Claudio Ranieri

From Gillies To Rodgers – LCFC's Major Trophy Winning Managers

With the help of Club Historian John Hutchinson, LCFC.com recalls the five men who have guided Leicester City to major English honours.

Classified as the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the FA Community Shield – the Foxes have won every major competition in England. Here are the managers who inspired those successes....

Matt Gillies – League Cup (1964)

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Matt Gillies
Matt Gillies

Matt Gillies was at the helm of Leicester City for a decade, and is regarded as one of the Club's greatest managers.

West Lothian-born Matt Gillies was one of the most successful managers in City’s history. While he was an amateur on Motherwell’s books, the outbreak of war in 1939 put paid to his ambition to pursue a medical career. He then joined Bomber Command as a navigator, playing football for his unit. In October 1942, while stationed at RAF Walton, he signed for Bolton Wanderers.

He also guested for Arsenal, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers during the War. Between 1946 and 1952, Gillies made 145 top flight league appearances for Bolton Wanderers, where he was captain.

In January 1952, meanwhile, he signed for Leicester City for £9,500 and was a regular member of the side which won the 1954 Second Division title.

A deep-thinking and thoughtful man, Gillies joined David Halliday’s coaching staff in 1956, and helped City break many club records the following season when they stormed to the old Second Division title again.

In November 1958, he became acting manager at a time when the City were bottom of old First Division. The appointment was made permanent in January 1959. This coincided with a bad New Year run of eight defeats and one draw which put the Club at the bottom of the table in March.

Fortunately, the directors kept faith with their new manager. A late season rally saw the City just avoid relegation, finishing in 19th position. An era of unprecedented success for the Club followed. They consolidated the next season, finishing 12th.

The following season, they finished sixth and were beaten FA Cup finalists, unluckily losing to double-winning Tottenham Hotspur. The next campaign, they competed in Europe. The season after that they were realistic contenders for the league and FA Cup double, before finishing fourth and losing in the final to Manchester United. The Club won the League Cup in 1964, though, and were beaten finalists in 1965. Further top-half finishes in the old First Division followed.

One of Gillies’ key appointments was to bring Bert Johnson in as coach, scout and chief adviser. Between them Gillies and Johnson signed players such as Gordon Banks, Graham Cross, Davie Gibson, Mike Stringfellow, Bobby Roberts, Derek Dougan, Jackie Sinclair, Peter Rodrigues, Peter Shilton, David Nish, Len Glover and Allan Clarke.

They also developed Howard Riley, Richie Norman, John Sjoberg and Frank McLintock into big first division star players. By the beginning of 1968, Gillies, who by now was a Justice of the Peace, was ill for three months. Bert Johnson took over temporarily and the Club finished mid-table.

On 30 November, 1968, on the day his team lost 7-1 at Goodison Park, and with Leicester City near the foot of the table, Gillies resigned following the sacking of Johnson. Gillies turned his back on football in October 1972 after a three-and-a-half year spell as Nottingham Forest’s manager, where he discovered the young Martin O’Neill. He died on Christmas Eve in 1998. His reputation as one of Leicester City’s best managers lives on.

Jimmy Bloomfield – FA Community Shield (1971)

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Leicester City 1973/74
Leicester City 1973/74

Renowned coach Malcolm Allison described Leicester City’s attacking performance as the best he had ever see under Jimmy Bloomfield.

Jimmy Bloomfield had a huge impact on Leicester City when he was their manager for six years between 1971 and 1977. All of these seasons were in the ‘old’ First Division. Only Peter Hodge and Matt Gillies held the manager’s post at Filbert Street for longer and only Gillies managed the Club for more seasons in the top division.

Bloomfield was Leicester’s 12th manager since the Club had been re-formed in 1919. Aged only 38, he was a classic example of a young tracksuit manager. He was also the first Leicester manager from the south of England, following a succession of Scots, north countrymen and the Irishman Frank O’Farrell.

