Atkinson led West Bromwich Albion to third place in the league in the season 1978–79 and also to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. On 30 December 1978 they achieved a famous 5-3 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. The club were second in the table at the time, only beaten off top spot from Liverpool by goal difference. They finished fourth in 1981, and shortly after this Atkinson became manager of Manchester United on the dismissal of Dave Sexton.
Atkinson was very much a manager with charisma and sparkle, quite the opposite to his predecessor (who had taken them to second place in the league in 1980 but never won a major trophy since his appointment in 1977). In all of his seasons with United they did well. In 1981–82 United finished third in the First Division. In 1982–83 two appearances at Wembley, one of which was an FA Cup victory against Brighton & Hove Albion, coupled with another third place finish in the league, fuelled speculation that United were back in a big way. In 1983–84, Atkinson's side reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners Cup and finished fourth in the First Division. In 1985 United again won the FA Cup and ten successive victories in the 1985–86 season put him well ahead of the pack. However, their form tailed off badly and they again finished fourth.
Although the club won two FA Cups during his tenure, he had spent heavily, paying over £8 million for new signings. He had recouped more than £6 million with the sale of players, amongst whom were Ray Wilkins and Mark Hughes. The 1986–87 season opened disastrously and in November 1986 with the club fourth from bottom, Atkinson was sacked. He returned to West Brom in the autumn of 1987 for a year and then had a high-profile move to Atlético Madrid of Spain. Atkinson's tenure at Atlético was quite a turbulent one and despite relative moderate success in terms of league position, a clash of personalities with the then club owner Jesus Gil led to Atkinson being sacked within little over three months (96 days). His right hand man at West Brom, Colin Addison, was appointed - much to the dislike of Ron, who at the time in the English media went on record as saying Addison had "stabbed him in the back". They (Atkinson and Addison) never worked again as part of a team following the events of Atlético.
He was manager of Sheffield Wednesday from February 1989 to June 1991. Although the club were relegated in 1990 to the Second Division, a year later in 1991 he got them promoted back to the First Division. They also won the League Cup by beating Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley. He offended some Sheffield Wednesday fans by saying on 31 May 1991 that he would be staying as manager but a week later leaving to become Aston Villa manager.
Taking over from Jozef Venglos, he led Aston Villa to second place in the inaugural FA Premier League season in 1992/93 and to victory in the League Cup in 1994. Despite leading Villa to their first major success since lifting the European Cup, a mutual disliking between Villa chairman Doug Ellis and Ron that developed from 1992, inevitably resulted in him being sacked. Big Ron was sacked on November 10 1994 following a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Wimbledon - three days after Ellis had given Ron a 'vote of confidence' in the media, stating that Atkinson was one of England's top three football managers. Shortly after the Villa sacking, he became manager at Coventry City replacing Phil Neal who was purposely and acrimoniously replaced to make way for Atkinson. During his spell as manager of Coventry, he brought in high profile players including Gordon Strachan, Dion Dublin, Noel Whelan and Gary McAllister but they continued to struggle in the Premier League and by November 1996 he had become Director of Football, handing over managerial duties to former player and subesequent assistant boss Gordon Strachan.
In November 1997, he returned to Sheffield Wednesday following the sacking of David Pleat. Wednesday had made a poor start to the 1997-98 season, including a 7-2 loss at Blackburn and a 6-1 loss at Manchester United. Under Atkinson, Wednesday's form picked up immediately and they pulled well clear of relegation trouble, but he was not rewarded with a permanent contract. It was deemed (in football and media circles) that this action was an act of retaliation by the Wednesday board in revenge for the manner in which Ron left Wednesday for Villa in 1991, four days after he had gone public in the press pledging his immediate future to Hillsborough.
His last managerial job came with Nottingham Forest, for the final four months of the 1998-99 season. This spell was not a success and at his first home game he even climbed into the wrong dug-out. He also managed to upset many Forest fans following an 8-1 defeat at home to Manchester United, when he stated in an interview after the game that his team had given the fans a "nine-goal thriller". In a 2007 interview, Pierre van Hooijdonk, who was a Forest player at the time, said he sometimes got the impression the side was managed by Rowan Atkinson. In 1999, having resumed playing for Forest (following a somewhat petulant 'strike' by Pierre van Hooijdonk), Atkinson was quoted as saying that "his (Pierre van Hooijdonk) biggest talent was upsetting his team mates"
Atkinson is famous for a number of remarkable quotes. A number of example are: ‘They scored too early.’; ‘Apart from picking the ball out of the net, he hasn’t had to make a save.’ ; ‘That’s not the type of header you want to see your defender make, with his hand.’ ; ‘You don't want to be giving away free kicks in the penalty area.’
Ron Atkinson's media work came to an abrupt end on April 21, 2004, when he resigned from ITV after he broadcast a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea F.C. player Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, "...he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger". Although transmission in the UK had finished, the microphone gaffe meant that his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian "by mutual agreement" as a result of the comment.
It was not the first time Atkinson had committed a microphone gaffe. His comments about AS Roma player, Francesco Totti were broadcast to amazed German TV viewers. His view that "He actually looks a little twat, that Totti" however received very little criticism from the UK media.
