Young Managers…What are they good for?

November 24, 2009

9-1 to Spurs, Wigan take a smashing and Roberto Martinez is forced to take a long-hard look at his team. Martinez is one of the new breed of managers that are currently doing the rounds in the Premiership, young, thrusting and … well, he is young.

Martinez’s team were easily thrashed by Harry Redknapps’ Tottenham.  You remember Harry Redknapp? You know, he managed Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth and Southampton before finally taking the hot-seat at a “big” club (that’s Tottenham, in case you were wondering), and more importantly, it’s taken him over 25 years to get to that position.

The game seems to be in the grip of the cult of youth, and that doesn’t seem right to me. Just because Mourinho pulled it off at Chelsea (with the help of millions of pounds) and Guardiola is making a spectacular name for himself at Barca (with the help of the best player in the world, Messi), it doesn’t mean that youth is best.

Indeed it seems like the opposite is actually true, the older the manager, the more successful they actually are. Alex Ferguson is a spry 67 years old, Arsene Wenger is a positively dynamic 60 year old and Carlo Ancelotti is a practically baby faced 50 year old. But let’s look at their collective managerial records for a moment, over 70 years of managerial experience all over the world. Seventy years, between three managers, incredible stuff. But for my money, the best old manager in the Premiership is Roy Hodgson, 60 years old and a resume that would put Judith Chalmers to shame.  And while he’s managed the likes of Internazionale, the UAE national side and Blackburn, surely his greatest achievement is making Fulham look like a convincing Premiership team.

Of course, football has always been obsessed with youth, and young managers are hardly a modern thing. The great Brian Clough, surely the Mourinho of his day, started as a young 30 (!) year old at Harlepools United in 1965. But Hartlepools were at the wrong end of the old fourth division at the time, the idea of taking him straight to Leeds United or Liverpool would have been seen as sheer lunacy by everyone.

Nowadays, if a great player retires, it seems like the most natural thing to do is to parachute him into the hot-seat at the first struggling Premiership club (yes Shearer and Keane, I’m looking at you here) and hope that the “Mourinho effect” happens.  Great players do not necessarily make good managers. The only thing that makes a great manager is…experience.

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One Response to “Young Managers…What are they good for?”

  1. Mike McKenna Says:

    Well said.

    I think young managers should cut their teeth at the bottom of the football pyramid. I have no objections to 30 year-olds being given jobs, but surely they should earn the opportunity of a big job?

    If you look around the English game now, one of the best young managers is 31 year-old Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. It is also arguable that Darren Ferguson is up there too. Both of these guys are (or were, in DF’s case) fighting their way out of the lower leagues. It gives them an opportunity to gather experience which can then be used further up the leagues.

    Compare that with Roy Keane. A guy who gets work purely on reputation, but he doesn’t have the depth of knowledge to cope when times are tough. As a result, he’ll either walk or be pushed from Ipswich by Christmas, and we can all see what a state he made of Sunderland.


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