Who is the best Scottish football manager of all time?

In these strange lockdown times of ours, I have found myself confronted with a problem many of us have had to face in the last few weeks: boredom.

It’s all well and good working or studying from home, but there are still many hours in the day left to fill after you’ve finished writing that essay, or that Zoom call has finally come to an end.

And so, in an effort to alleviate some of that boredom, I’ve finally decided to start battering through some of the books that have culminated into a literature mountain at the end of my desk.

Amongst the books I’ve read so far that I’ve most enjoyed are ‘The Three Kings’ by Leo Moynihan – a biography of Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Jock Stein – and the autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Across the reading of these two books, I arrived at the conclusion that these men, each in their own way, were the greatest managers in the history of football.

It’s hardy ground-breaking stuff to say that, but nonetheless it was the conclusion I came to.

Legends to a man, and for good reason too, but I couldn’t help but wonder: Who is the best of them?

In my quest for an answer I turned to the internet.

Another name prominently mentioned was that of Liverpool legend Bill Shankly.

Not surprising that Shankly’s personality is brought up when discussing his merits as a manager.

Bill Shankly was (much like Busby, Stein and Ferguson) a big believer in the idea of football that was first and foremost entertainment as much as sport.

Liverpool legend Phil Thomson has even claimed that Shankly brought the idea of possession based ‘total football’ to these shores long before the Dutch did.

It is very fitting, therefore, that beneath the statue of Bill Shankly at Anfield, a plaque reads:

He made the people happy”

here were some calls for Sir Matt Busby…

Certainly, Sir Matt’s achievements at Old Trafford were unrivalled in English football during his reign as Red Devils manager, where they became the first English side to lift the European Cup in 1968.

Though, of course, Mr. Busby was not the first British manager to win the tournament, that honour belongs Jock Stein.

Before Jock Stein was handed the Parkhead hot-seat, the once mighty Celtic had been in a state of relative disarray, compared to the lofty heights of Maley’s heyday before the war.

Club legend James McGrory was loved by the Celtic supporters for his goal-scoring exploits in 20s and 30s, but as manager he could never quite match that success, and trophies were scarce.

Big Jock would soon remedy that, and in the space of two years he transformed Celtic from no-hopers, into the kings of European football.The Mercurial Jim McLean of Dundee United received a few shouts.

His side of the 1980s, alongside Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen side, would break the Old Firm duopoly in Scottish Football by winning some trophies of their own.

McLean’s side would win their one and only league title in 1983, but would also shine on the European stage – reaching the semi-final of the 1984 European Cup and final of the 1987 UEFA Cup.Rangers great Bill Struth’s name was also raised

The Ibrox legend managed Rangers for 34 years, and that time lead the side to 18 league titles, 10 Scottish Cups and 2 League Cups.

One of the common sentiments expressed by many was that the question itself, of who is truly the best Scottish manager of all time, is simply too difficult to answer, and by reading through these comments, it isn’t hard to see why.

The laundry list of achievements garnered by all these men is astonishing, and serves as reminder of how, despite what those outside of Scotland have to say about the quality of our leagues, the football landscape would be decidedly worse off without the Scottish.


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