Good piece in the Grauniad
about our most successful manager:
1) Tom Watson: Sunderland (1891-92, 1892-93 and 1894-95) and Liverpool (1900-01 and 1905-06)
Tom Watson, the first truly great
manager in English football history, made the likes of José Mourinho and André Villas-Boas look like a pair of superannuated procrastinators. He became manager of Sunderland in 1889 aged just 29, and it wasn't long before his side were making waves. His Sunderland were built on the Scottish passing game, the town's proximity to Scotland allowing him to plunder the best talent of the day: strikers Jimmy Millar and Johnny Campbell, midfield enforcer Hughie Wilson, defender John Auld and eccentric goalkeeper Ned Doig, a man so paranoid about his balding pate that he wore a cap secured with a chin strap.
Sunderland had ambitions to join the nascent Football League and staked their claim with a 4-1 win over Preston North End, during Preston's Invincibles 1888-89 league season
, and a 7-2 skelping of League founder William McGregor's Aston Villa. That win caused McGregor to coo over Sunderland's "talented men in every position", a quote soon mangled into "they are the Team Of All The Talents", a name which stuck.
Sunderland were granted league status in 1890 – the first new team to be admitted, replacing Stoke City – and they soon reached the top. After taking a season to acclimatise, Watson's side won three titles in four years. The first championship saw them win all 13 of their home games, a campaign during which they also recorded 13 wins on the bounce. In their second title season, they were the first team to score 100 goals in a campaign, 43 more than second-placed Preston. They also made the FA Cup semi-finals in 1892 and 1895.
But Watson fell out with the board over money. In 1896, Liverpool offered him an unprecedented wage of £300 per year to take over at Anfield. He snatched their hand off, becoming the highest paid "secretary" in the league. Progress at Anfield was slower – although in his first season Liverpool did at one point top the league for the first time in their history – as Watson pursued a safety-first policy of sorting out his new club's leaky defence. Before long, though, he was hoicking the best talent out of Scotland: wingers John Walker and Tom Robertson, striker Hugh Morgan, and (via Stoke) defender Alex Raisbeck, destined to become a club legend.
Watson nearly led Liverpool to the Double in 1899, but the team lost an FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United, then spectacularly bottled the league: needing only a draw at Aston Villa to secure the title, they conceded five goals in the first half. Villa won the championship instead. But Liverpool didn't have to wait too long for their first title, which came two seasons later, thanks in no small part to an end-of-season run that saw them let in only two goals in their last 10 games.
Another title came five years later, the major addition to the team being goalkeeper Sam Hardy. Watson's last achievement would be taking Liverpool to the 1914 FA Cup final, which they would lose to Burnley. Just over a year later, he died suddenly of pneumonia and pleurisy. Doig and Raisbeck helped carry his coffin to an unmarked grave in Anfield Cemetery. Doig would later be buried within 20 yards of his old boss. Neither man has a headstone to this day.