The League Managers Association (LMA) congratulates its Chairman, Howard Wilkinson, on being awarded an OBE for services to football and charity in the New Year Honours List 2024.
Following a career as a professional footballer, Howard pursued his passion and talent for teaching and coaching by taking on a role as a PE Teacher at Abbeydale Grange School, Sheffield, alongside playing and managing Boston United in non-league football. As part of a new generation of coaches, working their way from the lower leagues into the professional game, Howard’s coaching ability soon saw him appointed as manager of First Division club Notts County, following a three-year spell working under Jimmy Sirrel.
After one season at County, Howard took over at Sheffield Wednesday and led the club to promotion from the Second Division in his first season before establishing the club in the First Division for the next four years. In 1988, Howard moved to Leeds United and in 1991, Howard reached the pinnacle of the domestic game by winning the English top flight First Division in the final season before it became known as the Premier League. Twice, in 1999 and 2000, Howard was entrusted to manage the England senior team on an interim basis, before a permanent manager was appointed by The FA.
Howard was a founding member of the LMA and has fulfilled the duties of Chairman for over 30 years, since the association’s formation in 1992. Under Howard’s stewardship, the LMA has grown its member services provision exponentially, incorporating an all-encompassing programme of health and wellbeing support services, career and personal development, legal services and most importantly, a universal representative body of professional managers throughout men’s and women’s football.
Despite being a hugely successful manager in his own right, and the last English manager to win the top division in English football, much of Howard’s impact and influence on the domestic game has come away from public view. Howard’s vision for English football, as Technical Director of The FA between 1998-2002, can be cited as a blueprint for the future exceptional work of Howard’s successors, most notably the conceptual principle of building the National Football Centre at St. George’s Park, which has been instrumental in the recent successes of English football at age group and senior levels in men’s and women’s football.
Further to Howard’s career in the domestic game, he has been a trusted advisor to the continental game, through his various roles and engagement with UEFA, the governing body for European football. Howard has long supported UEFA’s coach education programmes, including the most advanced licences delivered through UEFA.
However, it is his unwavering commitment to supporting his peers within the game, from the most successful Premier League managers to the young coaches starting out their careers in a notoriously volatile and challenging industry that sets Howard apart and makes him thoroughly deserving of this recognition.
Paying tribute to Howard, LMA Chief Executive Richard Bevan OBE said: “Howard’s legacy in English football may be one of the most unheralded yet important in the modern game.
“Universally respected and loved by his colleagues and peers in the game, he has built an association of professional football managers, which is globally recognised as one of the most progressive organisations in world sport.
“As one of English football’s greatest thinkers, he has supported thousands of managers, coaches, players and administrators in the game to fulfil their potential and build impactful careers in football.
“He has achieved so much in his life, whilst retaining the values, humility and decorum that were instilled in him as a young coach, passing on these values to everyone he has worked with and for.
“On behalf of the entire LMA membership, their families and everyone in English football, I congratulate Howard on this recognition and thank him for his outstanding contribution to football and charity.”