Premier League players older than their managers: Spurs could repeat AVB trick with Nagelsmann

Matthew Stead
Didier Drogba and Andre Villas-Boas react against Spurs

Julian Nagelsmann remains the favourite to replace Antonio Conte at Spurs and the German would become the ninth Premier League coach to accomplish one feat.

With Nagelsmann registering prominently on the Spurs radar, the 35-year-old would be given the rare Premier League task of managing a player older than him: 36-year-old captain Hugo Lloris.

That is said to be a concern for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, which could lead him into the arms of the ancient Xabi Alonso (41).

It is rare but absolutely not unique. One former Spurs head coach has even done it at a couple of clubs…


Glenn Hoddle (Chelsea)
Needing to permanently replace Ian Porterfield, the first Premier League manager ever to suffer the ignominy of being sacked, Chelsea glanced down the English football pyramid in summer 1993 to find Swindon Town, 16 places below them, being guided to promotion by a 36-year-old Glenn Hoddle.

The revolutionary and progressive England international player-manager nevertheless needed some hard-headed, experienced British grit in his backline. Hoddle inherited Mal Donaghy, holder of a European Cup Winners’ Cup with Man Utd in 1991, with the Northern Irishman a defensive regular in the 1993/94 season.

Born a fortnight or so before future Spurs boss Hoddle, Donaghy retired at the end of that campaign. Graham Rix, four days younger than the manager, was brought in as a coach and also made a brief substitute appearance in May 1995.


Gianluca Vialli and (Chelsea)
Chelsea seemed to develop something of a taste for fielding players younger than the manager in the 1990s. While Ruud Gullit never picked anyone born before him, Gianluca Vialli did not mind leaning on such individuals as on-pitch lieutenants.

Mark Hughes paid tribute to “the most beautiful human in terms of his ability to make people feel comfortable in his presence” upon Vialli’s passing in January. Steve Clarke described his former teammate and manager as “a pleasure to play alongside and an even greater pleasure to have known”. The pair were eight months and almost a year older than the Italian respectively.

Back-up keeper Kevin Hitchcock, who also worked with Vialli as a coach at Watford, was another who played under him as an elder statesmen.

Gianluca Vialli looks into the camera


Paul Jewell (Bradford)
“I did not find out I was playing until 2.30pm. I had a good laugh and enjoyed it. I knew I had nothing to lose,” was an example of the sort of wisdom Neville Southall had developed by the time of the last Premier League appearance of his career in March 2000. The 41-year-old joined Bradford on a non-contract basis in the midst of a goalkeeping injury crisis which soon snared Matt Clarke, the shot-stopper slipping down the stairs before a crucial meeting with Leeds.

Southall was not at particular fault for either goal in a 2-1 defeat, after which Leeds manager David O’Leary said of Big Nev’s unexpected return: “Well he is certainly big! For many years I played against him myself and he was always a class goalkeeper – although he’s put on a little bit of weight since I last saw him.”

As well as Southall, the Bantams also called on the experience of Dean Saunders, Stuart McCall and John Dreyer as a youthful Paul Jewell successfully sidestepped the drop.


Chris Coleman (Fulham)
The youngest permanent manager in Premier League history – with Ryan Mason’s first caretakership of Tottenham discounted – predictably littered his sides with maturity. John Collins and Andy Melville were already there when Chris Coleman replaced Jean Tigana at Craven Cottage, while Billy McKinlay filled in a couple of times either side of his primary role of aiding youth team development.

Mark Crossley was an often literally handy presence to have around, filling in when necessary before taking on a more prominent role after the sale of Edwin van der Sar. A clean sheet in a famous victory over Chelsea was the highlight of his autumnal custodianship.


Aidy Boothroyd (Watford)
“The ultimate professional” is how Aidy Boothroyd described Chris Powell upon the defender’s departure from Watford when his one-year Vicarage Road contract expired. Then 37, he had featured 15 times in an unsuccessful pursuit of Premier League safety, but set a fine example that a coach 18 months his junior must have been proud of.

Boothroyd did hand one more game to an individual older than him that campaign. Alec Chamberlain became the second-oldest player in Premier League history when he came on for the final minute of the season, introduced as a stoppage-time substitute for Ben Foster in a draw with Newcastle. He retired less than a week later at 42 years and 333 days old, hanging up the gloves on a clean sheet.


Roberto Martinez (Wigan)
The first signing Wigan made as a Premier League club in summer 2005 was, in the words of Roberto Martinez, “the example to follow for the younger members of our squad” up until his retirement nine years later. Mike Pollitt was thus an established member of the squad when the Spaniard was appointed manager in June 2009, even if opportunities were hard to come by. The keeper played 24 Premier League games in his first season, then a combined 12 in eight subsequent campaigns. Under Martinez specifically, he conceded an entirely on-brand 15 goals in five appearances at a rate of one every 21.2 minutes.


Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea and Spurs)
That Andre Villas-Boas felt compelled to publicly acknowledge how “because of my age and lack of a professional playing career, I could never be dictatorial” spoke volumes. Those quotes emerged in a magazine interview in February 2012; the Portuguese was sacked by Chelsea 18 days later.

The war Villas-Boas waged against the Stamford Bridge old guard was ultimately to his detriment. Pushing Nicolas Anelka and Alex out, rotating Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole in and out of the side and asking John Terry to play a high defensive line would have been controversial in isolation but each were strokes in the wider picture of the transitional revolution he was asked to lead. It was too much all at once. As Villas-Boas said almost a decade later: “I was not very flexible with my ideas. I looked more into the future without respecting the short term.”

From a purely technical point, Villas-Boas was at least five months older than Drogba and eight months Lampard’s senior. The only member of that Chelsea squad the manager was younger than was Hilario, who held off the challenge of Ross Turnbull to make a couple of appearances in the injured Petr Cech’s stead during the 2011/12 season.

Villas-Boas, whippersnapper that he was, repeated the feat when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy pulled his name out of the ex-Chelsea hat in July 2012. William Gallas has a couple of months on the Portuguese, while Brad Friedel was six and a half when his new manager was born.


Garry Monk (Swansea)
As teammates for a mere eight games, including the processional final half-hour of a victorious League Cup final, the shift in dynamics to player and coach must not have been too trepidatious for Garry Monk and Gerhard Tremmel. The latter remains the oldest player ever to feature for Swansea in a Premier League game; the former sits fourth on that list, with Leon Britton and Angel Rangel in between.