Postecoglou 3rd: Ranking every manager to leap from Scotland to the Premier League

Jason Soutar
Ange Postecoglou is third in our ranking of managers to go from Scotland to the Premier League
Ange Postecoglou is third in our ranking of managers to go from Scotland to the Premier League

As Ange Postecoglou approaches the end of his first season as Tottenham head coach, we have updated our ranking of every manager to leave Scotland for a Premier League club for the first time in their career, adding Big Ange to the list for the first time. The standard is low. It is clearly a big ol’ jump.

Here are the ground rules: The manager must have had no experience managing in England before and must have joined the English club directly from Scotland. The English club has to have been in the top flight when the manager joined. So no Owen Coyle, who moved to Burnley from St. Johnstone and led them to the Premier League. He must have managed in Our League with the club he joined from a Scottish side. Sir Alex Ferguson counts as he did manage in the Premier League, despite joining Manchester United when it was the old First Division.


7) Steven Gerrard (Rangers to Aston Villa, November 2021)
After winning the title with Rangers, Steven Gerrard made the ambitious move to Aston Villa, whose hierarchy heavily backed him in the transfer window, but ultimately got fed up almost a year into his tenure.

Many expected the Villa gig to be a stepping stone for Gerrard en route to becoming Liverpool manager, but that has gone up in flames. He has to do some major rebuilding of his reputation to even be considered for the job if Arne Slot fails. Unless the Reds do a Chelsea and need him on an interim basis like Todd Boehly did with Frank Lampard.

Gerrard won eight of his 31 matches in the dugout in 2022 after a bright start at the back end of 2021, leaving the Villans 15th in the Premier League in October 2022. If anything can help emphasise how bad he did, it is Villa’s radical improvement under Unai Emery.


6) Jim Jefferies (Hearts to Bradford, November 2000)
Having won the Scottish Cup with Hearts, Jim Jefferies was brought in by Bradford City on November 20, 2000. The Bantams were headed for Premier League relegation and Jefferies could not steer them to safety. They finished with 25 points, which was 16 points from safety as the Scottish manager picked up 18 points between the end of November and May, meaning they had a pathetic seven points when he took over.

Bradford won one and drew two of Jefferies’ first three games, but nine losses from their next 11 made the club’s relegation all the more inevitable. He resigned in December 2001 after a poor start to the season made instant promotion nothing more than a pipe dream.


5) Walter Smith (Rangers to Everton, August 1998)
Rangers legend Walter Smith spent three-and-a-half years at Everton after a great time at Ibrox. Smith was promised funds and ambition at Goodison Park, but he was woefully let down. He had to sell a number of important players with Duncan Ferguson being offloaded behind his back at one point.

Smith’s time at Everton was underwhelming. The Toffees finished in the bottom half in all three of his seasons and he was sacked in March 2002. His time at the club wasn’t all for nothing, though; his departure brought in David Moyes, who went on to establish himself as a Toffees legend.


4) Graeme Souness (Rangers to Liverpool, April 1991)
Graeme Souness was Rangers manager between July 1987 and April 1991. He joined Liverpool directly from the Ibrox club a year before the invention of the Premier League.

Souness was very successful at Rangers but only won one piece of silverware as Reds boss, guiding them to the FA Cup in his first full season and managing the club he once captained with so much pride. He made what he described as an “almighty rick” when he conducted an exclusive interview with The Sun in 1992 after undergoing heart surgery. The story was published on the third anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Not a great look, is it?

The former midfielder guided Liverpool to a sixth-place finish in 1993/94, and the lack of a trophy win meant they missed out on European qualification for the first time since 1963, excluding the six seasons they were banned from continental competitions.

Souness took over a squad in decline but did help Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp break into the team. Every cloud.


3) Ange Postecoglou (Celtic to Tottenham, June 2023)
Here’s the man of the moment. Big Ange got the Celtic job in the summer of 2021 and later reflected on himself as a “joke” to fans when he was appointed. He had the last laugh, though, winning five domestic trophies out of a possible six before making the leap to manage in the Premier League.

Incidentally, Postecoglou started very poorly at Parkhead, struggling massively away from home and falling behind Rangers in the SPFL title race. That elusive first away victory on matchday eight then kicked off a ridiculous unbeaten run in the league, failing to lose another match until September of the following season, which kicked off a 27-match unbeaten run of its own, dropping only four points in that tremendous spell.

We feel this is relevant as it has been the other way around for Postecoglou at Tottenham: starting well, seeing themselves considered as title challengers, before quickly realising their ceiling was fourth before that became ‘Nobody expected us to finish as high as fifth anyway’.

The signs are there that Big Ange is a top coach capable of winning trophies in north London. The signs are also there that his stubbornness to adapt is going to hold Spurs back and see them humiliated in matches. Whatever the outcome for the Premier League’s first Australian manager, it is sure to be entertaining for the neutral.



2) Alex McLeish (Scotland to Birmingham, November 2007)
He technically joined from the Scottish national team, but Alex McLeish gets the nod having joined Birmingham City during the 07/08 season. His club experience before joining the Blues was with Rangers, Hibernian and Motherwell.

McLeish secured a Premier League double over Spurs, winning 3-2 at White Hart Lane in his first game and 4-1 at St. Andrew’s. Despite a victory by the same scoreline over Blackburn Rovers on the final day of the season, Birmingham were relegated under the Scot. After showing signs of promise, the Midlands club stuck by him and they returned to the top flight at the first time of asking.

His first full Premier League season was brilliant. Birmingham enjoyed a 12-match unbeaten run, he was named Manager of the Month for December 2009 – becoming the first Blues boss to receive the award – and led his team to a ninth-place finish, the club’s highest position in over 50 years.

McLeish signed a new contract and then defied the odds to win the League Cup, beating Arsenal at Wembley. Birmingham could not avoid the drop after a poor run of form, however, meaning they went down the same campaign they won a trophy.

Birmingham wanted McLeish to stay, but he resigned and joined arch-rivals Aston Villa in an extremely controversial move which immediately made him public enemy number one in the blue half of Birmingham, while he struggled to win over the fans at Villa Park. It, as expected, all ended in tears.


1) Sir Alex Ferguson (Aberdeen to Manchester United, November 1986)
1392 matches, 25 years, 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, two Champions Leagues. Sir Alex Ferguson is the best to ever do it in Our League – though Pep Guardiola is getting there.

This was never up for debate and the rules were somewhat bent to include the legendary Scot, because this list without Fergie would be a shambles.

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