List of Sheffield United F.C. managers

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Contemporary portrait of John Nicholson
John Nicholson - United's most successful manager[1]

This is a chronological list of managers of Sheffield United, a football club based in Sheffield, England.

United were formed in 1889 as an offshoot of the already existing Sheffield United Cricket Club and committee member and club secretary JB Wostinholm was placed in charge of team affairs, thus becoming their first 'manager' (although his official title was 'Club secretary'.) The Blades have since had a further twenty six full-time managers (discounting those appointed on an interim basis), their most recent manager being Nigel Clough who was appointed in 2013.

The clubs most successful manager was John Nicholson who replaced Wostinholm in 1899 and who remained in the post until his death in 1932. Under Nicholson the Blades won the FA Cup four times and established themselves as one of the dominant forces in English football, although winning the Championship for a second time eluded them during that period.

Since Nicholson's death the club have appointed a succession of managers who have enjoyed varying levels of success while the team has generally remained in the top two divisions of English football. The exception was a period of gradual decline during the late 1970s which ultimately saw United relegated to the fourth tier under Martin Peters in 1981. The club recovered and returned to the top flight in 1990 under Dave Bassett.

After a period of relative stability, a chaotic 2010–11 season saw the Blades go through three managers Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed and Micky Adams as well as John Carver who took charge as acting manager for a number of games, the ultimate result of which saw the side relegated to League One.

The majority of the club's managers have been English, the only exceptions being John Harris, Ian Porterfield, Billy McEwan and David Weir (all from Scotland), Gary Speed (who was Welsh) and Danny Wilson who has represented Northern Ireland at international football. Wilson is also the only person to have been manager of both United and fierce cross-town rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Nigel Atkins is the acting manager.

Managerial history[edit]

1889–1932: Early days[edit]

At its formation in 1889 United did not employ what would today be termed a manager, the side was coached by a trainer and a football committee selected the team and decided upon tactics (this was a continuation of the structure of Sheffield United Cricket Club from which the football team had been formed.)[2] They did appoint Joseph Wostinholm to the position of club secretary and he was responsible for the day-to-day running of the club, matchday organisation and dealing with players and contracts.[2] Wostinholm oversaw a period of rapid growth for the team, culminating in 1899 when United won their one and only First Division championship, after which he retired.[2] Wostinholm was replaced by John Nicholson as secretary and he would remain in post for over 30 years until his death in 1932.[1] Nicholson presided over the most successful period in the club's history as United became a leading force in English football, winning the FA Cup four times and regularly challenged at the top of the league but a second Division One title for the club eluded him.[1]

1932–73: A new era[edit]

Following the death of John Nicholson, who died whilst travelling to an away match in Birmingham,[1] the United board turned to Chesterfield manager Teddy Davison to become the club's first real manager.[3] The team were in decline however and were soon relegated for the first time in their history.[3] Davison gradually rebuilt the side with astute signings and young players and regained top flight status but the clubs post-war financial problems would hamper team building for years to come.[3] Davison retired in 1952 and prompted the club to appoint Rotherham United manager Reg Freeman as his successor.[4] Freeman stabilised the team but fell ill and died in 1955,[4] after which United turned to the inexperienced Joe Mercer but he struggled to cope with a team in decline and departed for Aston Villa in 1958.[5] United then appointed Chester manager John Harris who inherited a talented but under performing side which he transformed into a promotion team, returning to Division One in 1961.[6] Harris built a side based on local players and stabilised them in the top flight but financial issues soon prompted the sale of key players and United were eventually relegated once more.[6] Harris opted to 'move upstairs' to become 'General Manager',[6] and handed the role of team manager to Arthur Rowley but he was sacked after one season following disappointing results.[7] Harris returned as manager and guided the side to promotion once more but after a good start back in the top flight Harris' confidence faded and he stepped down in 1973 to 'move upstairs' for the second time.[6]

1973–81: Rapid decline[edit]

Experienced Blackburn Rovers manager Ken Furphy was the man United turned to replace John Harris.[8] He initially did well but the team was ageing and there was little money to replace players, but after a good finish in his first season a disastrous string of results the following year led to Furphy being sacked in October 1975.[8] Jimmy Sirrel was recruited from Notts County but he proved unpopular with both the players and fans and could not halt the decline, overseeing relegation and then being sacked in September 1977 with United at the bottom of Division Two.[7] The ambitious and colourful Harry Haslam was then handed the reins and although many of his ideas were ahead of their time he built an ageing side based on 'star' players at the end of their career.[9] Now in the Third Division performances deteriorated still further and Haslam stepped down due to illness in January 1981.[9] World Cup winner and then United player Martin Peters was promoted to the position of manager but United were relegated to Division Four at the end of the season and Peters resigned.[5]