He came to Leicester with an excellent footballing reputation as a skilful inside-forward. After two years at Brentford as a youngster, under the great Tommy Lawton, he spent over six years at Arsenal where he flourished under the coaching of future England manager Ron Greenwood. His time at Arsenal included an unbroken run of 115 league games out of a total of 227 appearances, and a spell as captain.

He then played for Birmingham City, Brentford again, West Ham United and finally Plymouth Argyle before becoming Orient’s player manager in 1968. In 1969/70, he guided Orient to the Third Division title.

A Londoner himself, Jimmy brought several big-fee, high profile players to Filbert Street from the capital. These included Jon Sammels and Jeff Blockley (from Arsenal), Keith Weller, Steve Kember and Chris Garland (from Chelsea), Alan Birchenall (from Crystal Palace) Dennis Rofe (from Orient) and Steve Earle (from Fulham).

Together with players like Peter Shilton, Frank Worthington and Steve Whitworth, who along with Weller, all won England caps during Jimmy’s time at Leicester City, these players formed the nucleus of one of the most attractive and entertaining sides in the Club’s history.

After beating Bill Shankly’s Liverpool 1-0 to win the Charity (Community) Shield in his very first game as Leicester City’s manager in August 1971, Bloomfield’s side went on to achieve two top 10 finishes in the ‘old’ First Division, (ninth in 1973/74 and seventh in 1975/76).

Leicester also reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1974 before being knocked out by Liverpool in a replay at Villa Park. This run included overwhelming Luton 4-0 at Kenilworth Road. The renowned coach Malcolm Allison described City’s attacking performance as the best he had ever seen. It led to Bloomfield’s team being compared to Brazil.

By 1977, tensions had been building between Jimmy and elements of the board and sections of the crowd. Despite finishing the season in 11th place in the ‘old’ First Division, Jimmy resigned in July 1977. He returned to manage Orient in 1977, taking them to an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal. However, with his health deteriorating, he left Orient in 1981. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1983 at the young age of 49.

However, his legacy lives on. Bloomfield’s reputation as a Leicester City manager who loved and encouraged skilful, creative and entertaining football remains intact to this day.

Martin O'Neill – League Cup (1997 & 2000)

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Martin O'Neill & Matt Elliott
Martin O'Neill & Matt Elliott

Toasting the second of two League Cup successes under his management with goalscoring captain Matt Elliott.

Martin O’Neill’s four-and-a-half seasons as manager at City won him an honoured place in the Club’s history. Born in Kilrea in Northern Ireland, Martin had a background in Gaelic football. He also played at youth level before joining Distillery in 1971, with whom he won the Irish Cup, scoring twice in the final.

In the following season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup Martin scored against FC Barcelona, before quitting his law degree at Queen’s University in Belfast in October 1971, to join Nottingham Forest, managed by the ex-Leicester City manager Matt Gillies.

Under Brian Clough, meanwhile, O’Neill was in the Forest sides which won promotion to the top flight in 1977, the First Division league title in 1978, the League Cup in 1978 and 1979, as well as the European Cup in 1979 and 1980.

Between 1981 and 1984, Martin played top flight football for Norwich City, Manchester City and Notts County. He also won 64 caps for Northern Ireland between 1971 and 1984, captaining the side at the World Cup finals in Spain in 1982.

After a knee injury forced his retirement in 1985, he managed Grantham Town and Shepshed Charterhouse before moving to Wycombe Wanderers in 1990. In addition to winning the FA Trophy in 1991 and 1993, Martin led the Chairboys into the Football League in 1993, into the third tier via the play-offs in 1994, and only just missed out on promotion to the second tier in 1995.

This success led to his appointment as Norwich City’s manager in June 1995, but following his resignation in December 1995, on the day his side were due to play managerless Leicester City, he became the new manager at Filbert Street.

O’Neill won only three of his first 16 games, a sequence which culminated in an angry crowd demonstration after a home defeat to Sheffield United. However, aided by new signings Steve Claridge, Neil Lennon, Julian Watts and Muzzy Izzet, initially on loan, the team then won six of their last eight games and sneaked into the play-offs.

