Ranking Newcastle United’s Premier League managers from worst to best
Newcastle United have endured more than their fair share of ups and downs in the Premier League era – and it’s a bit of an understatement to say their managerial history represents a mixed bag.
In 27 seasons in the Premier League, Newcastle have finished in the top four on five occasions but finished in the bottom half 15 times and twice been relegated.
Including caretakers, 20 different managers have taken charge of the club in that time – we’ve ranked the 15 who have overseen at least 10 matches, so Alan Shearer misses out (lucky for him).
15. Joe Kinnear
Kinnear was seen as a bizarre appointment in September 2008 following Keegan’s departure, but nobody could have predicted what would follow six days later when he called a journalist a c**t during a press conference in which he swore more than 70 times.
The former Wimbledon manager lasted 18 league games, of which he won only four, before a health scare which required a heart bypass operation saw him depart in February, not long after he had referred to Charles N’Zogbia as ‘Insomnia’.
Newcastle went on to be relegated under Alan Shearer, with Kinnear returning to St James’ in 2013 for an equally bizarre spell as director of football.
14. John Carver
Appointed as interim manager following Pardew’s exit in December 2014, Carver is most famous for describing himself as “the best coach in the Premier League” at a time when Newcastle had won nine points from a possible 48 under his stewardship.
They were two points above the relegation zone with three matches left at the time, having lost their last eight games, but they did at least manage to survive, beating West Ham 2-0 on the final day.
13. Steve McClaren
The former England boss pleaded for the supporters’ patience when he was appointed ahead of the 2015-16 season, but an eight-game winless start in the Premier League did little to encourage his doubters.
The likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend were signed during McClaren’s time in charge, but he failed to get a tune out of them and was sacked in March with a record of only six wins in 28 league games and the team in 19th place.
McClaren said in a statement he was “confident that we would have stayed in the Premier League”, but few agreed, and Benitez was unable to stop the team from slipping into the Championship.
12. Ruud Gullit
Leaving Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson on the bench as a power-play backfired when Newcastle lost 2-1 to Sunderland in 1999. Gullit retired from the position just three days later.
He did lead the team to the FA Cup final in his first year in charge, but a 13th-placed finish in the league combined with his fallings-out with players and poor signings ensured few tears were shed when he left just five games into the 1999-2000 season following that defeat in the Tyne-Wear derby.
11. Sam Allardyce
Big Sam signed a three-year deal to take over at Newcastle in May 2007, at a time when his successes with Bolton Wanderers weren’t such a distant memory.
That summer, which saw Mike Ashley take over, Allardyce bought Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, Geremi Njitap, Joey Barton and José Enrique into the fold, giving him a decent hit rate of success.
But the new manager’s style of play was always going to be problematic for Geordie supporters, and after a good start to the season, a few poor runs of form ensured the critics were never silenced for long.
Ashley’s decision to dispense of Allardyce’s services in January and bring back Keegan as his replacement made him a very popular man, which sounds weird.
10. Graeme Souness
Souness was not the most popular appointment as Sir Bobby Robson’s replacement in 2004, but the Newcastle board apparently saw him as the man to crack down on discipline in the dressing room.
Ultimately, however, it was his relationship with the players that let him down – and his first season in charge is most memorable for an on-pitch fight between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer.
Initial results were good, but the Magpies only finished 14th, just a year after finishing fifth under Robson.
Souness signed Michael Owen the following summer for what remains the club’s record transfer fee, but an early injury proved costly, while his next most expensive signing, Albert Luque, completely flopped.
The Scot was sacked midway in February 2006 after a run of no wins in six, with the team 15th, only six points above the bottom three.
9. Steve Bruce
The former Manchester United centre-back had many advocates in the media, and they not entirely unreasonably pointed to the fact that results under Bruce weren’t a million miles off his predecessor, Rafael Benitez.
In two full Premier League seasons under Benitez, the Magpies won 24 matches, finishing 10th and 13th. In two full Premier League seasons under Bruce, they won 23 matches and finished 13th and 12th. He also led them to their first FA Cup quarter-final in 15 years.
The results are there – excuse the pun – in black and white. But the results don’t tell the whole picture – the football was forgettable at best, and the performances were generally very poor.
In fact, by most expected goals (xG) metrics, Newcastle were lucky to stay up under his tenure – something that most regular watchers will have told you via the simple eye test. Unlike in some superb spells under his predecessor, it never looked like the club was going anywhere with Bruce in charge.
And in the end, he didn’t even have the results. He was sacked by the new owners in October 2021, with Newcastle in the relegation zone, winless after eight matches, looking destined for the drop if they didn’t make a change.
8. Eddie Howe
Things could look very, very different for Howe the next time we update this.
At the moment, the jury remains out. Appointed to steady the ship and usher in a new era, the 44-year-old has failed to ride the wave of positivity from the galvanised fanbase to deliver a new manager bounce.
Howe’s Magpies were humiliated with a 1-0 defeat at home to third-tier Cambridge United in the third round of the FA Cup, and have only won two of nine Premier League matches, failing to beat immediate relegation rivals Norwich and Watford on home soil.
But aside from the Cambridge debacle and a diabolical 4-0 defeat at Leicester, performances have generally improved, while narrow 1-0 wins over Burnley and Leeds were as vital as they were hard-fought.
With considerable backing in the January transfer window – a proven centre-forward in Chris Wood, three new faces to transform the ailing backline and a genuinely top-class midfielder in Bruno Guimaraes – Howe will have no excuses if he fails to keep Newcastle up. Pressure’s on.
