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The best of the best?

Who is the best manager to have ever plied his trade in Britain? It's a subjective question, but the viewers of ESPN Classic's recent show Britain's Top 20 Football Managers have voted and there was a clear winner.

Sir Alex Ferguson polled 38.2% of the vote to comfortably beat Jose Mourinho into second place with the Portuguese receiving a 15.9% share. Just behind the self-appointed 'Special One' in third position came Arsene Wenger with 15.5%.

But before you all cry in despair that the voters ignored everything but the last ten years, and have no knowledge of anything before the shiny lights of the Premier League, you will be heartened to learn that Liverpool legend Bob Paisley came fourth in the poll with 8.4%.

And while Rafa Benitez finished fifth, he was followed by Brian Clough (6th), Bill Shankly (7th) and Sir Matt Busby (8th). And the top ten was completed by Bobby Robson and Kenny Dalglish.

Fans of anyone other than Manchester United might not be impressed with Ferguson's position atop the poll, but with his record of achievement few could be considered in the same league as the man from Govan.

The statistics are incredible: 10 Premier League titles, five FA Cup wins, two League Cups, two European Cups, three Scottish League titles, four Scottish FA Cups and wins in the UEFA Supercup, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. In fact, the only title of merit to elude Ferguson is the UEFA Cup.

The only man to rival Ferguson's achievement is Bob Paisley, who led Liverpool in their most dominant era and landed six League Championships, three European Cups, three League cups, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup.

By comparison the likes of Mourinho and Wenger have some work to do. Impressive though their achievements have been they are not yet in the same league of achievement as either Ferguson or Paisley.

But is greatness defined solely by titles? If it is then it fails to credit the achievement of those managers who not only won titles, but also built clubs and provided legacy.

Managers like Bill Shankly whose character defined Liverpool's playing ethos and whose influence is still felt today. Shankly also happened to win three league titles and two FA Cups, but he did so much more for Liverpool.

Likewise, Sir Matt Busby through his bravery and determination to conquer Europe with flair and style left Manchester United with a tragic and glorious history every football fan should treasure. Five league titles, two FA Cups as the European Cup in 1968 add to Busby's legend.

And what of Brian Clough - the greatest manager England never had, according to the man himself. His achievement in winning the European Cup in successive seasons with provincial club, Nottingham Forest, is rightly held up as one the greatest achievements in football history.

For more thought provoking football programmes with a distinctly retro flavour check out ESPN Classic, on Sky channel 442 in the UK.

Britain's Top 20 Football Managers - The results:

Rank - Manager - % of Vote
1, Sir Alex Ferguson - 38.2%
2, Jose Mourinho - 15.9%
3, Arsene Wenger - 15.5%
4, Bob Paisley - 8.4%
5, Rafael Benitez - 7.8%
6, Brian Clough - 2.7%
7, Bill Shankley - 2.8%
8, Sir Matt Busby - 1.1%
9, Bobby Robson - 0.9%
10, Kenny Dalglish - 0.9%
11, Bill Nicholson - 0.9%
12, Don Revie - 0.7%
13, Kevin Keegan - 0.7%
14, Howard Kendall - 0.6%
15, Jock Stein - 0.4%
16, Sir Alf Ramsey - 0.4%
17, Harry Redknapp - 0.4%
18, Ron Atkinson - 0.2%
19, George Graham - 0.2%
20, Howard Wilkinson - 0.2%


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