Ron was originally signed by Aston Villa at the age of 17, he then transferred to Oxford United (then called Headington United) in the close season of 1959 on a free transfer. He went on to make over 500 appearances in all competitions as a wing-half for the club, earning the nickname “The Tank”, and scoring a total of 14 goals.
He was the first ever footballer to captain a club from the Southern League through three divisions of the Football League.
After retiring from playing, Atkinson became manager player of non-league Kettering Town in 1971, aged only 32. His success there led to a move to the league with Cambridge United, going on to win the then Fourth Division in 1977.
At the start of 1978, Atkinson moved to manage First Division West Bromwich Albion. Big Ron 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. They finished fourth in 1981, and shortly after this Atkinson became manager of Manchester United.
Atkinson was already working as a pundit for ITV Sport and after leaving management he continued in this role. For a number of years he covered most of the channel’s live matches, sometimes as a studio guest, but more often as the “ex-football insider” member of a two-man commentary team. His commentaries with Clive Tyldesley provided the basis for the late-1990’s and early-2000’s ITV Champions League nights. He also fronted two series of Extra Time With Ron Atkinson for Central ITV with Ron interviewing football personalities like Kevin Keegan, Terry Venables and Martin O’Neill.
In 1997, he appeared as manager of Harchester United in the popular television series ‘Dream Team‘.
In 2002, Atkinson released a Christmas song, “It’s Christmas – Let’s Give Love a Try”. In the following year, Ron Atkinson guested on an episode of TV chat show Room 101 and host Paul Merton played the video as outro to the show.
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.
He briefly made a return to television, appearing as a pundit on Football Italia broadcast on Bravo.
Atkinson returned to the screen on 16 August 2009 on the Channel 4 reality show Celebrity Wife Swap.
Atkinson is currently a pundit on William Hill’s “The Punt” podcast.
Ron has developed an excellent reputation on the after dinner circuit with his fascinating insight into the Premier League and World football scene.