The National League is one of the most challenging leagues in the English game to win promotion from, and some clubs never return to the EFL from the fifth tier of the English game.
Being a National League coach is very rarely easy. However, some head coaches have excelled in the division. Here are the most successful head coaches by points per match in the National League between 2010/11 and 2023/24:
Phil Parkinson (Wrexham 2.19 points per match)
It was a surprise when Parkinson dropped down into the National League to manage Wrexham. However, with the backing of club owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, Parkinson guided the Dragons to promotion to the EFL in season 2022/23 after a 15-year absence.
The financial backing of the two Hollywood stars helped Parkinson’s cause, as he guided the Welsh team to 199 points in just 91 games in the fifth tier.
Mickey Mellon (Fleetwood Town and Tranmere Rovers 2.01 points per match)
The Scottish head coach is another who excelled in the fifth tier of English football. In fact, Mellon helped both Fleetwood Town and Tranmere Rovers to achieve promotion to League Two.
Mellow guided Fleetwood to automatic promotion in 2012, while he took Tranmere up via the play-offs in 2018. His record of 307 points in his 153 matches in charge in the National League is an impressive one.
Danny Cowley (Braintree and Lincoln City 1.95 points per match)
Cowley first made his name in the National League with Braintree before a move to Lincoln City. His record of 183 points from 94 games managed in the fifth tier is undoubtedly a respectable one.
His most significant achievement in the non-league game was guiding Lincoln to promotion to League Two in 2017. However, he wasn’t finished there, as the following season, he helped the Imps to the EFL Trophy. Things got even better in season 2018/19, as City won the League Two title, earning another promotion.
James Rowe (Chesterfield 1.93 points per match)
Rowe took an admirable 110 points from his 57 matches in charge of Chesterfield in the National League. However, things turned for the worse for Rowe at the club in 2022. He was suspended as the club’s head coach in January 2022 after an allegation of sexual assault. Rowe left the club by mutual consent on 4th February 2022.
Andy Morrell (Wrexham 1.76 points per match)
Morrell is another boss who did a decent job at Wrexham, picking up 210 points from his 119 games in charge, which gave him 1.76 points per match record.
He helped guide Wrexham to the FA Trophy in season 2012/13. Unfortunately for Morrell and the club, he couldn’t help them to promotion back to the EFL.
Dave Challinor (Fylde, Hartlepool and Stockport County 1.75 points per match)
The former Tranmere defender started his National League odyssey with Fylde before also managing Hartlepool and Stockport County in the fifth tier. He managed 207 games in the National League, picking up 363 points in five seasons.
Challinor experienced great success in the fifth tier, leading Hartlepool to promotion to League Two in 2021 via the play-offs. The following season, he helped Stockport be crowned champions of the National League. Challinor also guided Fylde to the FA Trophy in season 2018/19.
Ian Burchnall (Notts County 1.73 points per match)
The Leicester-born boss started his coaching career in Scandinavia before returning to his native Midlands to manage Notts County in the 2021/2022 season. He guided the Magpies to the play-offs but couldn’t quite get them over the promotion line.
The 109 points garnered in 63 National League games is still a respectable record. He later went on to manage Forest Green in League One before becoming the assistant manager at Belgian giants Anderlecht.
Paul Hurst (Grimsby Town 1.72 points per match)
The former Rotherham stalwart has enjoyed two stints as Grimsby Town boss. He first took charge of the Mariners from 2011 to 2016, part of which he was joint manager. His second spell with Town came when he was appointed as head coach in 2020 and, at the time of writing, is still their head coach.
Hurst helped Town to promotion to League Two via the play-offs on two separate occasions in 2016 and, more recently, 2022.
Simon Weaver (Harrogate Town 1.70 points per match)
Weaver has enjoyed a 14-year managerial career with Harrogate Town. However, only two of those years have been spent in the National League. The long-serving boss has taken 146 points from his 86 games in charge in the fifth tier.
He led Harrogate to the National League via the play-offs in 2018 and went one better in 2020 when Town were promoted to League Two after a 3-1 play-off final victory over Notts County. In the same season, Harrogate also won the FA Trophy.
Gary Brabin (Luton Town, Southport and Tranmere Rovers 1.69 points per match)
Brabin started his National League managerial career with Luton Town, before stints with Southport and Tranmere Rovers. The Liverpool-born boss claimed 204 points from 121 games in the fifth tier.
His spells with all three of his National League clubs were relatively short. In April 2021, Brabin was appointed as sporting director of Welsh club New Saints.