Best Scottish Managers of All Time

Sat 09 October 2021 | 6:05

Scottish football is far away from its golden days when Celtic and Rangers were considered as powerhouses in the European football. But still Scotland has developed some of the greatest coaches that football has ever seen. That’s why we dedicated an article to the best Scottish managers of all time.

There is no need to emphasize how great a manager can influence a football team. Even having the best possible starting XI in your club doesn’t guarantee trophies if you don’t have the right person at the dugout. This is the manager's job to create harmony between the players that lead the club to glory. We may hear about the players way more often than the managers, but at the end of the day, this game is all about the battle of ideas between the coaches.

Scotland had a remarkable role in the early foundations of the beautiful game, but now the Scottish football is not comparable with their English neighbors in terms of glory nor glamour. Although Scotland had some brilliant football players in its history such as

Denis Law

at Manchester United and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, many will underestimate the countries potential to produce some of the greatest football managers as well. So, stay tuned if you want to know about the best Scottish managers of all time.

Who Are the Best Scottish Managers of All Time?

When it comes to the best Scottish manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson is the obvious choice for every football fan around the world. But he is not the only one, you can find many great managers name amongst the

Scotland managers list

throughout the football history. Therefore, if you are interested to know these masterminds, here is our shortlist of the 10 greatest Scottish managers of all time:

  • David Moyes

  • Willie Waddell

  • Walter Smith

  • George Graham

  • Sir Kenny Dalglish

  • Bill Struth

  • Jim Mclean

  • Bill Shankly

  • Jock Stein

  • Sir Alex Ferguson

David Moyes

Our list of the 10 greatest Scottish managers of all time starts off with one of the modern coaches in today’s football. David Moyes started learning the coaching methods when he was still playing professional football as a defender. He took some coaching curses and tried to compile notes on managers he had played under and studied their techniques and tactics. In 1999 Moyes’s journey as a professional head coach started at Preston North End. During four years at the club, Moyes led his team to a promotion to the Division One by winning the Division Two title and he was on the verge of gaining a promotion to the Premier League as his side lost the 2001 Football League First Division Play-off Final to Bolton Wanderers.

His successes at Preston were recognized by Everton and the toffees trusted Moyes as their new head coach in 2002.  It turned out that Moyes and Everton were the perfect match for each other as he stayed at the club for more than a decade which is quite a rare occurrence in one of the most competitive football leagues. In 2013 Sir Alex Ferguson personally recommended David Moyes as his successor as he was retiring from the game.

But filling the void of a coach at SAF’s caliber was nearly an impossible job and Moyes’s career at Manchester United came to an end sooner than expected. Right now, Moyes is leading

West Ham United

and his side was so close to gain a UCL promotion in the 2020-21 season. Moyes still has time on his side and we would not be surprised if he reaches at the top of the European football someday and becomes one of the best Scottish managers of all time.

Willie Waddell

William Waddell as known as Willie Waddell was a one club man who spent his entire career at

Rangers Glasgow

as a forward. He also represented Scotland national team on 18 occasions and eventually started a coaching career in 1957 as he joined Kilmarnock. Willie Waddell’s eight-year spell at Kilmarnock was the club’s most prosperous era up to this day. Waddell steered the club to four runners-up places in the league and also managed to reach to three domestic cup finals but lost all of them. Eventually, Kilmarnock won its one and only league championship with Willie Waddell at the wheel in 1965 as they beat the rivals Heart of Midlothian on the final fixture.

In 1969 Willie Waddell made a return to his beloved club, Rangers. Back then Celtic were dominating the Scottish football and Rangers was craving for a trophy for six years. Waddell was the man who ended the waiting with a Scottish League Cup in 1971. The next year Willie Waddell had his best season as a manager which made him one of the

best Scottish managers of all time

. Waddell led his men to a European Cup Winners Cup final in 1972 where they faced Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona. Rangers managed to beat Dynamo in a thrilling match that ended up with a 3-2 result. That trophy, was Ranger’s only European trophy up to this day which shows how important Waddell’s achievement at the club was. 

