Top ten young managers

Posted by - April 7, 2011 - Lists

Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got XXXXX-io

Two months ago, Josep Guardiola turned 40. By the time he had done so, Guardiola had won everything he could possibly win in Spain. Alongside this, I am spending a lot of time on public transport, and so to keep me interested (yes, I am a sad sad man) I have created a few top tens for your own amusement and interest (hopefully).

So today OTP looks at home and abroad to find the top ten managers under forty years of age:

Lee Clark – aged 38
To be honest, there is a slight degree of domestic bias to the beginning of this list, which is mainly based on the fact that although I hold my knowledge of European football in the highest esteem, it doesn’t drop to the third tier of any country other than sunny old England.

Clark is still in charge of his first club (Huddersfield Town) after previously only being Newcastle United’s reserve team manager, but has been successful almost constantly since taking over. In total he has an exactly 50% win ratio. Huddersfield currently occupy an automatic place in League One. If Clark gets the Terriers to the Championship, it will only be a matter of time before Clark gets a job at one of the more unfashionable Premier League clubs.

Roberto Martinez – aged 37
Martinez would have undoubtedly been higher up this countdown were it not for the performance of Wigan this season. Whilst the Spaniard is perhaps not currently in grave danger of losing his job, there would surely be serious questions out if Wigan are relegated (which surely they will be).

Before arriving at the JJB, Martinez was incredibly successful in South Wales at Swansea City. Taking over in February 2007, he led Swansea to the League One title in 2007/8 and was named LMA Manager of the Year. In his first season in the Championship, Swansea finished in 8th place, but the callings from the top flight were too tempting for Martinez to resist.

Brendan Rodgers – aged 38
Despite being unsuccessful at Reading (and losing his job within six months), Rodgers has bounced back impressively, despite eyebrows being raised when he was appointed as Swansea manager (replacing previous entry Martinez, incidently).

Under Rodgers, the Swans have won 24 of their 45 games, and currently sit fourth in the Championship. It may well come down to a battle between Swansea and Cardiff for promotion. If Rodgers is successful, he will be in the line for Premier League management, something he has not experienced thus far.

Malky Mackay – aged 39
It would be difficult to overstate the job that Mackay has done at Vicarage Road. Since he took over the reigns on a permanent basis is June 2009, Watford have been a club continuously fighting against a financial landslide. Wages have regularly not been paid, and there has been little to no funds to bring in new players.

Instead, Mackay has nutured through young players, and his side have one of the lowest average ages in the Championship. Watford were predicted for another relegation fight this season, but have defied the odds to sit in tenth position.

If the financial situation is not resolved, it would be tempting for Mackay to demand a role with greater stability and security, and he would leave Watford with a reputation enhanced.

Eddie Howe – aged 33
Ok ok, this is the end of the English brigade, but Howe is also the youngest member of the list, aged just 33.

Howe’s managerial record is something of a fairy story. In fact, he only took control of Bournemouth because of a career-ending knee injury. Despite Bournemouth being financially crippled and suffering a 17 point deduction, Howe led them to safety in League Two. The next season, even with a transfer embargo in place, Bournemouth won automatic promotion, winning eight consecutive games in the process.

Unfortunately, Howe erased some of his heroic status on the South coast by declaring his undying loyalty to the club, two days before moving to Burnley.

Not an overstatement to say that in 15 years Howe could be one of the leading managers in England.

Markus Babbel – aged 38
Whilst you may think it impressive that I have dipped into the second tier of European football to get our number five entry, Markus Babbel will be more than familiar to English football fans.

Taking over at Schalke after a period as assistant manager, Babbel took the club from 11th in November to third place and only five points off the title winners Wolfsburg. In his second season he was sacked by the club after a poor start to the season, but led Schalke to the last 16 of the Champions League.

In the summer Babbel joined Hertha Berlin, who had been relegated from the Bundesliga. Hertha look set for promotion after losing only six of their 28 games.

Germany has a tradition of international ex-players being successful as managers. You would get short odds on Babbel being Germany manager in the next ten years.

