The Youngest Premier League Managers: Fresh Faces
Who is the youngest Premier League manager of all time? We look back across the history of the competition to give you a run down of the top 10 youngest to take charge of a match.
Ryan Mason (29y, 312d)
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton (April 21, 2021)
Following the sacking of José Mourinho, Tottenham gave the reigns to former midfielder Ryan Mason as caretaker manager for the remaining six matches of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
On the day of his first game in charge, Mason was just 29 years, 312 days old and he became the only manager in Premier League history to be under 30 years old. He was only the second person since the Football League resumed in 1946-47 to manage a top-flight game whilst in their 20s after Frank Sibley, whose first game was in August 1977 vs. Aston Villa, also at the age of 29, as QPR boss.
Spurs won the match 2-1 thanks to goals from Gareth Bale and Son Heung-Min – the latter a former teammate of Mason’s at the club. In fact, Mason named four players in the starting XI who he played alongside during his own Premier League career, playing with Hugo Lloris (49 times), Eric Dier (44), Toby Alderweireld (22) and the South Korean forward (14).
Mason went on to manage six league games overall for Spurs in this spell, securing four wins with one coming against the next Spurs manager: 2-0 versus Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves’ side. Tottenham scored 14 goals in these six matches, with only Manchester City (16) scoring more over the period that Mason led the Premier League club from the dugout.
Attilio Lombardo (32y, 67d)
Crystal Palace vs. Aston Villa (March 14, 1998)
Crystal Palace were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table when Steve Coppell was moved to a director of football role at the club, with Italian Attilio Lombardo being given a surprise position as caretaker player-manager.
The former Sampdoria man was in charge for six games, with Thomas Brolin as his assistant (and translator) and secured two wins with twice as many losses, before Ray Lewington took over for the final three matches of the 1997-98 campaign.
His first game in charge of the Eagles came in a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park in March 1998, with Lombardo just 32 years, 67 days old. He was just the second Italian to manage a Premier League game, after Gianluca Vialli became the first a month earlier at fellow London club Chelsea.
Upon being appointed, it was clear that Lombardo didn’t foresee a long-term role in the position, stating, “I am looking forward to the challenge, but my intention is not to remain as player-manager. This is a temporary measure and hopefully we will have a new manager taking over so I can go back to being a player, even if Palace are relegated.” Luckily for him, it was a quickfire experience.
Chris Coleman (32y, 313d)
Fulham vs. Newcastle United (April 19, 2003)
When Chris Coleman was handed the caretaker manager role at Fulham in April 2003, the West London side were in danger of dropping out of the Premier League with just two places between them and the relegation zone. Jean Tigana had just been sacked following a run of three successive defeats without scoring a goal, but 32-year-old Coleman helped steer them clear of the relegation zone.
The Welshman had only announced his retirement as a player six months prior to this role and managed to seal a win in his first game in charge, beating Newcastle United 2-1 at Craven Cottage. He went on to lose just one of his five games as caretaker boss in 2002-03, winning three times. This proved enough to convince Fulham to name him as permanent manager ahead of 2003-04.
Coleman remained Fulham manager for four more years, before his dismissal in April 2007 following a miserable run of just one victory in 15 top-flight games. He was replaced by Lawrie Sanchez. After this 152-game spell in the competition at Fulham, the former Welsh international never managed in the Premier League again but took charge of Wales and led them to Euro 2016, their first international finals tournament in 58 years. However, after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, he left the Welsh job in November 2017.
Gianluca Vialli (33y, 227d)
Chelsea vs. Leicester City (February 21, 1998)
The mid-late 1990s checklist to be in charge of Chelsea was a simple one:
– Have you had a very decent playing career?
– Can you still play a bit?
– Are you in your 30s?
