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Jun 23, 2011

Young managers

At the age of 33, Andre Villas-Boas has already become recognised as one of the most capable managers in the modern game. Here, ESPNsoccernet looks at some of the other bosses to have made their start to life at the top at a very early age.

Herbert Chapman

At Chapman's funeral in 1934, after his death at the age of 55, the vicar of Hendon said: "The football world mourns a genius."

Pneumonia brought an early end to his life, but he had already enjoyed the best part of three decades in management, during which he brought league and FA Cup success to Huddersfield and made Arsenal one of the most famous clubs in England and abroad.

His managerial career began in April 1907, just three months after his 29th birthday, at Northampton. As a player, he had received acclaim for his tactical awareness, but his success was limited and his career involved stints in reserve sides and at non-league level.

However, as a man of impeccable standards, he showed an instant aptitude for leadership when appointed player-manager at Northampton and, bringing through some of the finest forwards of the day including Fanny Walden, he made the club Southern champions within two years.

Chapman is remembered as one of the game's great modernisers, having been a prominent figure in the introduction of floodlights, matches against European teams, and the 'Councils of War'- meetings discussing the opposition's strengths and weaknesses.

Jimmy Hogan

Born in Lancashire to Irish parents, Hogan is the man credited with inspiring English football's famous 6-3 humiliation at the hands of Hungary at Wembley in 1953.

An inside forward who spent the best part of his career with local sides Burnley and Bolton in the early 1900s, it is said that Hogan, after an easy win over Dordrecht during a summer tour of the Netherlands with Wanderers, decided he wanted to return to the country to "teach them how to play".

In 1910, at the age of 28, he took charge of the Dutch national team for one game and, after retiring as a player two years later, embarked on a coaching career that involved spells in countries including Switzerland, France and eventually Britain. Most significant, though, was his work in Austria and Hungary, where he led Austria Vienna and MTK Budapest and was to have a significant impact of their national teams.

He attracted positive notices in the English press when, alongside Hugo Meisl, he trained the Austrian 'Wunderteam' narrowly defeated 4-3 by England at Stamford Bridge, and Hungarian FA president Sandor Barcs said after the Magical Magyars' famous Wembley win: "Jimmy Hogan taught us what we know of the best British football. He came to us nearly 30 years ago and you can see how we have learned his lessons."

Jack Reynolds

An unremarkable player who was never able to make the grade at the highest level, Reynolds would make his mark as a manager with Ajax, laying the foundations for Total Football and the club's eventual domination of Europe.

Born in Greater Manchester, Reynolds endured a disappointing playing career that peaked with a regular role in the Grimsby side that finished 13th in Division Two in 1904-05. His playing career came to an end at 29 and, in 1912, at 30 years of age, he took charge of Swiss side St Gallen.

He impressed sufficiently to attract the attention of the German national team but had to turn down the post as a result of the First World War, and instead took charge of Ajax in 1915. In his first decade there, he won the league twice and the KNVB beker and, after spells in charge of Netherlands and Blauw-Wit Amsterdam, returned to win six more league titles across two spells.

More important than the silverware, though, were the fundamental changes he made to the club. Ajax expert Menno Pot recently told the BBC: "Everything this club is about and everything this club is known for was invented and introduced by Jack Reynolds."

He introduced professional training techniques and had a preference for skill over the physical power that remained prevalent in his homeland, telling the Daily Express in 1957: "Most British players who come here disappoint me."

Among the youth team players to have emerged during his final years at the club was Rinus Michels, who would famously go on to perfect the Total Football system.

Vittorio Pozzo

Pozzo, who led Italy to World Cup glory in 1934 and 1938, first took charge of his country at just 27 years of age.

A well-travelled man who spent two years living in England, he played for a season with Grasshopper Club Zurich before returning to familiar settings as he played the final five years of his career with hometown club Torino.

After early retirement in 1911, he was given the task of leading Italy at the 1912 Summer Olympics. With the team having only been formed in 1910, the young Pozzo oversaw a defeat to Finland in their first game of the competition and therefore had to take part in the 'Consolation Tournament'.

He went on to spend a decade with Torino as technical director while holding down a day job with tyre manufacturer Pirelli, but he would return to management with AC Milan in 1924 before eventually leading Italy to successive World Cup titles in his pioneering commissario unico per la squadra nazionale role, which saw him handed responsibility for team selection.

Valeriy Lobanovsky

The first manager of a Soviet side to win a major European trophy, Lobanovsky was a famously authoritarian coach, and his teams' combination of power and technique have ensured he remains high in the football pantheon.

A player of some distinction, often compared to the great Brazilian midfielder Didi for his mastery of the ball and ability to score directly from corners, he began his career with hometown club Dynamo Kiev before spells with Chornomorets Odesa and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Aided by his reputation as a player, he was invited to coach Dnipro in 1968 at the age of 29, and oversaw a spell of modest overachievement. Upon taking charge of Dynamo Kiev in 1973, he was able to flourish - his innovation and obsession with fitness helping to create a side that became feared around Europe. Dynamo won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1975 with victory over Ferencvaros before beating Bayern in that year's Super Cup, and in 1986 again won the Cup Winners' Cup as they beat Atletico Madrid 3-0.

Guy Roux

It was 44 years after Roux's appointment as player-coach at Auxerre in 1961 that he announced he would be retiring from the post, and in that time he converted the club from amateur strugglers to champions of France.

