The idea of this list is to rank Premier League clubs based on who ran each club. The focus isn’t just on the money that is spent on wages and transfers fees. Obviously finances dictate what team’s objectives are and have a large say on where teams eventually finish. This list aims to show the impact each owner/chairman has during their time at the club. This third instalment contains my choice on who I believe are the 11th – 15th best run clubs in the division. Following Nicola Cortese’s departure last week hopefully there are no more boardroom dramas anytime soon. Let me know if you agree @bewareflyingfb
11 Roman Abramovich – Chelsea
Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003 and immediate £100m spending spree had never been seen before in England. His decade at the club has seen 10 managers come and go, and in Mourinho’s case return. Despite the revolving door in the manager’s office trophies have continued to be won during the Russian’s decade at the club. Mourinho delivered the club’s first title in 50 years before repeating the feat the following year. The Holy Grail for Abramovich was the Champions League and after so many near misses they won it in 2012 beating Bayern Munich in a dramatic penalty shootout. After Roberto Di Matteo led them to this triumph he was discarded the following season showing how ruthless Abramovich can be. Rafa Benitez was bought in much to the disgust of the fans and as interim coach was already planning to make way before delivering another European trophy. The training complex has been upgraded and talks of a new stadium are ongoing after a failed attempt at purchasing Battersea Power Station. After the early spending sprees Frank Arnesen was recruited from Spurs to scour the world for the best young talent to comply with new FFP rules but there have still been the occasional big money moves, such as £50m man Fernando Torres. In a similar fashion to Sheik Mansour, Roman Abramovich has changed Chelsea from a mid-table side into one that is challenging for trophies on a regular basis.
12 Jeremy Peace – West Bromwich Albion
West Brom have been praised for not overspending and working within their means despite bouncing between the top 2 division. This has proved a diligent approach as the club now have a strong squad and established themselves in the Premier League over the last few years. The board at West Brom have established a structure more akin to clubs on the continent with a head coach working under a sporting director, who is responsible for bringing players into the club. Roberto Di Matteo led the club into the top flight in 2011 but was replaced by the experienced Roy Hodgson before the season was out. He managed to retain their top flight status before taking control of the English national team. Jeremy Peace hired the respected Steve Clarke to his first Head Coach role having been Assistant Manager at Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool. In what turned out to be his only season in charge an 8th place finish was above expectation. However a poor start to this season led to the Scot being placed on gardening leave and West Brom looking for a 4th head coach in 2 years. Although a well-run club it appears that the job of running first team affairs isn’t as highly regarded as at other clubs and control is maintained by the board. Pepe Mel was appointed Head Coach this month but hasn’t been able to bring in his own coaches instead having to work within the structure already in place.
13 Mike Ashley – Newcastle United
From manager sackings, relegation, promotion, renamed stadia, directors of football and 8 year contracts the Tyneside club have seen it all in Mike Ashley’s time at the club. When he first bought the club the Sports Direct owner moved quickly to install Kevin Keegan as manager. This was a popular decision but not entirely logical and to complicate matters Dennis Wise was made Executive Director (Football), whatever that is! This led to growing animosity and eventually to Keegan’s resignation, and later taking Ashley to court and being awarded £2m for constructive dismissal. Another club legend, Alan Shearer, was appointed on a temporary basis but was unable to save the club from relegation. With the club in disarray a quick return to the top flight looked unlikely but Chris Houghton managed it at the first time of asking. Despite wins at Arsenal and looking comfortable in the league the Championship winning manager was sacked and replaced by Alan Pardew. The fans saw him as another member of Mike Ashley’s so called “Cockney Mafia” but Pardew has proved a success at the club. A 5th place finish in 2011/12 led to him being handed an eight-year contract. The return of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football last summer looked like an attempt by Ashley to undermine Pardew and force his out of the club. In an attempt to bring extra revenue to the club Ashley renamed the stadium sportdirect.com@StJamesPark. Unsurprisingly this was an unpopular move with the fans and only got reversed when new sponsors, Wonga, changed it back.
14 Shahid Khan – Fulham
It may be too early to judge Shahid Khan’s tenure at Fulham having only bought the club from Mohammed Al Fayed for up to £200m in July last year. The Pakistani American’s decision to remove the Michael Jackson statue was popular with the fans despite the threat by the outgoing chairman to shave Khan’s infamous moustache off. Following his reputation to fire coaches of his American football team, Jacksonville Jaguars, speculation quickly mounted over Martin Jol’s future. The club started the season slowly and Rene Meulensteen was bought in, initially as assistant to his fellow Dutchman but soon become Head Coach when Jol was sacked following a string of bad results. It would be unfair to say that the decision to relieve the manager of his duties was harsh as Jol looked like a man who had lost motivation in the job. Following the arrivals of Alan Curbishley (remember him) as technical director and Ray Wilkins as Assistant Head Coach it will be interesting to see how the club moves forward. Khan has promised money for reinforcements in the January transfer window starting with an early move to secure Clint Dempsey’s temporary return to Craven Cottage.
15 Randy Lerner – Aston Villa
When Randy Lerner purchased Aston Villa he was seen as the benchmark for foreign investors, he stayed out of team selection, financed signings and supported the manager. This led to three consecutive 6th place finishes between 2008 and 2010. A bright, young British squad was assembled with the likes of Gareth Barry, James Milner, Stuart Downing and Ashley Young managed by Martin O’Neil looked the likeliest candidates the break the top 4 stranglehold of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. They never managed to do so and the team has regressed since. That team departed for the bright lights of Manchester and Liverpool and the investment for replacements wasn’t forthcoming from the American owner. O’Neil left 5 days before the start of the 2010/11 season and was replaced by Alex McLeish. This was an unpopular selection with the fans due to the Scots links with Birmingham City, however Lerner was unperturbed despite appear to move away from appointing Steve McLaren due to a negative reaction from the supporters. In recent times the only big money signing has been for £24million Man Darren Bent when the club appeared to be drifting towards relegation. Now under Paul Lambert the emphasis is on youth and the highest aim appears to be avoiding the drop.