Our Greatest Managers – Part 2 (1961-2001)
Part two of my search to find the greatest ever West Ham manager continues with the period between 1961 and 2001, covering four more managers.
If you haven’t read part one yet then it is probably best that you do so first, as that covers the period 1923-1961 and explains how each manager’s performance will be judged and the formula.
RON GREENWOOD 1961-1974
Appointed in 1961, Ron became the club’s first manager to have no playing links with the club; he was previously a coach at Arsenal but was also coaching the England Under 21s, where he had worked with Bobby Moore. Building on the success of Fenton with the club’s youth policy, Ron heralded the beginning of West Ham’s Golden era, where he would win the club’s first trophies in 1964 and 1965.
The majority of the players that won the trophies were already at the club when he arrived. Ron’s coaching was said to be the key to their success, though many players would say his man-management skills were not his strong point. If Fenton is the godfather of the Academy, then Ron could be attributed with creating the so-called “West Ham Way.”
Ron’s famous quote: “The crowds at West Ham haven’t been rewarded by results, but they keep turning up because of the good football they see. Other clubs will suffer from the old bugbear that results count more than anything. This has been the ruination of English soccer.”
He managed 550 games in the top flight and won 182, drew 151 and lost 217. We scored 861 goals but conceded 872, and our average league position under Ron was 13th. In 1974, Ron moved upstairs, allowing his protege, John Lyall, to manage the 1st team, but Ron kept overall control as Club manager until he left to take the England Job in 1977.
JOHN LYALL 1974-1978 1981-1989
A player for the Hammers who had his career destroyed by injury before it got started, he only managed to appear in 36 games between 1959 and 1963.
Given a job in the office, he started coaching kids after hours; in 1967, he went full-time coaching at the club, working his way up to being Greenwood’s assistant before 1974, Lyall was put in charge of the first team.
His 15 years as manager can be split into three periods. The initial four years in Division One before relegation in 1978. Then there are the three seasons spent in Division 2 before promotion back to the top flight in 1981, where we would remain until 1989.
Twelve top-flight seasons in total consisting of 498 games, managing 172 wins, 125 draws and 201 defeats. They scored 652 goals at an average of 1.31 per game while conceding 727 goals at a 1.46 average per game. The average league placing was 14th
Under Lyall, West Ham won trophies, had our best league finish, and achieved our record win in a game. We also suffered relegation twice, which no other manager in West Ham’s history has managed. The second cost him his job, his contract not being renewed in 1989. In my opinion, no matter the outcome of this, he is the greatest the club has had.
BILLY BONDS 1991/92 1993/94
One of the greatest players to ever pull on the claret & blue shirt and the man whom many in the fanbase wanted to replace Lyall took over in February of 1990 after the Lou Macari reign fell apart in the shadow of his appearance before the F.A. for match betting during his time at Swindon.
Bill stabilised the club before leading us to promotion in 1991. That promotion was a short-lived affair as, on and off the field, the club imploded in the shadow of the Bond scheme. One of only three clubs to be relegated from Divison One to Divison One, missing out on the inaugural Premier League season.
He recruited his best mate, Harry Redknapp, to assist him, and the Hammers found our way back to the top flight for our first in the Premier League era. That would be his last season managing the club, as prior to the 1994 season starting, Bonzo quit after the club approached him to try to move him upstairs in favour of having Harry as manager.
Bill managed only 84 top-flight games, winning only 22 of them. Twenty-four of them were draws, with 38 defeats. We scored only 84 goals in his 84 games at precisely 1 per game, conceding 117 at 1.39. His average league placing was 18th
His management tenure had terrible lows and terrific highs, and maybe his record on paper does not do his time justice, but the stats won’t lie; it was a dark time for the club.
HARRY REDKNAPP 1994-2001
Taking over controversially has sullied his tenure as time has gone on. The fallout between Bonds and the club and the part he played in his best mate leaving the club has never been explained fully, leaving supposition and myth to drive the narrative of that time.
He stabilised the club in the Premier League, wheeling and dealing in the transfer market allowed him to become only the second Hammers manager, behind Lyall, to achieve three consecutive top 10 finishes in the top league, between 97/98 and 1999/2000, including a P.L. highest placing of 5th.
In his last season, the club slipped back into our old struggles, and despite a late rally, we finished in the lowest placing we had under him. His sacking seemed harsh, but his public criticism in a fanzine of how the chairman at the time, Terry Brown, was running the club, there was only going to be one outcome.
Seven seasons of top-flight football, 269 games, the most any West Ham manager has achieved, only 94 wins, 71 draws and 104 defeats. We scored 324 goals at 1.20 average, conceding 359 at 1.33 average per game. The average league finishing position was 11th.
Under Harry, when we were good, we were great, but too often, that was followed up with a poor performance. He gave us Di Canio Hartson and Kitson and Trevor Sinclair, so I will always love my time watching West Ham.
If I could only watch one game again, it would be the 5-4 win against Bradford. It’s a game that encapsulates everything about West Ham under Harry in 90 minutes.
Part three will look at our managers between 2001 and 2015.