Ranking the dirtiest managers in League One

by Mike Holden / 10 November 2016, 14:53

In the second of a four-part series Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) uses records dating back from the start of the 2008/09 campaign to find out who's the 'dirtiest' manager from League One, based on the difference between fouls conceded and suffered per game.

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Neal Ardley has always put heavy emphasis on the importance of winning the battle before winning any war - it’s one of his favourite catchphrases - and his record for breaking up opposition attacks is evident in the foul count. Last season, the AFC Wimbledon boss achieved promotion by virtue of his ability to disrupt the flow of matches and then capitlise late on.

No manager across the four English leagues has a greater negative difference for infringements than the Kingsmeadow supremo - that’s assuming we discount Paul Hurst on the grounds of sample size. The fact that Ardley has the same -2.18 figure as Graham Westley in League Two should put his appreciation of the dark arts into context.

Not far behind is Justin Edinburgh, the only other manager currently employed in the English game to have recorded more than 100 games with an average infringement rate greater than two per game. It’s not doing him much good at the moment but the Gillingham boss has previous for posting long unbeaten runs once he settles on a formation and gets the balance of his team right.

Meanwhile, Millwall are gradually getting their season on track with the same uncompromising approach that enabled them to bully their way up the table and into the play-off final under Neil Harris last term. No team has a clearer sense of identity than the Lions under the guidance of their all-time record goalscorer and the New Den faithful would no doubt be disappointed if they weren’t somewhere near the top of this table.

The same could arguably said Phil Brown and Phil Parkinson, two of the most experienced managers in the country. They both take a masculine approach and try to seize any edge they can, so they would consider something amiss if they weren’t encroaching slightly on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle.

As for the nice guys, it’s hard to say how much we can read into the records of Luke Williams, Jon Whitney and Bruno Ribeiro given how relatively new they are to dugout, although Williams’ figure of +3.34 after 38 matches is remarkable - the biggest across the four divisions by some distance - serving only to perpetuate the idea that his Swindon side are a soft touch.

Mind you, nobody would ever say that about Bristol Rovers and it’s a surprise to see Darrell Clarke down in such company, as though butter wouldn’t melt. The Pirates, of course, are very competitive but clearly they manage to keep their masculine approach within the rules, to a greater degree than most.

The dirtiest manager in League One

The dirtiest manager in the League One


  • Tables show the number of matches played (Pld), the average number of fouls committed (FC) and suffered (FS) per game, then ordered by the overall difference (Diff).
  • The numbers are generated from the start of the 2008/09 season up to the present day, using data from across the four English leagues, plus La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue Un.
  • Manual adjustments have been made for managerial tenures outside the UK, in accordance with the average frequency that referees blow up for an offence in those respective leagues

Managers Departed

Last man down

Richie Wellens
(Oldham Athletic)
8th June

Doncaster Rovers

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Leicester City

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Newcastle United

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Rep of Ireland

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