Luis Garcia Plaza – aged 38
Hands up if you have heard of the Levante manager? Hands up if you have heard of Levante, outside of being the club at which Ian Harte spent his Spanish sojourn.

Luis Garcia’s managerial career started slowly, being sacked from Elche in the Spanish Segunda Division before eventually being given a chance at Levante. He managed to gain them promotion back to La Liga in his second season in charge (last season), and this term he has further enhanced his reputation.

Despite being amongst the favourites for relegation, Levante sit 9th in the table, and have gained notorious victories over Villareal and Atletico Madrid.

Neil Lennon – aged 39
Yes it is only Scotland. And yes Lennon is an irritable and mouthy sod who has already totalled eight matches of touchline bans at Celtic. But his record speaks for itself, and to win 78% of your games in a managerial career is spectacular whatever the country and whatever the standard of football.

Not bad to say that the Norn Irishman has battled depression for the last eleven years and has had to deal with bullets being sent through the post to his home address. Like Martin O’Neill before him, may return to England to try his hand in the Premier League.

Thomas Tuchel – aged 37
Although you won’t hear many German football fans using the phrase in any chants, Thomas Tuchel is possibly the current German equivalent of Eddie Howe, albeit at a higher level of the game.

Tuchel’s only managerial experience before this season was as an Under 19 coach, but his reputation was already growing in Germany, because Tuchel is part of the ‘new breed’ of managers. His career was ended at the age of 24 due to a degenerative knee injury. Rather than attempting to get a senior job straight away (Alan Shearer take note?), he instead chose to work with Stuttgart’s under-14 team. Crucially, Tuchel made a conscious decision that he could not simply learn to be a manager through doing his coaching badges. Instead he needed to submerge himself in all levels of the game, picking up knowledge and wisdom along this path.

Mainz has the same population as Dudley. But under Tuchel, they won their first seven games of the season, including a 2-1 win against Bayern Munich. They currently sit fourth, a stunning achievement for a promoted club.

Tuchel is the star, and his vision is very much in the Mourinho mould, if not his personality. Players must smile and look each other in the face and say good morning before training. There is a first name policy throughout the club. But there is more than this.

Tuchel is a perfectionist, self-confessing to working fourteen hour days through studying videos and attending matches. He watches training sessions from afar, considering minute changes that he believes will make the 1-2% difference and give his team the advantage.

Remember the name.

Andre Villas-Boas – aged 33
There is an assumption that when Alex Ferguson hangs up his hairdryer, Jose Mourinho will take over the mantle. But after comments this week indicating that Fergie may stay on for a few more years, there may be another Portuguese manager in the running.

Andre Villas Boas (or Luis Andre de Pina Cabral de Villas-Boas for long) is a sensation. He has no profeesional playing football experience. He was manager of the British Virgin Islands ant the age of 21, before becoming a coach under Jose Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea.

Villas-Boas is the youngest manager in the Portuguese league, and it is worth spelling out his record for you:

League record:P25W23D2L0
Overall record: P46W39D4L3

I would be easy to say that Villas-Boas will be known as one of the best managers in the world in five years. He might be known as THE best in three.

  • WFC

    ‘Wages have never been paid.’ Do you have any evidence for this?

  • Timundo

    Great list! Two minor corrections concerning Markus Babbel. He wasn’t coach in Schalke but in Stuttgart. And Hertha have lost only five of their 28 matches.

  • Timundo

    Sorry to bother you again. Mainz are fifth in the Bundesliga. And the club were promoted already in 2009.

  • Daniel Storey

    Timundo, i should scrub up on my German, or do more checking of facts i think i know!

    Watford, no i dont, but i didnt say they have never been paid. I said that they had regularly had not been paid

  • Pedro

    We thought he was a flash in the pan when he was at Académica but has since backed up his brashness with some great results and a significant championship win, much to my chagrin as a Benfica fan. Wouldn’t go so far as to say he’ll be the best in the world, but he will undoubtedly be a top manager.