There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when, in late February, Gareth Ainsworth announced to his Wycombe Wanderers players he was leaving to take up the managerial reins of his former club QPR.
Ainsworth, with his shoulder length hair and leather jackets, is something of a unicorn in football management circles anyway, but his tenure at the Chairboys was notable for the rare feat he accomplished: managing the same club for ten continuous years.
It was an emotional morning at Marlow Road as Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson said their goodbyes to the staff and players.
This is their final interview before they departed Wycombe Wanderers for Queens Park Rangers.#Chairboys pic.twitter.com/JFQeoeDa4N
— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) February 21, 2023
“I loved my time here as a player and hopefully I can go on and love my time here as a manager as well,” Ainsworth said of his connection with QPR, although the odds on him lasting a decade in the job would be long to say the least given modern football’s managerial merry-go-round.
At the time of writing, there’s only other member of the decade club: Simon Weaver, who has spent 13 years at Harrogate Town and guided them from the National League North into the professional ranks.
The lower league veteran, John Coleman, could join Ainsworth and Weaver in the ten-year club if he remains as Accrington Stanley boss come the end of the 2024/25 season.
Otherwise, it’s a long time before any other manager will celebrate their tin anniversary. Jurgen Klopp (seven years, 137 days) and Pep Guardiola (six years, 236 days) are amongst the most likely, although it’s not a given they will see out the full ten years at Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Klopp has had a difficult year in what has been a disastrous (by their standards) campaign for the Reds, while Pep’s contract extension at City takes him up until 2025 – that would still leave him short of the decade mark.
Since the Premier League era began in 1992, only three managers have served ten or more years in charge of a single club. You wonder if anyone will ever again join that unique band given the nature of modern football….
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal (22 Years)
Nobody has served more years at a single Premier League club – and overseen more EPL games as a manager – than Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman was in charge, first at Highbury and then at the Emirates Stadium, for more than two decades at Arsenal, overseeing 828 Premier League games – beating the previous record set by Sir Alex Ferguson.
By the time Wenger was removed as Gunners boss, he had led the club to three Premier League titles – including the remarkable ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003/04 – and seven FA Cups, although an inability to guide Arsenal to European glory is known to have hurt him deeply.
It’s fair to say that 22 years is a long time by anybody’s measure, but the change in football in that span was beyond all recognition. Even though he ended his time at Arsenal on a bit of a downer, there’s no doubting Wenger’s chameleon-like ability to reinvent himself as a Premier League manager throughout a period in which the sport evolved significantly.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United (21 years)
Sir Alex Ferguson actually took the managerial reins at Manchester United in 1986, and so all told he was in charge at Old Trafford for an incredible 26 years.
But the Premier League era, which began with the 1992/93 campaign, is such that the Scot got 21 years of the rebrand before retiring in 2013.
In that time he and United racked up silverware left, right and centre, with 13 Premier League titles won in the 1990s and 2000s still the period of greatest dominance in the competition’s history.
Ferguson also guided the Red Devils to two Champions League wins, as well as hoisting the FA Cup on five occasions and the League Cup on four.
To put the Scot’s achievements into context, the next best record in the Premier League is Pep Guardiola’s four titles (with the power to add), while the Spaniard is the only manager to better Ferguson’s win rate in the English top-flight in the past three decades:
74% – Of managers with 200+ Premier League matches, Pep Guardiola ranks top for win percentage (74% – 162 wins from 219 matches):
74% – Pep Guardiola
65% – Alex Ferguson
64% – Jürgen Klopp
60% – José Mourinho
58% – Arsène Wenger
Levels. #AskOptaJoe https://t.co/YtDGZWrJo3
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 22, 2022
David Moyes, Everton (11 Years)
The only other manager in Premier League history to last ten years or more in the same job is David Moyes.
The Scot served Everton for eleven years between 2002-2013, and like Wenger and Ferguson before him it’s no coincidence that such a lengthy tenure occurred thanks to the success Moyes brought to the Toffees.
Three of Everton’s best-ever Premier League seasons – fourth in 2004/05 and fifth in both 2007/08 and 2008/09 – came on Moyes’ watch, as did a run to the final of the FA Cup in 2009.
So stark were the similarities between Moyes’ longevity and that of Ferguson the former was groomed to overtake the latter at Manchester United – sadly for Moyes, he wouldn’t have anywhere near the same success, nor lifespan, of his compatriot at Old Trafford.