Claridge’s ‘shinned’ goal four seconds from the end of extra-time in the Wembley Play-Off Final against Crystal Palace secured promotion to the Premier League. Over the next four seasons, Academy product Emile Heskey emerged and, among others, the likes of Kasey Keller, Steve Guppy, Matt Elliott, Robbie Savage, Tony Cottee, Ian Marshall, Gerry Taggart, Frank Sinclair, Tim Flowers and Stan Collymore joined the Club.

These seasons saw four consecutive top half Premier League finishes, three League Cup finals, two of which ended with wins and two qualifications for the UEFA Cup.

Off the field, the Club was listed on the Stock Exchange, there were boardroom tensions, attempts by Everton and Leeds United to appoint O’Neill as their manager and plans for a new stadium on Bede Island.

In June 2000, O’Neill left to manage Celtic, where he won seven domestic trophies in five years and reached the UEFA Cup final. He later managed Aston Villa, Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland, before taking the post at Sky Bet Championship side Nottingham Forest in January 2019 - a position he left on 28 June, 2019.

Claudio Ranieri – Premier League (2016)

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Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri celebrates Leicester City's greatest-ever achievement.

When he took over Nigel Pearson’s side which, despite the Great Escape of 2014/15, had spent most of the previous season at the foot of the Premier League, nobody believed that within 10 months Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City team would be Premier League champions, a feat universally described as one of the greatest stories in sporting history,

Ranieri had already managed 14 clubs, including Cagliari, Napoli, Fiorentina, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Parma, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Monaco. At Leicester, he used this vast experience to build wisely onto the foundations set by Pearson, Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, whose recruitment had unearthed such stars as Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté.

Ranieri also benefited from high quality staff at the training ground and from the outstanding team spirit among the players.

Ranieri’s initial target of gaining 40 points to avoid relegation was modest. By October, the Club was third in the table. Jamie Vardy broke the Premier League record by scoring in 11 successive games. The team entered the New Year at the top of the table, level on points with Arsenal. The momentum was continued by a constant stream of memorable goals and results such as Vardy’s unforgettable half-volley against Liverpool and the defeat of Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.

Ranieri’s press conferences – featuring such quotes as ‘if they keep a clean sheet, I’ll buy a pizza for everybody!’ and ‘dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up, wake up!' – made him a media favourite.

A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford with two games to go until the end of the season was followed the next day by Tottenham’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea, a result which confirmed City’s title. The fans partied through the night. The next game, at home against Everton, was preceded by day-long celebrations. There was sunshine, rain, Andrea Bocelli’s outstanding singing before the game, fireworks, a guard of honour by the Everton players, a 3-1 victory and the iconic trophy lift.

The celebrations continued into the final game of the season, a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Ranieri’s team had won the title by 10 points, a massive achievement. The open top celebratory bus tour culminating in Victoria Park attracted 240,000 fans. Murals depicting Ranieri and the team appeared around the city.

Ranieri’s achievement made him Premier League Manager of the Year, LMA Manager of the Year, European Coach of the Year, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (coach award) and the best FIFA Football Coach. He was also inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.

His team’s profile was raised by being invited to participate in the International Champions Cup in 2016, and he successfully led the Club to be group winners in the Champions League en route to the quarter-finals. However, poor league form resulted in him leaving the Club in February 2017. He has since managed Nantes, Fulham and Roma and was recently in charge of Sampdoria, before leaving in 2021. Later that year, he returned to England at Watford, who he left in January 2022.

Brendan Rodgers – FA Cup (2021), FA Community Shield (2021)

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Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers became the first manager in Leicester's history to win the FA Cup in 2021.

Current manager Brendan Rodgers has won the Emirates FA Cup and FA Community Shield at Leicester City and his Foxes side have often challenged in the upper regions of the Premier League table, twice qualifying for Europe. Rodgers joined the Club on Tuesday 26 February, 2019 after winning a double of 'trebles' with Celtic and is now contracted to City until June 2025.