Since the Desailly incident, Atkinson has claimed that the comment was an aberration and that he is not racist, citing in his defence that his West Brom side was the first high-profile British club to have a significant number of black players. This, however, has not diminished the condemnation he has received from anti-racist groups and the public at large, who question whether Atkinson would have resigned had the comment not been accidentally broadcast and note that it was not the first time he had used racist language. In an article published in the Sunday Times on 19 September 2004, Atkinson was referred to as "Racist Ron". A BBC Radio documentary about the Three Degrees, repeated on 16 May, 2004, was cancelled owing to Atkinson's central contributions.
Later in 2004, the Daily Mirror reported how he sparked more hostility among fans by making derogatory remarks about Chinese women, proclaiming that "Chinese women were the unprettiest in the world..." He followed this with a joke by saying the population of China is such as it is because of their lack of knowledge of contraception; all of which he said during a meeting over a meal.
It was reported Atkinson was being brought in to support Iffy Onuora at Swindon Town in December 2005, and Atkinson and the club appeared to confirm this. However it later transpired that Atkinson's role was simply as part of a Sky One documentary about the club being filmed at the County Ground. In late January 2006 Atkinson and Swindon parted company, with Swindon manager Onuora citing interference as the main reason for stopping the documentary from going ahead. Just a week later the cameras turned up at Peterborough United's ground, London Road, to begin filming for the documentary called Big Ron Manager. It is believed Peterborough owner Barry Fry was offered £100,000 to allow the filming to take place. Just three months later the club was thrown into turmoil as caretaker manager Steve Bleasdale resigned just 70 minutes before kick off against Macclesfield Town (22 April, 2006) citing interference from a number of people in the running of first team affairs, many believing the documentary involving Ron Atkinson had a major part to play.
Atkinson spent the 2006 World Cup recording an amateur video blog and distributing it through the UK-based video sharing site, SelfcastTV.com. He also provided commentary on the World Cup for the UK digital channel UKTV G2.
Atkinson recently took part in the BBC Two programme Excuse My French. Atkinson, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and television presenter Esther Rantzen were immersed in the French language by staying in a remote town in the Provence region, being compelled to adapt to the French lifestyle and speak the language. His assignment at the end of the course was to provide a match analysis on a football match (Paris Saint-Germain - AS Monaco) in French for a French radio station. Being a complete beginner to the French language, he found the experience a considerable challenge, although he succeeded. The assignment was made more difficult by the fact that the match concerned was a dull goalless draw, leaving him with little to talk about.
He briefly made a return to television, appearing as a pundit on Football Italia broadcast on Bravo. Since Serie A coverage has been shown on Channel 5 however, Atkinson has not been invited as a pundit.
On October 18, 2007, it was announced that the 68-year-old Atkinson would take over as consultant at Halesowen Town, where he would assist Morell Maison who would be appointed manager. Halesowen, who, when Atkinson took over, were 13th in the Southern League, three divisions below the Football League, now lie 2nd with hopes of automatic promotion. As of February 2008, Atkinson has, apparently, left his role at Halesowen in order to pursue business interests.
|Cambridge United||November 1974||January 1978||146||68||36||42||46.6|
|West Bromwich Albion||January 1978||June 1981||159||70||36||53||44.0|
|Manchester United||June 1981||November 1986||292||146||67||79||50.0|
|West Bromwich Albion||September 1987||October 1988||53||15||23||15||28.3|
|Sheffield Wednesday||February 1989||June 1991||118||49||34||35||41.5|
|Aston Villa||July 1991||November 1994||178||77||56||45||43.3|
|Coventry City||February 1995||November 1996||74||19||28||27||25.7|
|Sheffield Wednesday||November 1997||May 1998||27||9||11||7||33.3|
|Nottingham Forest||January 1999||May 1999||16||4||10||2||25.0|
|Peterborough United||April 2006||May 2006||3||1||2||0||33.3|
Can Ron Atkinson rebuild his reputation in football? Three years after he was thrown to the wolves for blurting out a racist remark on ITV, the flamboyant football pundit Ron Atkinson has a new job, pacing the touchline at lowly Kettering Town FC. But, as Big Ron tells Nick Duerden, he's still gunning for a glorious comeback
Mar 27, 2007; Sitting on a slight incline just off a ring road, it is a place of tired, pitted Tarmac and tellingly empty parking spaces. In...
The Boy Done Bad; PADDY SHENNAN on the Shock Departure from ITV Sport of Ron Atkinson after Racists Comments Made Live on Air
Apr 22, 2004; Byline: PADDY SHENNAN HE forged his reputation as football pundit and cocommentator with the help of his very own language -his...
The Boy Done Bad; PADDY SHENNAN on the Shock Departure from ITV Sport of Ron Atkinson after Racist Comments Made Live on Air
Apr 22, 2004; Byline: PADDY SHENNAN E forged his reputation as football pundit and cocommentator with the help of his very own language -his...
They All Agree He's Stupid. but the Jury's out on Whether He's Racist, Sexist or Both ; Just When Ron Atkinson Was Trying to Restore His Reputation after His Comments about the Footballer Marcel Desailly, He's Done It Again
Jan 23, 2005; The good news for Ron Atkinson is that few people believe his latest remarks - in which he insulted Chinese women - are racist....