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FootballNewsPulis and McClaren are ‘the most over-achieving managers in English football’

Pulis and McClaren are ‘the most over-achieving managers in English football’


By Nick Harris

4 May 2010

Stoke City’s manager Tony Pulis tops a new league table that ranks “over achieving” managers in English football when teams’ results are compared to the resources at their managers’ disposal.

Steve McClaren, the much maligned former England manager is at No2, while Sam Allardyce is at No3 on the list, compiled by Dr Sue Bridgewater from the Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick.

Dr Bridgewater is a senior academic who works closely with the League Managers’ Association and other footballing bodies on projects that examine management performance and help to improve it.

The league table of performance comes from a new book by Dr Bridgewater, Football Management, published this week (link at the bottom of this piece).

The analysis is based on managers’ performances in English league football across five seasons, from 2003-04 to 2007-08 inclusive. It ranks the total wage bills at football clubs from highest to lowest, and then considers the league positions that each manager achieved against the wage bills.

Pulis was found to have steered his respective clubs (Stoke, Plymouth then Stoke again in the period in question) to finish 6.6 places higher in the league each season on average than his clubs’ wage bills should have dictated.

To simplify Dr Bridgewater’s analysis: the top-paying club in the Premier League – or Championship or whatever division – should finish top of the league (and typically does, with minor variation in placings). Dr Bridgewater’s “over-achievement table” says which managers over-achieved over the period in question, taking into account moves between clubs.

Dr Bridgewater’s findings have been rubber-stamped by what has happened since the end of the period under review. Pulis has kept Stoke in the Premier League on moderate resources, suggesting he does punch above his weight in management terms.

McClaren meanwhile, who left England under a cloud after his period in charge with England – which ended with him tagged the “wally with the brolly’ – has since had great success in the Netherlands. His league title with FC Twente this season suggests his early good work as a coach or manager at Derby, Manchester United and Middlesbrough was more indicative of his talents than his England stint.

The top 10 over-achieving managers in the analysis are:

Average number of league places above wage rank for five seasons up to 2008

1 Tony Pulis – – – – – 6.6

2 Steve McClaren – – – – – 6

3 Sam Allardyce – – – – – 5.6

4 Brian Laws – – – – – 5.5

5 Billy Davies – – – – – 5.3

6 Paul Jewell – – – – – 5.3

7 Bobby Williamson – – – – – 5

8 Ian Holloway – – – – – 4

9 Neil Warnock – – – – – 3.8

10 Paul Sturrock – – – – – 3.4


Dr Bridgewater says: “No one wants to take away from the achievements of leading managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Roberto Mancini or Carlo Ancelotti in that high pressure environment. However it is possible to calculate the extent to which managers out-perform what might be expected with the players at their disposal.

“The research shows that the role of club context and resources strongly influences the results a football manager might be expected to achieve. However clubs are still quick to blame the managers themselves on poor results and too easily turn to management sackings. Such sackings give only a short-term gains and often actually cause longer-term negative effect on team performance.”

As well as researching football management for many years Dr Bridgewater has run Applied Management Courses designed to assist current and aspiring football managers with their business management skills at Warwick Business School.

Stuart Pearce, the head coach, of England Under-21s, said: “I was fortunate enough to work with Sue Bridgewater when the Applied Management course at Warwick Business School was in its infancy. Sue casts a critical eye over the challenge of modern football management and the short-term thinking that too often hinders real progress. Through her work with the League Managers’ Association she talks from a true position of knowledge and shows understanding of the issues surrounding the modern manager.”

Howard Wilkinson, the chairman of the League Managers’ Association said that Dr Bridgewater’s latest research “provides an objective viewpoint, is clearly and rationally explained, and also allows an academic insight to not just a precarious, but also an intriguing, profession which offers millions of fans a daily source of interest and conversation.”


Football Management by Dr Sue Bridgewater

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