1981–95: Moving on up[edit]

With a new ambitious board in place United recruited Ian Porterfield as manager in June 1981.[10] He had an immediate impact, winning the Division Four championship in his first season and taking the club back into the second tier two years later on a meagre budget.[10] Despite this many fans were unhappy with the style of football and Porterfield was sacked in 1986 following supporter protests.[10] Coach Billy McEwan was promoted to the position of manager but failed to improve the standard of play and with attendances falling and the team in danger of relegation once more he was sacked in January 1988.[11] United now turned to the colourful character of Dave Bassett who had most recently had a short, unsuccessful spell as manager of Watford.[12] It was to prove an astute appointment as although he could not prevent relegation in his first season he built a solid, hard working team on a small budget and won back to back promotions, returning the club to the top flight and achieving regular mid-table finishes.[12] With the formation of the Premier League United's old financial problems and willingness to sell star players without replacing them meant the side eventually succumbed to relegation and when an immediate return was not forthcoming Basset was sacked in December 1995.[12]

1995–present: Comings and goings[edit]

The following years proved a turbulent time for United as they chased the ambition of Premiership football.[11] Experienced Howard Kendall was recruited as manager and undertook a complete rebuilding of the side but left in June 1997 to take over at Everton.[11] Player-coach Nigel Spackman was promoted to replace Kendall but after initial promise he quit after only eight months citing boardroom interference.[13] This was to become a recurring theme and replacement Steve Bruce would leave after only one season citing the same reasons.[14] Adrian Heath then proved a disastrous appointment and lasted only six months before being sacked with United looking more likely to be relegated than promoted.[9] The Blades then turned to experienced lower league manager Neil Warnock who managed to stave off relegation and began to rebuild the side on a meagre budget.[15] Warnock proved a divisive figure with fans but after a number of mid-table finishes he achieved promotion back to the Premiership in 2006 but the side were poor the following season and were relegated, prompting the board not to renew Warnock's contract.[15]

Just like Adrian Heath, the appointment of Bryan Robson in 2007 proved an unpopular and unsuccessful one and he was sacked after less than a year following poor results and intense fan pressure.[10] Former assistant manager Kevin Blackwell was appointed as Robson's replacement,[16] but despite reaching the play off finals in his first full season the team was obviously in decline and he was sacked after only two games of the 2010–11 season.[17] Worse was to come however as player-coach Gary Speed was briefly promoted to manager,[18] but left after only a few months to take over the Welsh national side.[19] Micky Adams then became the third full-time manager of the season and oversaw a disastrous run of results which saw United relegated and Adams sacked after only six months in charge.[20][21] With United in the third tier once more Danny Wilson was appointed as manager in June 2011, despite protests from United fans over his previous association with cross-town rivals Sheffield Wednesday.[22] He guided the club to the League One play off final in his first full season in charge, losing to Huddersfield Town. Despite the club challenging for promotion the following season, a poor run of results led to Wilson's departure in April 2013,[23] being replaced by Chris Morgan until the end of the season.[23] After a long search for a new boss former Scotland defender David Weir was appointed as Wilson's long-term replacement.[24] His tenure was short-lived however, as he was sacked the following October after winning only one game from thirteen in charge.[25] After Chris Morgan had overseen the team for a brief time, Nigel Clough was appointed as Weir's permanent successor in October 2013.[26]

List of managers[edit]