Roux joined Auxerre as a youth and made his debut as a 16-year-old in 1954 but, after deciding to pursue his education, he moved on to Stade Poitevin and then Limoges FC. He came back to Auxerre's attention in odd circumstances: while watching the club's friendly with Crewe Alexandra, he found himself playing for the visitors after it was announced over the PA system that the English side were short of players due to injury.

Roux, still shy of his 22nd birthday, was invited to return to Auxerre after that performance but said he would only do so as player-coach. He had proved himself a keen student of the European game - even successfully applying for an internship at Crystal Palace during his university course - and he wrote out a lengthy document detailing his plans for the club.

Auxerre were obviously reluctant to appoint someone so lacking in experience, but financial concerns proved persuasive: Roux was willing to accept a lower salary than other candidates and promised to cut overheads.

After a two-year interruption due to military service from 1962, Roux secured promotion from the fourth-tier Division d'Honneur in 1970, and further promotions in 1974 and 1980 saw Auxerre enter the top-flight. Remarkably, Roux led them to the Ligue 1 title in 1995-96 and the Coupe de France on four occasions.

Brian Clough

A prolific striker with Middlesbrough and Sunderland, Clough was forced into early retirement at 29 as a result of a cruciate ligament injury but, fiercely competitive to the last, he was to find even greater success in management.

He was given his chance at Hartlepools United in 1965 at the age of 30, becoming the youngest manager in the league at a club languishing in Division Four. As a result of financial problems, his jobs at Hartlepools varied from driving the team coach to painting the ground and appealing for donations, bucket in hand, to plug a leak in the main stand.

"Hartlepools were changing managers like you change your underpants," he later recalled. "The position was vacant for the second time that season and it was only October. I applied for it; I got it. I got the sack twice while I was there and refused to go."

Alongside assistant Peter Taylor, Clough managed to steer the club in the right direction before moving on to Derby and, eventually, Nottingham Forest, where he won back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

Arrigo Sacchi

"A jockey doesn't have to have been born a horse"

Sacchi became revered as one of the finest coaches in world football after his work in establishing the legendary AC Milan team of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but he had fought an unlikely uphill battle to get there after having failed to make the grade as a player.

After calling time on his playing career at the age of 19 - "I knew that I would not become a champion," he later explained - Sacchi worked in the family shoe business, but still retained a keen interest in football. Taking advantage of the travelling involved in his day job, he studied the game in countries throughout Europe and in 1972, at the age of 26, he became the coach of local team Fusignano.

Five years later, having decided to leave the shoe trade to pursue a full-time career in football management, he joined fourth-tier side AC Bellaria Igea Marina before securing a role with Cesena's youth team. After an impressive spell with Parma, in which he gained promotion to Serie B and knocked Milan out of the Coppa Italia, Silvio Berlusconi appointed him the Rossoneri's new boss in 1987.

Graham Taylor

Long before his ill-fated reign as England coach, Taylor had made a name for himself as the youngest manager in the league.

He had spent his playing career as a full-back with Grimsby and Lincoln, and when a hip injury threatened his livelihood in 1972, he took on the role of Lincoln player-manager at the age of just 28, stressing that he would only play if absolutely necessary.

Lincoln were then on a dismal run of one win in nine games in Division Four, and after Taylor's appointment failed to win any of their next 11, but he eventually steadied the ship and led them to promotion in 1975-76. He was offered a top-flight job with West Brom the following season, but surprisingly dropped back into Division Four with Watford after a chat with their new chairman, Elton John.

"We had an outside chance of promotion to the Second Division at that time, and I was not interested in Division Four," the 32-year-old Taylor told the Sunday Express. "I did not want to talk to Elton John - I was afraid he might persuade me - yet, in another way, I was curious. I wondered what he was like."

Taylor took Watford to the top-flight inside five years and secured a second-place finish in their first ever season in the First Division.

Steve Coppell

In October 1983, Manchester United midfielder Coppell announced his retirement at the age of 28 after a knee injury suffered while playing for England two years earlier. A month before he turned 29, though, he was back in the game as the manager of Second Division side Crystal Palace.

Palace chairman Ron Noades said: "The fact that Steve has no previous managerial experience doesn't worry me, because the game is in need of fresh ideas."

Noades' instincts were to prove correct. Coppell, having signed Ian Wright from non-league Dulwich Hamlet in 1985, guided Palace to the top-flight in 1989 and the FA Cup final in 1990, as well as winning the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1991, although they were relegated from the Premier League on goal difference in 1993.

Rafa Benitez

Benitez was a promising player in his youth and joined up with Real Madrid at 13. He played for the club at several youth levels, but injuries hampered his chances and, after missing the majority of the 1985-86 season with Segunda B side Linares CF, he retired at the age of 26.

Having already taken on coaching duties with Linares, he returned to Real Madrid to join the coaching staff and, for the 1986-87 campaign, took charge of Castilla B - later renamed the Under-18 B side. Titles swiftly followed, and he was promoted repeatedly until eventually finding himself working alongside Vicente del Bosque with the senior side in 1994. The following year, at the age of 36, he was named Real Valladolid manager.

Spain goalkeeper Pedro Contreras, who played under Benitez for the Real Madrid A side in 1990-91, told the club's official website in 2009: "He was a football scholar - way ahead of his time. He was a pioneer at breaking with the old image people had of a coach and in using computers to draw up new systems and come up with methods. He gave speeches on nutrition and travelled to the US to study on it. You could tell he would be a great coach some day."

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