Brighton finally copy Chelsea with manager appointment as two Premier League records will be broken

Matt Stead
William Gallas and Andre Villas-Boas of Spurs, Brighton manager candidate Fabian Hurzeler and Chelsea coach Gianluca Vialli
Fabian Hurzeler could step in AVB and Gianluca Vialli's Chelsea footsteps

Brighton are about to appoint the youngest manager in Premier League history, with the biggest age gap between a player and boss set to be extended too.

Fabian Hurzeler has been identified by Brighton as their ideal candidate to replace Roberto De Zerbi, who parted with the club at the end of this past season after just under two years in charge.

FC St. Pauli coach Hurzeler would become the youngest permanent manager in Premier League history. The American-born German turned 31 in February and would leapfrog the current leader, who was an ancient 32 years and seven months when he coached his first game in the top flight.

There will be more on that later, as this list is focused on the managers who picked players older than them in a Premier League game. Hurzeler, born in February 1993, is younger than seven members of the current Brighton first-team squad: Joel Veltman (born January 1992), Lewis Dunk (born November 1991), Pascal Gross (born June 1991), Danny Welbeck (born November 1990), Jason Steele (born August 1990), Adam Lallana (born May 1988) and James Milner (born January 1986).

If Milner ever features under Hurzeler – and he signed a one-year contract in May after making 20 appearances in 2023/24 – it would be the biggest age gap yet between a player and manager in Premier League history (seven years and one month).

These bosses are the only ones to try and navigate that sort of curious relationship dynamic.


Glenn Hoddle (Chelsea)

Younger than:
Mal Donaghy (by 44 days; played 28 games)

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 Hoddle.

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


Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea)

Younger than:
Kevin Hitchcock (by one year and nine months; played three games)
Steve Clarke (by 11 months; played 11 games)
Mark Hughes (by eight months; played six games)

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

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 2023. 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 the Italian’s senior respectively.

Back-up keeper Hitchcock, who was there under Hoddle and Gullit and then later worked with Vialli as a coach at Watford, was another who played under him as an elder statesmen.

📣TO THE COMMENTS! Will Hurzeler be a success at Brighton? Join the debate here


Paul Jewell (Bradford)

Younger than:
Neville Southall (by six years; played one game)
John Dreyer (by one year and three months; played 14 games)
Dean Saunders (by three months; played 34 games)
Stuart McCall (by three months; played 37 games)

“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 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, Jewell also called on the experience of Saunders, McCall and Dreyer as the 35-year-old manager helped the Bantams successfully sidestep the drop.

Jewell is little over six years older than Pep Guardiola, who “wasn’t good enough” to join his Wigan side much later.


Chris Coleman (Fulham)

Younger than:
John Collins (by two years and five months; played three games)
Andy Melville (by one year and seven months; played nine games)
Billy McKinlay (by one year and two months; played two games)
Mark Crossley (by one year; played 20 games)

For now, still the youngest permanent manager in Premier League history – with Ryan Mason’s first caretakership of Tottenham discounted.

As an aside, across his two interim spells with Spurs, Mason played Gareth Bale, Toby Alderweireld and Ivan Perisic despite each being around two years his senior, while keepers Hugo Lloris and Fraser Forster were three and five years older than the caretaker.

Back to Coleman, he predictably littered his sides with maturity. Collins and Melville were already there when Jean Tigana was replaced as head coach at Fulham in 2003, while McKinlay filled in a few times either side of his primary role of aiding youth-team development.

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.

Dave Beasant did spend the 2003/04 season as a registered Fulham player, making one Premier League bench all season. A whole 11 years older than Coleman, it is a dreadful shame he never featured.


Aidy Boothroyd (Watford)

Younger than:
Alec Chamberlain (by six years and eight months; played one game)
Chris Powell (by one year and five months; played 15 games)

“The ultimate professional” is how Boothroyd described Chris Powell upon the defender’s departure from Watford when his one-year Vicarage Road contract expired. Then 37, he only started nine times in an unsuccessful pursuit of Premier League safety, but set a fine example of how not to be “disruptive” when out of the team.

Boothroyd did hand one more game to an individual older than him that campaign. 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 what was technically a clean sheet.

READ NEXT: Boothroyd’s laughable nonsense about the England U21s being an “impossible job”


Roberto Martinez (Wigan)

Younger than:
Mike Pollitt (by one year and five months; played five games)

The first signing Wigan made as a Premier League club in summer 2005 was, in the words of Martinez, “the example to follow for the younger members of our squad” until his retirement nine years later. Pollitt was thus an established member of the squad when the Spaniard failed upwards and was appointed manager in June 2009, even if opportunities were hard to come by.

The keeper played 52 games in nine years for Wigan, starting the 2006 League Cup final in his first season and retiring after playing three times in his last, with the Latics in the Championship.

Under Martinez specifically, he played five times in the Premier League and conceded an entirely on-brand 15 goals at a rate of one every 21.3 minutes.


Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea and Spurs)

Younger than:
Brad Friedel (by six years and five months; played 12 games)
Hilario (by two years; played two games)
William Gallas (by two months; played 19 games)

That 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 both sit in economy and 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 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. Gallas – who later said the Portuguese “didn’t have the balls” to tell him he was surplus to requirements in north London – and Friedel, briefly the master to Hugo Lloris’ apprentice, were both older than him.


Garry Monk (Swansea)

Younger than:
Gerhard Tremmel (by four months; played three games)

As teammates for a mere eight matches, including the processional final half-hour of a victorious League Cup final against Bradford, the shift in dynamics to player and coach must not have been too trepidatious for Monk and 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.