Contemporary portrait of JB Wostinholm
JB Wostinholm who was the first 'manager' of the Blades[2]
Neil Warnock standing in the Bramall Lane dug out during a match
Close–up portrait of Danny Wilson
Danny Wilson, United manager between 2011 and 2013.[22]
As of 28 October 2014
Name Nat From To P W D L Win%
J.B. Wostinholm[27] (secretary) England England 22 March 1889 31 May 1899 233 103 54 76 44.21%
John Nicholson[28] (secretary) England England 1 June 1899 23 April 1932 1,216 486 281 449 39.97%
Teddy Davison[29] England England 15 June 1932 30 June 1952 592 248 139 205 41.89%
Reg Freeman[30] England England 1 August 1952 4 August 1955 132 54 30 48 40.91%
Joe Mercer[31] England England 18 August 1955 25 December 1958 156 64 35 57 41.03%
Archie Clark[32] (acting) England England 25 December 1958 13 April 1959 20 13 2 5 65%
John Harris[33] Scotland Scotland 13 April 1959 11 July 1968 424 174 102 148 41.04%
Arthur Rowley[34] England England 11 July 1968 6 August 1969 43 16 11 16 37.21%
John Harris[33] Scotland Scotland 6 August 1969 5 December 1973 188 84 45 59 44.68%
Ken Furphy[35] England England 7 December 1973 6 October 1975 80 27 22 31 33.75%
Cec Coldwell[36] (acting) England England 6 October 1975 16 October 1975 1 1 0 0 100%
Jimmy Sirrel[37] England England 16 October 1975 27 September 1977 81 20 23 38 24.69%
Cec Coldwell[38] (acting) England England 27 September 1977 26 January 1978 20 9 5 6 40%
Harry Haslam[39] England England 26 January 1978 16 January 1981 158 50 40 68 31.65%
Martin Peters[40] England England 18 January 1981 30 May 1981 16 3 6 7 18.75%
Ian Porterfield[41] Scotland Scotland 6 June 1981 27 March 1986 226 98 58 70 43.36%
Billy McEwan[42] Scotland Scotland 27 March 1986 2 January 1988 86 27 25 34 31.4%
Dave Bassett[43] England England 21 January 1988 12 December 1995 393 150 101 142 38.17%
Howard Kendall[44] England England 13 December 1995 27 June 1997 82 34 27 21 41.46%
Nigel Spackman[45] England England 27 June 1997 2 March 1998 43 20 17 6 46.51%
Russell Slade[46] (acting) England England 2 March 1998 9 March 1998 2 0 1 1 0%
Steve Thompson[47] (acting) England England 9 March 1998 2 July 1998 17 5 6 6 29.41%
Steve Bruce[48] England England 2 July 1998 17 May 1999 55 22 15 18 40%
Adrian Heath[49] England England 15 June 1999 23 November 1999 22 7 5 10 31.82%
Russell Slade[46] (acting) England England 23 November 1999 2 December 1999 2 0 1 1 0%
Neil Warnock[50] England England 2 December 1999 16 May 2007 388 165 100 123 42.53%
Bryan Robson[51] England England 22 May 2007 14 February 2008 38 14 12 12 36.84%
Kevin Blackwell[52] England England 14 February 2008 14 August 2010 125 53 36 36 42.4%
Gary Speed[53] Wales Wales 17 August 2010 14 December 2010 18 6 9 3 33.33%
John Carver[54] (acting) England England 14 December 2010 30 December 2010 3 1 2 0 33.33%
Micky Adams[55] England England 30 December 2010 10 May 2011 24 4 15 5 16.67%
Danny Wilson[56] Northern Ireland Northern Ireland 27 May 2011 10 April 2013 106 55 31 20 51.89%
Chris Morgan (acting)[57] England England 10 April 2013 10 June 2013 7 2 2 3 28.57%
David Weir[58] Scotland Scotland 10 June 2013 11 October 2013 13 1 2 10 7.69%
Chris Morgan (acting)[57] England England 11 October 2013 23 October 2013 3 1 1 1 33.33%
Nigel Clough[59] England England 23 October 2013 25 May 2015 60 34 14 12 56.67%

Assistant Managers[edit]

Archie Clark was the first person to be officially appointed assistant manager of Sheffield United in 1958.[60] Since then United have appointed a further 24 people to the position, with Gary Crosby[61] post holder.[note 1] Of the club's assistant managers, four of them (Martin Peters, Adrian Heath, Nigel Spackman and Kevin Blackwell) were subsequently appointed to the position of manager on a full–time basis, while a further three (Archie Clark, Cec Coldwell twice and Russell Slade twice) took the role on a caretaker basis. Steve Thompson made the reverse transition, having a spell as acting manager in 1997 before being appointed as joint assistant manager to Steve Bruce a year later.[62]


  1. ^ At various points there have been more than one person with the title of assistant manager employed at a single time.
  2. ^ a b Adam Owen's full job title was 'Assistant Manager - Performance'. Lee Carsley's full job title was 'Assistant Manager - Technical


