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Howard Wilkinson (born 13 November 1943 in Sheffieldmarker) is a former Englishmarker football player and manager.

Despite having a low profile playing career, Wilkinson embarked on a successful managerial career. He won the First Division championship in 1992 with Leeds United, the final season before the creation of the Premier League. As of 2009, he remains the last English manager to win the top flight league in England. He later had two spells as caretaker manager of the English national team.

His son Ben is a professional footballer, currently playing for Chester City.

Playing career

Born in Sheffieldmarker, Yorkshiremarker Wilkinson began his playing career with local team Sheffield United, before joinging cross-city rivals Sheffield Wednesday. After just 22 league appearances he joined Brighton & Hove Albion where he played well over a hundred league matches. His final club was Boston United. Whilst there, he won several Northern Premier League titles. It was at the Pilgrims where he began his managerial career, being appointed player manager in 1975. He won two more Northern Premier League titles as the manager.

Managerial career

Notts County

Wilkinson began his full time coaching career at Notts County where he was taken on and tutored by County's legendary manager Jimmy Sirrel. After Sirrell left, Wilkinson assumed control of the team for the 1982–83 season, County managed a reasonable return of 52 points achieving a finish of 15th in the First Division.

Sheffield Wednesday

In June 1983 Wilkinson dropped a division to become manager of Sheffield Wednesday, where he established his reputation as a manager despite never having been a big-name player. Wednesday won promotion from the Second Division in his first season and Wilkinson maintained their place in England's top flight for the next for years – with a highest finish of fifth in the 1985–86 season. An Owl through and through, he still to this day, remains faithful and involved with his team.

Leeds United

Wilkinson's greatest success as a manager came after moving to Wednesday's Yorkshiremarker rivals Leeds United in October 1988. He soon drilled discipline into a lacklustre squad and earned the affectionate nickname "Sergeant Wilko", a play on the old TV-show Sergeant Bilko. The team won the Second Division in 1989–90 after the signings of Gordon Strachan who became captain, hardman Vinnie Jones (who Wilkinson guided to a whole season with only three yellow cards), Mel Sterland, Chris Fairclough and Lee Chapman. Following the promotion, Wilkinson immediately offloaded Jones and brought in Gary McAllister from Leicester City and John Lukic was brought back from Arsenal. He also helped players who had come up through the youth team, Gary Speed and David Batty, to mature to the new level of football.

In Leeds' first season in the First Division they performed very well for a newly promoted team and ended the season fourth in the league. "Wilko" felt further improvement was required on the squad and brought in Rod Wallace, Tony Dorigo and Steve Hodge finalising his best squad with Eric Cantona in February 1992. Leeds won the last championship of the old-style Football League First Division in 1992. As of 2008, Wilkinson is the last English manager to have coached a team to the English league championship title; the four subsequent winning managers have been Scottishmarker (Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish), Frenchmarker (Arsène Wenger) and Portuguesemarker (José Mourinho). He also guided Leeds to the Charity Shield in 1992, beating then-FA Cup holders Liverpool 4–3 at Wembleymarker. However, his subsequent time at Leeds was less successful, and even though he guided the team to the League Cup final, after a poor start to the 1996–97 season including a 4–0 defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United, on 9 September 1996, he was sacked.Howard Wilkinson made one of the most infamous transfer decisions ever when selling Cantona to Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in November 1992 for £1.2m. The Frenchman went on to become a legend at Old Trafford and a linchpin in the side that won 4 Premier League titles in 5 seasons.

The Football Association

Four months after leaving Leeds, in January 1997, Wilkinson was hired by the sport's governing body in England, the Football Association, to act as its Technical Director, overseeing coaching and other training programmes at all levels of the game. Under him the FA began the National Football Centre project.

In his position as Technical Director of the FA, he managed the England team on a caretaker basis in 1999 for a friendly against France following the sacking of Glenn Hoddle. Following this he acted for a time as the permanent coach of the England Under-21 team, controversially selecting himself to replace Hoddle's choice of manager, Peter Taylor. Wilkinson was unsuccessful in this role; despite inheriting a team who were unbeaten and yet to concede a goal, he lost three of his six matches in charge. Wilkinson resigned from the post in June 2001, to be replaced by David Platt (Taylor would, ironically, end up back in charge, three years later). He returned to the role of caretaker of the senior team in October 2000 following the resignation of Hoddle's permanent successor Kevin Keegan, overseeing a 0–0 draw in a World Cup qualifying match against Finland.


In 2002 he left his role as FA technical director in order to return to club management at struggling Premier League side Sunderland, with Steve Cotterill as his assistant. However, his time there was nothing short of a catastrophe, and he was sacked in March 2003, as Sunderland languished at the bottom of the Premier League with a then league-history-worst total of 19 points. He won only two league games out of a possible twenty.

Later career

Wilkinson briefly returned to management in March 2004, taking charge of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua on a short term contract, but left two months later due to personal reasons. In October 2004, he was temporarily appointed as first team coach of Leicester City, following the departures of manager Micky Adams and coach Alan Cork. Wilkinson returned to Notts County in December 2004 where he became a non-executive director. He held a coaching role as technical director from June 2006 until September 2007 when he left the club altogether.

He is currently the chairman of the League Managers Association.

On January 9th 2009 Wilkinson was confirmed as the new Technical Adviser of Sheffield Wednesday.


As a player

Boston United

As a player manager

Boston United
  • Northern Premier League Title winner: 1975–76, 1976–77,

As a manager

Leeds United

Managerial statistics

Team Nat From To Record
G W L D Win %
Boston United 1975 1978
Notts County July 1982 June 1983 44 17 20 7 38.6
Sheffield Wednesday June 1983 October 1988 255 114 73 68 44.7
Leeds United October 1988 September 1996 400 173 112 115 43.3
England 1999 1999 1 0 1 0 0.00
England U-21s 1999 2001
England 2000 2000 1 0 0 1 0.00
Sunderland October 2002 March 2003 27 4 15 8 14.8
Shanghai Shenhua 2004 2004


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