In this new series The Equaliser takes a look at the 20 managers who we deem to have made the biggest impact on football over the last 100 years, taking into account their levels of success as well as the tactical, philosophical and developmental changes to the game they may have introduced and/or mastered.
In reverse order, the first entrant on the list is the great French manager, Guy Roux.
He may not be one of the game’s most successful managers in terms of the sheer weight of trophies won during his career, but Guy Roux is a true footballing phenomenon. Having been appointed coach of Auxerre in 1961 on the modest salary of 600 Francs a month, Roux set about transforming what was a tiny provincial club into one of the powerhouses of twentieth century French football and arguably the most efficiently run institution in the European game.
Running the football club on a shoestring budget, Roux expertly managed Auxerre’s finances and focused on developing local talent through what would go on to become a world-famous academy. The likes of Basile Boli, Eric Cantona and Djibril Cisse have all come through the ranks at Auxerre, as well as players such as Laurent Blanc and Enzo Scifo having had their careers saved by the intervention of Roux who recognised their talent and helped them to fulfil their potential in Burgundy. Such was the relentless efficiency of the club’s youth development, Roux very rarely had to spend significant amounts of money in the transfer market to bolster his squad and, with a young team and a healthy bank balance , his club flourished.
Roux’s first major success came in the 1979/80 season when AJA were promoted to Ligue 1 for the first time in their history. Just a season earlier the club had reached its first Coupe de France final and, although they were ultimately beaten by Nantes, were a team on the cusp of the most glorious period in its history. Auxerre’s first Coupe de France triumph came 14 years later in 1994, as Roux’s team – featuring talents such as Alain Goma, Moussa Saib and Corentin Martins – comfortably overcame Montpellier to write themselves into the history books and establish themselves as an increasingly competitive force at the top end of the French football ladder.
Two years later came Roux’s crowning achievement as Auxerre won the league and cup double, a triumph that marked the astonishing transition that he had brought about during his 35 years at the club. Not only had he transformed Auxerre from a small and insignificant third-tier side into the undisputed kings of French football, but he had done it without spending huge sums of money and, in the most part, used players that he had scouted and developed himself. If it is possible for somebody to win titles single-handedly, than that is exactly what Roux had done. As a result, Auxerre’s 1995/96 campaign surely ranks as one of the most extraordinary achievements of the modern era.
Two more Coupe de France titles and a pair of Intertoto Cup wins were to follow before Roux departed the club in 2005 after an astonishing 44 years in charge, bowing out after guiding Auxerre to 25 consecutive seasons in the top-flight, something which would have been almost unimaginable when he took over almost half a century earlier.
Roux may not have contributed as much to the tactical and philosophical development of football as some of the other managers who will be featured in this series, but the way in which he implemented youth development programmes and a sustainable financial model is a gloriously alternative example in a sport that is increasingly driven by marketing and revenue. The Auxerre legend, now 71, has left an important and timeless legacy.