier League, picking up memorable wins such as the 5–2 thrashing of Sunderland, the 4–0 away romp at Pride Park and the infamous 3–3 at home to Arsenal. O’Neill’s efficient side practically established a monopoly over the League Cup, reaching three finals in five years, and winning two of them. Martin O’Neill was simply never going to be beaten in this race, having been responsible for the most enjoyable period of the Foxes’ recent history and two of the club’s three major trophies, he is rightfully considered Leicester City’s greatest ever manager.

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Pearson, Sort it Out!

Currently, there’s a widespread feeling of confusion at Filbert Way. After an impressive haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United, the Foxes have failed to pick up more than a solitary point against less fancied outfits Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom – as well as high-flying Southampton. Begging the question; what on earth has happened to Leicester City?

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. They’re constantly used with pessimistic connotations and are synonymous with the sort of banally arrogant fatalism that’s spouted by nearly every football fan the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent glitch does seem to resonate with our rather regrettable tradition of helping those on a bad run – be they Newcastle, Swansea or Shane Long. At least, that’s all I thought it was until one point in four became one point in five which then became one point in six.

Last season, Leicester were a beacon of stability. The formidable system of 4-4-2 was seldom tinkered with, and the same could be said for the personnel. Crucially, it seemed the Championship’s big-hitters of last term; Leicester, Burnley, Derby etc., all used the fewest amount of players in the league. Consistency in selection led to consistent results.

I’m sure monotony, as you may dub it, is quite in tune with City manager Nigel Pearson’s appearance. However, in recent weeks he seems to have deviated from that image. Leicester have started their last six games in no less than five different systems with the starting eleven from the previous game failing to survive intact for the next game once.

Under-pressure… Nigel Pearson’s tactics have been slated by many Leicester fans

And as much as I admire his work at the club thus far, Nigel Pearson ought to take a sizeable portion of the culpability for the recent blip. The manager’s defensive and dismissive attitude when it comes to discussing tactics with the media has been challenged lately as he’s been keener to explore different set-ups – it appears Pearson may have bought in to the anti-4-4-2 rhetoric of the Premier League’s experts. Persistent tinkering is surely counter-productive, particularly when that very tinkering has the side lining up to match West Bromwich Albion’s threat at home. Talks of a confidence crisis have been rife on City forums, and with the manager not placing ample faith in his side to undo Albion playing to their strengths there would be no surprise if there was some substance to it.

There too have been repeated calls of a reversion to Leicester’s favoured 4-4-2 system, to include more width in to the side’s play, be it tactically en vogue or not.  City’s strikers that started the most recent league outing at St. Mary’s, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy have scored six goals between them this season, all of them, bar a penalty against Manchester United have come from wide positions. In fact, since Pearson sacrificed width for whatever he feels the side has gained since, I can barely remember the pair having a shot on target between them.

On top of this, the Foxes seem content enough to continually invite pressure on themselves away from home, looking to absorb any threat and then cannon the ball back out to the opposition – at least we appear to have learned the art of defending set pieces, not that we could score one at the other end in a month of Sundays. Simply put though, Leicester are not good enough to play the containing game away from home and consistently pick up points. Our best players are attackers, and as clichéd as it sounds, they need to be a form of defence for us away from home as much as the defenders do.

Cursed… The out-of-form Foxes have been unlucky in recent weeks

Don’t get me wrong, Nigel Pearson has been a superb manager for the club and to want his dismissal at this moment in time would be lunacy but his decisions of late have definitely raised eyebrows. His persistence with isolating previously free-scoring Leonardo Ulloa up top and his desire to transform our best striker in Jamie Vardy in to a makeshift winger have been thoroughly ineffective and ultimately a waste of time. It seems clear to everyone in the stands that Nigel needs to discover his best eleven and start playing to our strengths, home and away – like he said he was going to before the start of the current campaign.

Of course, it’s also true that this slump is not all the manager’s fault. The current Leicester team(s) haven’t really looked like scoring in their last six matches, summed up perfectly by Chris Wood’s unthinkable miss on the South Coast. On top of that, our passing game has been erratic, rushed and panicked for weeks. Leicester’s attacking and defensive strengths seem to be depreciating simultaneously but despite it not being all down to Nigel Pearson – it’s his job to fix it.

However, it’s important to remember that the sides that fought gallantly against the country’s footballing elite are all still here, they just need to be unearthed again. Maybe, it’s time to do away with what others think and go and play Leicester City’s game, and perhaps, in Football Manager terms switch the mentality from ‘contain’ back to ‘counter’ away from home– it wasn’t working too badly in August and September. I’m not having the suggestion that we aren’t good enough for this level because we are – we’ve seen it, it just needs to be reproduced again and again. But with all this being said, it’s imperative we as fans don’t lose hope and our patience with Nigel Pearson – he’ll sort it all out with time to spare, and so will the players.