Manager of the Year?

April 19, 2015 9:00 am

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1993/4 the title of Manager of the Year has almost exclusively been won by the manager who steers his team to the Premiership title. Only 4 managers, (George Burley 2000-01, Harry Redknapp 2009/10, Alan Pardew 2011/12 & Tony Pulis 2013-14) have received the accolade without winning the title. This suggests that regardless of any other factors the winning of the title will almost guarantee you the title of manager of the year. But, should this really be the case and what makes a truly great manager?
Alex Ferguson won Manager of the Year on 11 occasions, all of which were title winning years and with teams built from a mixture of Manchester United youth (Class of 92) in the first instance, but then buying every major player who became available on the market as the club had the financial backing to embark upon such signings. What is generally forgotten though was he was appointed in 1986 and did not win the title until 1992-93. So, longevity and a commitment to a long term plan seems to be, in some cases, the way in which to win titles. Ferguson’s record speaks for itself, probably the greatest manager in the history of English football and deserved of many of his Manager of the Year awards.
Arsene Wenger was the first non-British manager to win the award in 1997-98 having guided his Arsenal side to the Double. Winning the Premiership and FA Cup would constitute a very successful season. He had in place probably the greatest back five in English football ,all of which he inherited, Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright who had been signed previously to Wenger’s arrival. He added toughness in the form of Vieira and Petit, pace with Overmars and a young striker in Anelka. The manager’s job was to mould this group into a title winning formula. Wenger’s side was heralded as the complete team that season and coming from an eleven point deficit to snatch the title from Manchester United. Deserved winner of the Manager of the Year.

But, were there others who should have been equally seen as the Manager of the Year in this period ? Clearly, Gianluca Vialli in 1997-98 was equally successful as Wenger, winning both the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup, beating some of the best teams in Europe. Does this wider context suggest Vialli should have been considered? Alan Curbishley at Charlton with almost no budget to work with guided the club into the Premiership in 1998 and 2000 keeping them in the Premiership until his departure in 2006. Not once was he considered as Manager of the Year, but it was a remarkable achievement considering they were challenging for a Champions League place for most of 2003-04.
Kevin Keegan when at Newcastle United pushed Manchester United all the way to the title only to be remembered for his outburst about how he’d love to beat them after Alex Ferguson had clearly got under his skin. Passion as well as success has to be considered as a factor in any manager who goes on to win the Manager of the Year award.
What of this season? Well, for long periods Chelsea have swept all before them and José Mourinho has developed a strong team. Arsene Wenger has been questioned by pundits and fans alike for periods this year, but yet again his Arsenal team has emerged from the pack and appear to have secured a record consecutive qualification in the Champion’s League. Alan Pardew has guided Crystal Palace from certain relegation to certain safety in the short period that he has been back at the club. But, possibly the biggest argument for a non-title winning Manager of the Year has to be Sean Dyche at Burnley.
Every pundit at the beginning of the year said Burnley would be relegated, the fact that Burnley have not bought players of consequence to bolster their Championship squad that was promoted and still have a realistic chance of staying up is nothing short of a miracle. Sean Dyche has shown huge belief in his squad throughout the season, he has displayed passion on the touchline and has had absolutely no budget to work with, he has added George Boyd as really his only major signing into his team. If Burnley are in the Premiership next season the Manager of the Year has to be Dyche and I think very few people would begrudge him the accolade based on his judgement, passion and purse strings.

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