  • Clarebrough and Kirkham (2008). Sheffield United Who's Who. Hallamshire Press. ISBN 978-1-874718-69-7. 
  • Clarebrough and Kirkham (2012). Sheffield United – The Complete Record. Derby Books Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78091-019-2. 
  1. ^ a b c d Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 392.
  2. ^ a b c d Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 396.
  3. ^ a b c Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, pp. 19–20.
  4. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 20.
  5. ^ a b c Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 24.
  6. ^ a b c d Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 21.
  7. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 26.
  8. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, pp. 20–21.
  9. ^ a b c d Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b c d Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 25.
  11. ^ a b c Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 23.
  12. ^ a b c Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 18.
  13. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, pp. 26–27.
  14. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 19.
  15. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 28.
  16. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, pp. 18–19.
  17. ^ "Club statement – Saturday". Sheffield United - The Official Website. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Sheffield United announce Gary Speed as new manager". BBC Sport. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "Gary Speed confirmed as new Wales manager". The Guardian. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  20. ^ a b "Micky Adams confirmed as Sheffield United manager". BBC Sport. 30 December 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  21. ^ "Sheffield United sack manager Micky Adams". BBC Sport. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Danny Wilson's Sheffield United appointment greeted with protests". The Guardian. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  23. ^ a b "Club Statement". Sheffield United F.C. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
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  25. ^ a b "Manager Weir departs as Blades Boss". Sheffield United F.C. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
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  27. ^ J.B. Wostinholm management career statistics at Soccerbase
  28. ^ John Nicholson management career statistics at Soccerbase
  29. ^ Teddy Davison management career statistics at Soccerbase
  30. ^ Reg Freeman management career statistics at Soccerbase
  31. ^ Joe Mercer management career statistics at Soccerbase
  32. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2012, pp. 406–407.
  33. ^ a b John Harris management career statistics at Soccerbase
  34. ^ Arthur Rowley management career statistics at Soccerbase
  35. ^ Ken Furphy management career statistics at Soccerbase
  36. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2012, pp. 440–441.
  37. ^ Jimmy Sirrel management career statistics at Soccerbase
  38. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2012, pp. 444–445.
  39. ^ Harry Haslam management career statistics at Soccerbase
  40. ^ Martin Peters management career statistics at Soccerbase
  41. ^ Ian Porterfield management career statistics at Soccerbase
  42. ^ Billy McEwan management career statistics at Soccerbase
  43. ^ Dave Bassett management career statistics at Soccerbase
  44. ^ Howard Kendall management career statistics at Soccerbase
  45. ^ Nigel Spackman management career statistics at Soccerbase
  46. ^ a b Russell Slade management career statistics at Soccerbase
  47. ^ Steve Thompson management career statistics at Soccerbase
  48. ^ Steve Bruce management career statistics at Soccerbase
  49. ^ Adrian Heath management career statistics at Soccerbase
  50. ^ Neil Warnock management career statistics at Soccerbase
  51. ^ Bryan Robson management career statistics at Soccerbase
  52. ^ Kevin Blackwell management career statistics at Soccerbase
  53. ^ Gary Speed management career statistics at Soccerbase
  54. ^ John Carver management career statistics at Soccerbase
  55. ^ Micky Adams management career statistics at Soccerbase
  56. ^ Danny Wilson management career statistics at Soccerbase
  57. ^ a b Chris Morgan management career statistics at Soccerbase
  58. ^ David Weir management career statistics at Soccerbase
  59. ^ Nigel Clough management career statistics at Soccerbase
  60. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, pp. 388–389.
  61. ^ a b "Co-owners praise Morgs". Sheffield United F.C. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  62. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 27.
  63. ^ a b Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 388.
  64. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 393.
  65. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 86.
  66. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 391.
  67. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 108.
  68. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 395.
  69. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 389.
  70. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 394.
  71. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 190.
  72. ^ Clarebrough and Kirkham 2008, p. 95.
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  74. ^ "Kidd snubs Sunderland for Blades". BBC Sport. 11 September 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  75. ^ "Blackwell in for Robson at Blades". BBC Sport. 14 February 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  76. ^ "Sheffield United name Frank Barlow as assistant manager". BBC Sport. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  77. ^ "Promotion is the aim". Sheffield United FC Official Web Site. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
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  79. ^ "Carsley joins backroom team". Sheffield United FC Official Web Site. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 

External links[edit]