Gianluca Vialli became the third successive player-manager appointed by Chelsea, following Glenn Hoddle in 1993 and Ruud Gullit in 1996. Vialli was the youngest of the trio, being just 33 years, 227 days old on the date of his first game as manager in February 1998. It wasn’t the best start, with Chelsea losing 2-0 away to Leicester City, but things were to get better with time.
The first Italian to manage in the Premier League, Vialli led Chelsea to victory in the League Cup final and European Cup Winners’ Cup in his first three months in charge, followed by the 1998 UEFA Super Cup and the 1999-00 FA Cup. The Super Cup win saw Vialli become the youngest coach to win a major UEFA competition at the time, at just 33 years, 308 days old.
Vialli took charge of 94 games in the Premier League for the Blues, with his sacking coming just five games into the 2000-01 campaign. Across his spell as player-manager, Vialli chipped in with five goals and four assists in just 1,372 minutes on the pitch. You won’t get that from Thomas Tuchel.
André Villas-Boas (33y, 301d)
Chelsea vs. Stoke City (August 14, 2011)
Thirteen and a half years after Vialli’s appointment, Chelsea gave the job to another 33-year-old coach – this time to one with slightly more pedigree as a top-flight coach, however.
André Villas-Boas has spent only one season in charge of FC Porto, but what a season it was. He won the league title by 20 points while remaining undefeated, followed by the Portuguese Cup and UEFA Europa League titles. In winning the Europa League, he broke Vialli’s record as the youngest coach to win a major European competition – aged just 33 years and 213 days old when they defeated Braga 1-0 in Dublin.
His time at Stamford Bridge didn’t go so well, lasting only six months at the club before being sacked in February 2012 and replaced by caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian went on to win the Champions League only three months later on the foundations that Villas-Boas had built.
On his first Premier League game – a disappointing 0-0 draw away at Stoke City – Villas-Boas was aged just 33 years and 301 days old, meaning he is still the fifth youngest to take charge of a Premier League match.
Since leaving Chelsea, the Portuguese has led Spurs, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Shanghai SIPG and Marseille but has picked up as many trophies since leaving Portugal as he did in one single season at Porto (four).
Yet another Chelsea manager features in this list of the youngest managers in Premier League history, with former Dutch legend Ruud Gullit the sixth youngest to take charge of a Premier League game. He was only 33 years, 352 days old when he took charge of his first English top-flight game at the Blues, drawing 0-0 with Southampton at The Dell in August 1996.
Kevin MacDonald took charge of Leicester City in their 2-1 home win over Arsenal in November 1994, just a day after his 34th birthday. In between the tenures of Brian Little and Mark McGhee, he was to oversee four games for the Foxes with just one win to his name.
Scottish manager Alex Neil orchestrated promotion through the Championship playoffs in his first season in charge of Norwich City but was unable to stop the Canaries from suffering relegation in the 2015-16 Premier League. His first game in charge of the club in the top-flight was a 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace, but he did become the eighth-youngest boss in Premier League history when doing so (34 years, 60 days old).
Stuart Pearce is another of the top 10 to be an interim manager, when he led Nottingham Forest to a 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the City Ground in December 1996 aged 34 years, 241 days following the departure of Frank Clark. Even after this managerial spell, Pearce spent four more seasons as a player in the top-flight with two years at both West Ham and Manchester City. The former England international had his longest spell as a Premier League boss at Manchester City between March 2005 and May 2007, leading them on 85 occasions in the top division and averaging a lowly 1.19 points per game.
Paul Jewell brought Bradford City into the Premier League for the first time ever in 1999 following a successful Championship season. He went one better in 1999-00, keeping them in the top-flight against all the odds thanks to an unexpected final day win at home to Liverpool. Jewell’s Bradford side were in rampant form as they defeated Middlesbrough in their first-ever Premier League fixture in August 1999, with their former player aged just 34 years and 313 days old. He would only last one season in the Premier League at the club following a disagreement with the Bantams chairman Geoffrey Richmond after their 17th place finish in 1999-00.
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