Walter Smith

While looking at the list of Scottish football championship-winning managers, you simply can’t ignore Walter Smith. The man who managed to win seven back-to-back Scottish Premier League titles from 1990 to 1997. In addition to those priceless trophies, Rangers bagged three Scottish cups and three Scottish League Cups under Walter Smith. After his absolute dominance at Scottish football, Smith decided to move abroad and joined Everton in 1998. He had a relatively good spell at the club and kept the job for four years until he was replaced by David Moyes, another coach in our

list of the 10 greatest Scottish managers of all time


For a couple of years, Walter Smith was Sir Alex Ferguson’s right hand at Man United before he took the Scotland national job in 2004. The last chapter of Walter Smith’s coaching career was a reunion with Rangers in 2007. Once again, the trophies were coming one after another and Smith added another three league titles alongside a few domestic cups to the club’s trophy cabinet. In the 2007-08 season Smith was going to accomplish a masterpiece at Rangers by winning the UEFA Cup. He led his men to the final of the tournament which was held in Manchester against

Zenit St. Petersburg

, but a 2-0 defeat took away their chances to achieve the second European trophy in the club’s history. 

George Graham

Amongst the Scotland managers list there are a few coaches that spent all of their managerial careers outside the Scotland soil and George Graham is one of them. During his playing days, Graham was a decent midfielder that played for some top clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United. Just like his playing career, Graham’s coaching career started in England as well. In 1982 he took charge at Millwall and dragged up the club from the third division to the top tier in just four years. That was enough for


directors to choose him as their new head coach in 1986. As a player, Graham had won a league title and a FA Cup title with the Gunners and now he was ready to replicate those achievements as a manager.

 During his nine seasons at the London club, Graham won eight silverwares including a couple of League titles and a European Cup Winners Cup in 1994. His successful era at Arsenal came to an end in 1995 as he was replaced by Arsene Wenger. After that, Graham gained a UEFA Cup promotion with Leeds United and came back to London to end up his coaching career by managing the Arsenal rivals, Tottenham. A football league cup with Spurs was Graham’s last ever trophy. He was a winner man that didn’t fail in any of his clubs as a coach and he surely deserves a place amongst the best Scottish manager of all time list.

Sir Kenny Dalglish

It is common that the great football players don’t have a remarkable career as managers but this was not the case for

Sir Kenny Dalglish

. He was one of the best attackers during his playing days and scored more than a hundred goals for each of Celtic and Liverpool. On his last five years as a player, Dalglish took the player-manager role at Liverpool and made sure that the club’s golden generation can add some more trophies to its name. Before hanging up his boots, Dalglish led his teammates to three League titles and a couple of FA Cups. Add to that An English Super Cup and four FA Charity shields.

Since 1990 Dalglish decided to concentrate solely on his coaching career and Blackburn Rovers was his next team after Liverpool. In his last season at Blackburn, Dalglish had one of the most iconic campaigns in the Premier League which led to winning the title for the third time in the club’s history. He is one of the few managers that won the English top flight with two different clubs. After a short spell at Celtic and winning a domestic cup in 2000, Dalglish retired from coaching but 11 years later he had his last dance with Liverpool for a single season which ended up with winning a Football League Cup.

Bill Struth

As the fifth most decorated football manager in the history with 30 titles, Bill Struth cemented his place not only as one of the best Scottish managers of all time but also as one of the icons of football in Britain. He didn’t have a career as a professional footballer but his extraordinary coaching career started in 1914 as an assistant coach at Rangers. Six years later William Struth aka Bill Struth became the main man at the club as he was appointed as the head coach. From the very beginning, Bill Struth dominated the league as he won a league title in each of his first four seasons.

The legendary coach who insisted on players wearing bowler hats on the pitch, stayed as Rangers head coach for 34 years. During these three decades, Rangers won 30 titles including 18 league title, 10 Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups. In the

list of Scottish football championship-winning managers

Bill Struth has won the most league titles and that’s surly more than enough to consider him as one of the greatest managers of all time.  As a Rangers legend, the main stand of the club’s home ground is named after him and his achievements at the club are appreciated up to this day. 