During his two-and-a-half-year spell in Glasgow, Rodgers’ side also embarked on a staggering 69-game unbeaten run – the longest stretch in 100 years of British football. The Northern Irishman won every single domestic trophy he contested in Scotland, winning every cup tie his side participated in.

Following on from guiding Swansea City to becoming the first Welsh club to compete in the Premier League and establishing Liverpool as genuine title contenders, Rodgers holds a reputation as one of the game’s most respected and successful managers.

After Rodgers was named as manager, he brought with him assistant manager, Chris Davies; first team fitness coach, Glen Driscoll; and first team coach, Kolo Touré, who all joined the Club’s established team of first team staff. Touré has recently left to become Wigan Athletic manager. 

Upon his arrival at King Power Stadium, he said: “I’m very privileged and honoured to be here as Leicester City manager and I’ll give my life to make the supporters proud of their club.

"Together, we’ll be stronger and I’m looking forward to working with the players, staff and supporters to make the right steps forward.”

His first game in charge of the Foxes resulted in a late 2-1 defeat by former club Watford at Vicarage Road, but City recovered well and went on to win their next four fixtures. They first beat Fulham 3-1 at King Power Stadium, with Jamie Vardy scoring twice during Rodgers’ first win as Leicester manager, before a brilliant 2-1 triumph at Burnley followed, as Wes Morgan headed home in injury time, despite City playing the majority of the game with 10 men.

A 2-0 win against AFC Bournemouth and a convincing 4-1 victory at Huddersfield Town followed, before City beat Arsenal 3-0 and drew 0-0 with Chelsea during their final five fixtures of the season. During the summer, the Northern Irishman completed the signings of James Justin, from Luton Town, Newcastle United's Ayoze Pérez, AS Monaco midfielder Youri Tielemans and Sampdoria's Dennis Praet.

On 6 December, 2019, meanwhile, Rodgers signed a new contact at the Club until June 2025 after winning a LCFC record eight consecutive top flight games. At the end of his first full season, he sealed a fifth-placed finish and European qualification for the Foxes in July 2020, after the campaign was elongated due to COVID-19.

City would go on to reach the UEFA Europa League's Round of 16 stage in 2020/21 alongside challenging in the upper regions of the Premier League once more. On 21 March, 2021, Rodgers managed his 100th game in charge as Leicester beat Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup.

That 3-1 success over the Red Devils ensured the Club's first semi-final appearance since 1982 and also a 53 per cent win rate for Rodgers after a century of games - which was, at the time, the best-ever ratio for a full-time Leicester City manager. The FA Cup run, though, was only just getting started. A semi-final triumph over Southampton set up a final against Chelsea at Wembley on 15 May, 2021 - in front of a crowd of 22,000 - the biggest by far nationally since March 2020 as part of a COVID-19 test event.

Youri Tielemans scored the only goal of the game on a day of high emotion in London as Rodgers became the first Leicester City manager to ever lift the FA Cup, securing the seventh final victory of his career. The FA Community Shield would follow after a 1-0 win over Manchester City in August 2021.

Speaking after that FA Cup triumph, Rodgers said: "It feels amazing. My initial reaction after the game is that I’m just so happy. The courage they showed in the game was incredible, to produce that quality performance against a top level team.

"Secondly, obviously, for the supporters, for the first time in their history, they can now say they’re FA Cup winners. I’ve heard all the stories since I’ve been here, of the glorious failures and how unfortunate it’s been, so to be able to give them that moment was special."

The 2021/22 campaign would prove to be a challenging one for the Foxes, who had to contend with scarcely believable injury issues coupled with COVID-19-related fixture postponements causing fixture congestion later in the season. Those rescheduled games coincided with City's furthest-ever European run.

After exiting the Europa League, finishing third in their group, Leicester headed into the UEFA Europa Conference League - where they defeated Randers, Rennes and PSV Eindhoven, before falling in the semi-finals against AS Roma. Rodgers' men, though, commendably still finished eighth in the league. Although this season started with a damaging run of one draw and six consecutive defeats, Rodgers' side have recovered with six wins in nine matches.

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