When you think of managerial greats, the same names always crop up: Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Don Revie, Bill Shankly, Herbert Chapman, Rinus Michels, Bob Paisley, Marcello Lippi and Arrigo Sacchi.
I could, of course, name others, while you could put 20 people in a room together and few would agree on a definitive top three.
As far as the Premier League is concerned though, its first two decades witnessed someone who, in this SBOTOP observer’s view, is the greatest manager to have ever graced the game.
There have been other impressive bosses in the English top flight this past quarter of a century with Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Sir Bobby Robson and Pep Guardiola all worthy of special mention, as well as honourable shout-outs to the likes of Sam Allardyce, Rafa Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti and Roy Hodgson.
But what of the current crop?
Which managers have inspired their teams to Premier League highlights which will live long in the memory and, in some cases defied the Premier League picks?
Well of the current bosses, two stand out to me.
Mourinho may have struggled of late but he remains a serial winner and few would back against him bringing success to his current employers, Spurs, once he has time to implement his changes, not to mention have a full team at his disposal.
And then there’s Guardiola who has masterminded back-to-back league titles for Manchester City with an attractive footballing style and a swagger few others can match – granted he has been backed by lavish funding on a level we’ve previously not seen.
Another of football’s most coveted managers right now is Jurgen Klopp who has, slowly but surely, turned Liverpool into a real force again.
He doesn’t always help himself at times when results don’t go to plan – he is not alone in that, of course – but there is no denying the German has proven a fine boss with his relentless pressing game, prompting copycats across the globe.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid to him was when Ferguson remarked, upon Klopp’s appointment at Liverpool in 2015, that it spelt bad news for his own club.
He knows a top manager when he sees one!
Of his predecessor at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers has had a good first 12 months at Leicester but that should be tempered by the fact the Foxes are often second-best when it comes to the really big games and are probably only third because they have shown more consistency to the below-par and, at times, woeful chasing pack of Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal.
Nuno Santos has shone at Wolves and, while he has received financial backing, he has generally recruited wisely and balanced the demands of Premier League and Europa League with astuteness to keep them in the hunt for another European spot.
If Chris Wilder was to guide newly promoted Sheffield United to a European berth he would, to my mind, deserve the manager of the year gong for it would be the finest achievement since Sean Dyche achieved that feat with Burnley just under two years ago – Sam Allardyce twice did the same with Bolton (2005 and 2007).
In terms of longevity, Dyche and Eddie Howe at Bournemouth have continued to ensure their sides overachieve, while Steve Bruce is doing the same at Newcastle.
Also, at the other end of the Premier League pyramid, take a look at Graham Potter who has gone from managing Ostersunds, to Swansea, and now to Brighton, where his quality is making a positive impact.
His rise to prominence while managing the Swedish side Ostersunds included a victory over Arsenal at the Emirates in the Europa League, earning him a heightened reputation and some genuine interest from back home. This led to him joining Swansea.
Since then he has reformed Brighton’s style over the course of one summer. No talk of three or four transfer windows, just a team drastically improved by coaching and a club structure built to take the club forward.
Similarly, given where the club was when he took over, if Nigel Pearson can guide Watford to safety it will be an impressive undertaking.
In some cases, it takes a boss a few years in the role before they can be fully and properly assessed – and that priceless commodity of time can be a rarity.
So, all in all, considering the topsy-turvy nature of management, it’s too early to say for many what will rank as a real success story.
Yet as it stands, there are a number of decent managers punching well above their weight in the Premier League.
To my mind, they still all lag behind Mourinho and Guardiola though.
Whose caught your eye?
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