Jim Mclean

The underdogs who challenge the giants of football has always been a favorite story among the folks.  Jim Mclean’s Dundee United was one of these fairy tales. Only one year after his retirement as a forward, Jim Mclean joined Dundee United as their head coach in 1971 and didn’t change his club in his entire 22-years coaching career. Dundee United was a midtable club when Mclean joined them. At the beginning, he focused on creating a young and promising core at the squad and convinced some talented Scottish youngsters to join his project at

Dundee United


 Mclean needed a few years to build his team and the hard work nearly paid off in 1974 as they reached to the Scottish Cup final but they lost the match to Celtic. Eventually Dundee United won its first couple of trophies with Mclean at the reigns which were two consecutive Scottish League Cups in 1980 and 1981. Now Dundee United was considered as a title contender in Scotland and they clinched the league title in 1983 for the first time ever. Mclean didn’t stop there and had an eye for a European trophy.

During the 1983-84 season Dundee United had a spectacular run at the European Cup and reached to the semi-finals where they lost to Roma in a controversial second leg match in Italy. Three years later Mclean steered his men to a UEFA Cup final but once again they couldn’t finish the job as they lost to the Swedish side IFK Gothenburg. Nevertheless, turning a midtable club such as Dundee United to one of the title contenders in both Scotland and Europe, was nothing short than a miracle. Jim Mclean is one of the best Scottish managers of all time for his wonderful career at Dundee United.

Bill Shankly

The man who chose the You’ll Never Walk Alone as the Liverpool’s anthem and shaped up the club as one of the elite sides in England and Europe. Bill Shankly played almost his entire career for

Preston North End

as a midfielder and immediately after retirement, got appointed as the head coach of Carlisle United in 1949. Ten years later he joined Liverpool which was playing in the second division back then. The club was in a desperate situation and nobody would even consider them as a potential title contender in the English football. But the great Bill Shankly had other ideas. It took Shankly two seasons to build up his team and dragged Liverpool back to the first division by winning the second division title in 1962.

Shankly was feeling a special bound with Liverpool and its fans and that helped him to rebuild the Mersey Side club as one of the biggest clubs in Europe. During the next decades, Liverpool won three league titles, two FA Cups, three FA Charity Shield and one UEFA Cup in 1973. But there is no doubt that Shankly’s legacy at the club worth way more than these silverwares. It is hard to imagine where Liverpool would be today if Shankly didn’t join the club when they were struggling in the second division. That explains why Bill Shankly is one of


best Scottish managers of all time

Jock Stein

Another Scottish midfielder who turned out to be one of the best Scottish managers of all time. Jock Stein played his last years of football at


. In 1960 Stein broke his teeth as a manager by taking the Dunfemilne Athletic job. He won five domestic titles with the club and had a successful season at Hibernian until Celtic offered him the head coach position in 1965. On his debut season at Celtic Jock Stein wrote his name in the list of Scottish football championship-winning managers. He led the club to nine straight league titles in addition to eight Scottish Cups.

But his masterpiece came in the 1966-67 season. On his second season at the club, Jock Stein aimed for the famous Big Ear trophy. Celtic’s European campaign went well and they managed to reach to the final against the legendary Helenio Herrera’s Inter Milan. After conceding an early goal, Celtic completed their comeback at the last minutes of the game and crowned as the champions of the Europe for the first time ever. Up to this day, that is the Celtic’s only European trophy which indicates why Jock Stein is one of the club’s legends.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Well, there is no surprise when you are talking about the very best Scottish manager of all time. Even if you are not a passionate football fan, you probably have heard about

Sir Alex Ferguson

and his long-lasting run with Manchester United. It all started back in 1974 when the 33 years old Ferguson joined St Mirren as the manager and a few years later won the second tier of Scottish football with a young and exciting squad. His next stop was at Aberdeen where he won three league titles, five domestic cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup and a European Super Cup.

After the tragic death of his mentor, Jock Stein, during the world cup qualifications, Sir Alex Ferguson succeeded him as the head coach of the Scotland national team before joining Manchester United in 1986. His early years at Old Trafford was not prosperous and it took him nearly four years to build up his winning team. Bagging the silverwares started with a FA Cup in 1990 and since then, there was nothing that could stop Manchester United from winning trophies. 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Charity Shields and 2 Champions League titles are the highlights of Sir Alex Ferguson’s era at Old Trafford. So, there is only one answer to the question “who is the best of the

best Scottish managers of all time

?” and it is Sir Alex Fergusons.

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source: SportMob

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