7. Glenn Roeder
Roeder, now sadly departed, appeared in just under 200 games for Newcastle as a player and is the last manager to win the north-east side a trophy – the 2006 Intertoto Cup.
Already the club’s Youth Academy Director, Roeder was appointed in February 2006 after Souness was sacked, and initially he made a huge impact, steering the team from relegation trouble to a seventh-placed finish.
He signed Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff in the summer, but the Magpies won only two of their first 13 Premier League games amid an injury crisis, with fans protesting against the board in mid-November.
They made it into the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, earning them the Intertoto trophy, but Roeder resigned a week before the end of the season with the team in 13th having been called to an emergency board meeting following another poor run of form.
6. Kenny Dalglish
Taking over from Keegan in January 1997, Dalglish steadied the ship to help the club to finish second in the Premier League.
Over the course of the summer, however, having lost Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Peter Beardsley, Dalglish made a series of signings which took the club backwards.
Shay Given would prove to be an inspired signing, while Temuri Ketsbaia became a cult hero, but the likes of Jon Dahl Tomasson, John Barnes, Ian Rush, Stuart Pearce and Alessandro Pistone were rather less successful.
An injury to Alan Shearer that kept him out for the first half of the season did not help, but finishing 13th represented a major failure, and the Magpies were also knocked out of the Champions League opening group stages, though they did pull off a memorable 3-2 win over Barcelona St James’.
They also made it to the FA Cup final, but Dalglish lasted just two games into the following season before he was sacked and replaced by Ruud Gullit.
5. Alan Pardew
The former West Ham manager took over from Hughton in 2010, being handed a five-and-half-year-deal.
It wasn’t a popular appointment, but in his first full season in charge, 2011-12, he led the Magpies to a fifth-placed finish and a return to Europe, winning the Premier League Manager of the Season and the LMA Manager of the Year awards.
They dropped to 16th the following season, however, and though they improved to make the top half again in 2013-14, Pardew’s cosiness with the club’s hierarchy, as well as antics such as him headbutting Hull City player David Meyler and pushing an official, ensured he was never universally popular.
He quit St James’ to join his former side Crystal Palace in December 2014 following protests from supporters earlier in the season, but he did at least leave them with some good memories, such as this one from Papiss Cisse.
4. Chris Hughton
Hughton only actually took charge of 16 Premier League games as permanent manager at Newcastle, but he is one of very few to have departed St James’ with his reputation among supporters still intact.
Having initially been given the caretaker role at the start of the 2009-10 season, Hughton was given the job full-time after Newcastle got off to a great start in their Championship season.
He guided them back to the Premier League at the first time of asking as champions, but he was surprisingly sacked the following December with the team sitting comfortably in 12th place.
The club said in a statement that they needed “an individual with more managerial experience [was] needed to take the club forward.”
3. Rafa Benitez
Kevin Keegan pulled the team from the bottom of Division Two to the Premier League, but at least he had the backing of the club.
Benitez, on the other hand, stuck by the club despite relegation in 2016, which was suffered two months after his appointment, and several transfer windows in which his ambitions weren’t met.
He emulated Keegan in leading Newcastle to the Championship title in his first full season in charge, and though there was little chance of him steering the club back into the Champions League, fans’ expectations were lowered after years of Mike Ashley’s austerity.
Indeed, Benitez was viewed to have done a terrific job just to keep the club up in their first season back in the Premier League, and he again led them to mid-table safety in their second despite being outspent by clubs beneath them.
Nobody summed it up better than Alan Shearer when reacting to news of the Spaniard’s departure.
A world class manager. A manager who performed so well in very difficult circumstances. A manager who understood the fans. Thanks and good luck @rafabenitezweb you were brilliant for the Toon. #SHAMBLES
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) June 24, 2019
2. Kevin Keegan
In 1992, just eight years since he was scoring goals at St James’ Park, Keegan became Newcastle manager to begin one of the club’s memorable periods.
After steering them clear of relegation to the third tier in his first few months in charge, he led them to the Divison One title in his first full season in charge and then a remarkable third-placed finish in their first year in the Premiership.
Soon nicknamed ‘The Entertainers’, Newcastle’s brand of football under Keegan earned them a place in the hearts of many, and in 1996 it looked as though they would earn a place in the history books, too – only to blow a 12-point lead at the top of the table to finish second.
Keegan resigned after a poor run midway through the following season, which included that 5-0 win over Manchester United, but he left with his reputation well and truly intact on Tyneside and returned to the hotseat in 2009 as a hero.
It did not go particularly well, but with Keegan bemoaning a lack of financial support from the board, there was only ever one side the fans were going to take.
1. Sir Bobby Robson
When Robson took over at Newcastle in September 1999, they were second from bottom in the Premier League with only one point from six games. In Robson’s first home game in charge, they won 8-0.
They finished the season in 11th but more pertinently as the division’s third-highest scorers. Not only had Robson turned around their form, he’d got them playing attacking football again, with a 3-0 win over Manchester United and a 4-2 win over Arsenal among the highlights.
The Magpies could only finish 11th again a year later, but Robson was building an exciting young squad, and in 2001-02 they finished fourth, making it to the Champions League for only the second time.
And rather than that affect their league form the following season, they remarkably went one better, finishing third, and enjoyed some memorable nights in Europe, beating Juventus and drawing 2-2 with Inter at the San Siro.
They took a step back in 2003-04, failing to make the Champions League proper and finishing fifth in the league, but a run to the UEFA Cup semi-finals provided more highlights in what looking back was a halcyon era.
Unfortunately, expectations were high at the time, and a poor start to the 2004-05 season saw Robson sacked and replaced by Graeme Souness. Hindsight is a wonderful thing…