Red and White Stadium Seats Close Up

Worst Southampton Managers: Saints Managers With the Lowest Win Rate

In February 2023, Southampton sacked manager Nathan Jones after just three months in the job… and a month of that was taken up by the Qatar World Cup. In his time in the Saints dugout, Jones guided his side to just one victory in the league (against fellow strugglers Everton), although he did win a few in the FA Cup and League Cup. But despite leaving Southampton fighting for their top-flight lives, we would argue that Jones has not been the worst manager the Saints have ever had. Far from it, in fact.

As we’ll explain in this article, Southampton have had more than their fair share of appallingly ineffective bosses over the years. But they’ve also had some very big-name bosses too including the likes of Mauricio Pochettino (before he moved on to Spurs and then Paris Saint-Germain), Harry Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Glenn Hoddle, Mark Hughes and even Ronald Koeman (who went on to Barcelona and the Netherlands national side).

Jones actually ended his short career with an overall win rate of almost 36%, which isn’t too bad. The issue was that he lost seven of eight Premier League games in charge, whilst simultaneously playing poor football and alienating fans with some strange rants. Perhaps incredibly, though, there have been 11 Southampton managers with win rates of less than 30%.

Chart That Shows the Permanent Southampton FC Managers with the Lowest Win Rate Up to and Including February 2023

There have been plenty of bosses who have struggled, but who has been the very worst Southampton manager ever? Let’s run through the candidates.

Note that we’ll ignore caretaker managers for this article.

Mark Hughes, March 2018 to December 2018

Games Wins Draws Losses Win Rate
27 5 10 12 18.52%

Mark Hughes was a born winner… at least as a player. In his glittering playing career, Hughes starred for Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea and Southampton (among others). He won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. And then he hit the ground running when he turned to management as he was appointed the Wales boss in August 1999. He then moved on and had a relatively successful period in charge at Blackburn Rovers before not quite cutting it at a newly ambitious Manchester City.

After achieving mediocre success at Fulham, QPR and Stoke, Hughes was handed the Saints job in March 2018 with the side in serious danger of relegation. Hughes promptly lost his first three games in charge, but wins against Bournemouth and Swansea proved enough to keep the Saints up. It was the following season when Hughes really put his name forward as a contender as the worst Saints manager ever. In the 14 Premier League games Hughes was in charge in the 2018/19 season, Southampton won just one (away against Crystal Palace) and earned only nine points. His final game was actually not a bad result (a 2-2 home draw against former side Man United), but the damage was done, and Hughes was shown the door.

Steve Wigley, August 2004 to December 2004

Games Wins Draws Losses Win Rate
17 3 6 8 17.65%

Although Hughes wasn’t great, at least Southampton were never relegated at the end of a season in which he was at the club. The same can’t be said for our next contender, the rather lesser-known Steve Wigley. The former Aldershot Town boss was thrust into the limelight as caretaker Saints boss after Gorden Strachan’s reign ended in February 2004, and he looked a little out of his depth in his two games in charge (both draws, incidentally).

Paul Sturrock came in as Strachan’s permanent replacement… but ‘permanent’ at Southampton doesn’t usually mean too much and Sturrock left by ‘mutual consent’ after barely five months. This time, Wigley was given the job on a permanent basis… and it didn’t go well.

Wigley has the worst win rate of any permanent Saints manager (at the time of writing at least), with just three wins in his 17 matches in charge – and two of those were in the League Cup. The only game Wigley won in the Premier League was a 2-1 home victory over South Coast rivals Portsmouth. But that wasn’t enough to save his skin and he was sacked with Southampton languishing in 19th position in the table. His replacement came from the aforementioned rivals, and is the next man on our list… Harry Redknapp.

Harry Redknapp, December 2004 to December 2005

Games Wins Draws Losses Win Rate
49 13 21 15 26.53%

Given that the Saints were in 19th place when Redknapp was appointed, surely the only way was up for the team under the stewardship of the former Bournemouth, West Ham and Portsmouth boss. Well, no. They won only four more games in the top flight and had plenty of nasty defeats, including a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Redknapp’s former employers Portsmouth. Defeat to Man United on the final day of the season meant the Saints finished rock bottom and were sent down to the Championship.

Redknapp stuck around in the second tier… for a while. But in a move that left a very bitter taste in the mouths of Saints fans, Redknapp resigned in December 2005 and returned to his ‘spiritual home’ of Portsmouth. Southampton would not return to the Premier League until the 2012/13 season, and we’ll never know if that wait would have been a whole lot shorter had Redknapp stuck around a little longer.

Jan Poortvliet, May 2008 to January 2009

Games Wins Draws Losses Win Rate
32 8 8 16 25.00%

While relegation from the Premier League to the Championship is a disaster, slipping from the Championship to League One is cataclysmically bad for a football club. But that’s what happened as a result of the tenure of Dutchman Jan Poortvliet (and, to be fair to Jan, his successor Mark Wotte – more of whom below).

While some Saint supremos have managed national sides, European footballing behemoths or at least teams the majority of fans have heard of, Poortvliet’s pedigree was rather more modest. Okay, he used to play for PSV, but the sides he managed before being appointed as the Southampton boss are less recognisable: RBC Roosendaal, FC Den Bosch, Telstar and Helmond Sport.

As the 10th manager in as many years, by this point the fans’ expectations were not exactly sky-high. But the Saints struggled from the start and after an appalling period of form in which the side won just one match in 14, Poortvliet resigned.

Mark Wotte, January 2009 to July 2009

Games Wins Draws Losses Win Rate
18 4 7 7 22.22%

Wotte – who was brought in as part of Poortvliet’s coaching staff – took the helm with Southampton in real trouble. But the former Ismaily Sporting Club (Egypt) and Al Ahli Doha (Qatar) boss was ill-equipped to turn Southampton’s fortunes around and the Saints suffered the indignity of relegation to the third tier of English football.

To be fair to Wotte, his situation wasn’t exactly helped by the club having been deducted 10 points due to financial mismanagement. But as it turned out, they finished in the bottom three irrespective of the deduction, so that ended up being applied the following season in League One.

Other Contenders

Here are a few of the other candidates for the title of the worst Saints manager ever.

Manager From To Games Win Rate
Nigel Pearson Feb 2008 May 2008 14 21.43%
Mauricio Pellegrino Jun 2017 Mar 2018 34 23.53%
George Swift Aug 1911 May 1912 39 25.64%
Ian Branfoot Jun 1991 Jan 1994 128 28.91%
Graeme Souness Jul 1996 Jun 1997 48 29.17%

Who Is Southampton’s All Time Worst Manager?

Red Dislike Icon in Black Speech Bubble

It has often been the case that the managers who have failed particularly badly at Southampton should probably not have been appointed in the first place. Whether the powers that be at the club were just seeking to save a quid or two by appointing the likes of Steve Wigley, Mark Wotte or Jan Poortvliet is open to debate, but there is little doubt that they didn’t have the credentials that some other managers at their level boast.

For us though, the man who stands out as someone who frankly had the skills and experience to do better was Harry Redknapp. Ultimately he was the person in charge when the Saints got relegated from the Premier League and he didn’t stick around to attempt to get them back up there. And just to rub salt in the wound, he left to rejoin Southampton’s biggest rivals… and even won the FA Cup with them! So while other managers have worse win rates, for us, Harry’s the man to label the worst Saints boss of all time. Sorry Sandra!