In January 2024, two of the greats of world football sadly passed away: Franz Beckenbauer and Mário Zagallo. These players were two of only three (along with Didier Deschamps) to have won the World Cup as both a player and a manager. Which leads us to the question, did any of England’s World Cup-winning squad from 1966 ever come close to emulating this extraordinary feat? And, if not (spoiler alert: they didn’t!), which of England’s World Cup winners turned into the best manager once they’d hung up their boots?
Which World Cup 1966 Squad Members Became Managers?
Before we assess which of the crop of ’66 evolved into the best manager, let’s run through the World Cup squad and outline which players managed which teams and the honours (if any!) they won from the dugout.
|Kent Senior Cup
|Bradford City (caretaker)
|Preston North End, Vancouver Whitecaps, West Bromwich Albion
|Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United, Republic of Ireland
|Second Division title, Anglo-Scottish Cup, Iceland Triangular Tournament
|Oxford City, Eastern AA, Southend United
|Hong Kong Senior Shield
|Philadelphia Fury, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Stoke City, Exeter City, Southampton, Manchester City, Portsmouth
|Preston North End, Wigan Athletic (caretaker)
|Telford United, Chelsea, Kuwait SC
|Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United
|Third Division title, European Cup runners-up
|Northampton Town, Wellington Town
|Barnsley, Rotherham United
Who Was the Best Manager of the 1966 World Cup Winners?
Based on the information presented in the table above, it’s fair to say there were very few exceptional managers to emerge from England’s 1966 World Cup squad. Indeed, only four of the 22 men won anything at all as managers, and two of those were the Kent Senior Cup (Geroge Cohen) and the Hong Kong Senior Shield (Bobby Moore).
To be fair, some of those who didn’t technically win anything at least guided their sides to promotion from the lower leagues. Alan Ball, for instance, took Portsmouth to the top flight of English football in his first stint at the club. And when he returned to Pompey in the late 1990s, he even won a Premier League Manager of the Month award. Overall though, if we are focusing on silverware, judging the best manager of this batch has to be a straight head-to-head between Jimmy Armfield and Jack Charlton. But, given the number of clubs and games he managed, we’re going to throw Alan Ball into the mix too. So let’s take a look at their managerial careers in a little more detail.
- Games Managed – 646
- Win Percentage – 42.4%
Of all the England players from 1966, Jack Charlton came the closest to emulating the achievements of Beckenbauer, Zagallo and Deschamps in the sense that at least he managed a side at a World Cup tournament (two in fact, 1990 and 1994). Although it was never likely Republic of Ireland would go all the way, Charlton certainly helped his side exceed expectations as they made it to the quarter-finals in 1990 and the round of 16 in 1994. His win percentage of 49.4% while Ireland’s boss is very respectable for almost any international side and especially a small nation like Ireland.
He wasn’t quite as effective at club level, but winning the Second Division title in the 1973/74 season with Middlesbrough was a fine achievement. Interestingly, Charlton didn’t sign a contract for any of his managerial jobs and settled for a gentleman’s agreement that he wouldn’t be sacked. While perhaps not one of the greatest managers of all time, the fact he led Ireland to two World Cups cemented his position as a footballing legend for evermore on the Emerald Isle.
- Games Managed – 373
- Win Percentage – 44.8%
Jimmy Armfield performed respectably as manager at both Bolton and Leeds with 44.4% and 45.1% win rates, respectively. He led Bolton to the Third Division title in 1972/73 but, more impressively, he took Leeds United to the brink of European glory, taking them all the way to the final of the European Cup in 1974/75 – although it should be noted that he only took over in October 1974. Unfortunately for Armfield (and Leeds fans), they faced the mighty Bayern Munich in the final in Paris. The German side was packed full of stars including irrepressible striker Gerd Müller and fellow forward Uli Hoeneß. Moreover, Bayern were captained by a footballing legend we’ve already mentioned in this article: Franz Beckenbauer. The match ended 2-0 to Bayern, and how things might have been different for Armfield if the match had gone the other way. Leeds were certainly very hard done to by the referee and the game was controversial to say the least, but sadly for the West Yorkshire side and Armfield it wasn’t to be.
- Games Managed – 666
- Win Percentage – 32.6%
Alan Ball managed a wide variety of clubs but never had any true success other than guiding Portsmouth to the First Division in 1987. Alas, for Ball, statistics don’t lie, and his win percentage was in the 20s for five of his seven managerial jobs. He peaked in the mid-late 1980s with Portsmouth with a win percentage of 42.3%, but ultimately he never quite had the impact as a manager that he would have liked.
Why Were the 1966 Crop Such Poor Managers?
It’s very difficult to work out why a squad packed full of such footballing talent and leadership qualities failed (on the whole) to make the transition to management. Perhaps the desire wasn’t there for some of the players. After all, once you’ve won the World Cup, there’s little left to achieve (although that didn’t stop Beckenbauer, Zagallo and Deschamps, of course!).
Another reason was that maybe many of the players sought simpler lives, out of the spotlight. Indeed many chose more conventional occupations after retiring from football, including owning chip shops, guesthouses or pubs, running hamper businesses and soccer schools, or even getting into the insurance game. But whatever the reason, it’s fair to say there were only a couple of standout managers from the 1966 World Cup-winning squad and if an Englishman is ever to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager, it’s going to be a long time in the future!
Conclusion: Jack Charlton the Best of a Bad Bunch
Ultimately, for leading the unfancied Republic of Ireland to two World Cups and progressing to the knockout stage of each, Jack Charlton is our pick for the best manager from the 1966 World Cup-winning squad. Jimmy Armfield comes in an honourable second, with Alan Ball trailing behind. As for the rest of them, we’re just glad they were much better players than they were managers!