Image: Leeds United at Elland Road, Angry Young Man, Flickr

Leeds United have had some great managers at the helm throughout their rich history. We take a look at some of the best Bosses who have taken charge of the Whites.

Last updated: 20/06/23 at 12:24

While Leeds United are no longer the European juggernaut that they once were, they are still a club with a rich and storied history.  The club has picked up 13 trophies in the 103 years since their conception, including 7 League Titles, 1 FA Cup, and 1 League Cup. This makes them the 15th most successful team in English football history.

The key to Leeds's success over the years was having a strong leader in charge, who knew how to get the best out of his players and could work successfully on a limited spending budget.

We look at Leeds United’s top 5 greatest managers based on their success and influence on the club.

Arthur Fairclough

1920 - 1927 | Games: 309 | Wins: 111 | Honours: 1

The first manager on this list did not have the most successful tenure in charge of Leeds, but perhaps one of the most important. When Leeds City was disbanded in 1919 and reformed into Leeds United in 1920, Arthur Fairclough was appointed as their first-ever manager.

He assembled a squad of players from junior surrounding clubs and, with the help of a few senior squad additions, won the Second Division title within 4 years - an incredible feat for a newly formed club.

Fairclough resigned at the end of the 1926/27 season, after almost 7 years at the helm due to a string of bad performances. However, he is praised among Leeds followers for building and leaving a very good foundation for future managers.

Marcelo Bielsa

2018 - 2020 | Games: 170 | Wins: 81 | Honours: 1

One of the most interesting football managers in the world Marcel Bielsa, or ‘El Loco’ as he's been famously referred to, took charge of Leeds in 2018. He was responsible for their last trophy and also for their promotion back to the Premier League after a 16-year hiatus.

Bielsa became the highest-paid manager in Leeds's history when he signed for £8 million per season. He is noted for the fantastic football that Leeds United produced under his reign and for his fiery nature on the touchline that earned him his nickname.  

Upon their promotion back to the premier league, Bielsa led Leeds to a 9th-place finish, which is higher than any other newly promoted team in the last 20 years. They also picked up wins against Tottenham and Manchester City.

Bielsa resigned in 2020 after a poor start to the season, but he is still loved as a cult hero among the Leeds United faithful.

Jimmy Armfield

1974 - 1978 | Games: 194 | Wins: 88 | Honours: 0

Jimmy Armfield took charge of Leeds United in 1974, replacing controversial figure, Brian Clough. Armfield was tasked with rebuilding and revitalizing the aging squad left by legendary manager Don Revie’s reign.

Armfield achieved this and had some success in his tenure with Leeds United, finishing consistently in the top 10 and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

Jimmy Armfield's greatest success with Leeds was reaching the 1974/75 European Cup final, which they consequently lost to German super club Bayern Munich in controversial circumstances.

Although Armfield never won any silverware with Leeds, he revitalized a dying squad after the departure of the club’s most successful manager and brought The Whites as close as they've ever been to winning the biggest trophy in club football. For this, Armfield has earned a well-deserved place on this list.

Howard Wilkinson

1988 - 1996 | Games: 400 | Wins: 173 | Honours: 3

Howard Wilkinson took over Leeds United in 1988 when the future did not look bright for the West Yorkshire club. They were playing second-tier football and were beginning to fade out of the circle of well-known English clubs. However, four years after Howard’s appointment, Leeds United were crowned Champions of England.

Quote from Howard Wilkinson in the National Football Museum
Image: Quote from Howard Wilkinson in the National Football Museum, Dunk, Flickr.

Wilkinson took an average squad and turned them into disciplined champions, earning himself the nickname 'Sergeant Wilko’. He also managed players such as Vinnie Jones, Eric Catona and Gary Speed and, to date, is the last Leeds manager to win a major trophy, a drought that is currently at almost 31 years.

Wilkinson picked up 3 trophies in charge of Leeds and was the last manager to win the old First Division. Therefore, he is rightly considered to be one of Leeds United's greatest managers.

Don Revie

1961 - 1974 | Games: 743 | Wins: 396 | Honours: 8

Everyone on this list is a legendary Leeds United manager, but there is one name that stands above the rest in the club’s folklore, and that name is Don Revie.

Revie’s first contribution to the club was as a player in 1958, when he captained the Whites as they avoided relegation. In 1961, he was appointed player-manager as Leeds were battling in the Second Division and completely reformed the entire club into the giants they became.

The Don Revie Statue outside Elland Road Stadium
Image: The Don Revie Statue outside Elland Road, Jake, Flickr 

He developed a successful youth academy, created a 'family feel' around all of the club’s players and staff, and implemented revolutionary tactics to give his team an advantage over their opponents.

Under the guidance of Revie, Leeds was hugely successful and became one of the most feared teams in the country. In his 13 years at the club, he won 3 league titles, 1 FA cup, 1 League cup, 1 FA Charity Shield, and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971.

Revie is responsible for over half of Leeds United's trophies since their conception. He’s also famed for taking an unexceptional team and turning them into a footballing powerhouse. Without Don Revie, Leeds United would not be the club that they are today.        

Honorable mention

An honourable mention for a manager that just missed out on this list is Simon Grayson. The Leeds academy graduate was appointed as the manager of his boyhood club in 2008.

In his 5 years in charge of the club, he produced a memorable victory for Manchester United in the FA Cup and secured promotion back up to the Championship in 2010.

In the 2 years that followed, he built a very entertaining Leeds team that was almost good enough to challenge for promotion back to England's top tier. However, he fell just short and departed the club in 2012 after a number of losses.

In recent times, American manager Jesse Marsch has got Leeds United back to playing their impressive and entertaining brand of football that helped put them on the map.

There's never a dull moment at Elland Road, with the all-or-nothing style of play that Leeds has adopted, so you won't want to miss a single moment of the action.

Why not elevate your viewing experience, and opt for a VIP hospitality experience with Seat Unique? Explore available packages and guarantee your place below.

Explore & book Leeds United hospitality

If you're a fan of Leeds United, then why not check out our post about Leeds United's biggest rivals.