What’s the best age to be an England manager?
Harry Redknapp said last week that the England manager role is “an older man’s job”.
At the age of 65, his comment might fairly be construed as an act of self promotion. Although at 64-years-old, fellow contender Roy Hodgson would also fit the bill of an ‘older man’.
Whether Redknapp is trying to shoehorn himself into the England hot-seat is by-the-by; the Tottenham manager is the favourite for the role anyway. Beyond that, there is seemingly a logic to Redknapp’s assessment. With age comes experience, wisdom and instant respect; qualities it could be argued are needed if one is to manage at the highest level.
But is it as simple as that? Does age have a bearing on one’s ability to successfully lead a national team? Is the England role “an older man’s job” as Redknapp believes?
We’ve studied all the England managers going back to Walter Winterbottom’s reign, which began in 1946.
Immediately we see that at the age of 65, Redknapp would become the oldest man to ever take on the job. The previous oldest person was Fabio Capello, who was 62 when the FA put him in charge of the Three Lions. The average age of England managers (excluding caretakers) when taking on the the role is 47.
If we look at England’s most successful managers, judged on tournament success and their age at the time of that success, we would see Sir Alf Ramsey was 46 when England won the World Cup, Bobby Robson was 57 when England reached the semi-finals at Italia 1990 and that Terry Venables was 53 when England reached the semi-finals of Euro 96 on home soil.
We hit a snag when analysing at what age England managers have enjoyed success with the national team. To be blunt – England haven’t been very successful, so there’s little data to work with. But what we can see is that when Ramsey won the World Cup, he was just two years older than Steve McLaren, a manager whose reign collapsed in disarray with some citing his age and inexperience as factors for the unhappy end to his spell in charge.
If we look at win percentages when in charge, the most successful England manager is Capello with a 66.7 per cent win ratio – who as already stated, was 62 when taking the role. The next most successful was Sir Alf with a record of 61.1 per cent. He was 43 when he took charge. The next best is Glenn Hoddle, with a win percentage of 60.7 per cent. Hoddle, at the age of 39, was the youngest England manager since Winterbottom.
What we can glean from this is that with such variations in the age of successful England managers, it would seem that how old a coach is, has little to no correlation on their ability to be a success. If there is any correlation, if anything, the success of Sir Alf and Hoddle suggests that youth is actually a positive thing.
If we spread our net a little further and look at all international managers – what do we see?
Defining what constitutes a successful manager is not an objective task. The quality of players one has to work with, the state the team is in when one takes over, who your opponents are… there are a myriad of influences that will impact on a manager’s ability to get the best out of his team. But for the sake of this, we’ve looked at managers who reached the semi-finals of either a World Cup or European Championships (something England would be more than happy with this summer) going back to the 1980 European Championships held in Italy.
We find that the oldest manager to win a tournament was Luis Aragonés, who at 69 won Euro 2008 with Spain. Franz Beckenbauer was the youngest, he was 44 when he lifted the 1990 World Cup with Germany. The average age of managers who reached the last four of a major tournament over the last 30 years is 52, and the average age of tournament winning coaches is 54 – both ages 10 years younger than Redknapp, and in their early 50s, perhaps not in the bracket of “an older man”.
So, is the England manager role “an older man’s job” as the current favourite to take the reigns of the Three Lions confidently stated this week? Our analysis shows that giving relatively youthful managers a chance to manage England has sometimes proved successful. Yet older managers have also done well. Meanwhile, the optimum age for tournament success is someone in there early 50s. But as we see in the case of Aragonés, there is nothing to stop a manager of an older age succeeding.
The analysis is somewhat inconclusive, so while it can’t tell us what the best age to be an England manager is, it does tell us that employing an “older man” provides no guarantees.
England managers by age…
Name Term Took Job Left Job
Walter Winterbottom 1946-1963 33 50
Alf Ramsey 1963-1974 43 54
Joe Mercer (caretaker) 1974 60 60
Don Revie 1974-1977 47 50
Ron Greenwood 1977-1982 56 60
Bobby Robson 1982-1990 49 57
Graham Taylor 1990-1993 46 49
Terry Venables 1994-1996 51 53
Glenn Hoddle 1996-1999 39 41
Howard Wilkinson (caretaker) 1999, 2000 56 56
Kevin Keegan 1999-2000 48 49
Peter Taylor (caretaker) 2000 47 47
Sven-Goran Eriksson 2001-2006 53 58
Steve McClaren 2006-2007 44 45
Fabio Capello 2008-2011 62 65
Stuart Pearce (caretaker) 2012 49
Age of managers who reached the semi-final stage of major tournaments…
2010 World Cup
Spain 59 (winners first), Netherlands 58, Germany 50, Uruguay 63
Spain 69, Germany 48, Russia 61, Turkey 54
2006 World Cup
Italy 58, France 54, Germany 41, Portugal 57
Greece 65, Portugal 55, Netherlands 56, Czech Republic 64
2002 World Cup
Brazil 53, Germany 41, Turkey 49, South Korea 55
France 58, Italy 58, Portugal 50, Netherlands 37
1998 World Cup
France 56, Brazil 66, Croatia 63, Netherlands 51
Germany 49, Czech Republic 53, England 53, France 54
1994 World Cup
Brazil 51, Italy 48, Sweden 48, Bulgaria 48
Denmark 54, Germany 45, Sweden 46, Netherlands 57
1990 World Cup
West Germany 44, Argentina 50, Italy 57, England 57
Netherlands 53, Soviet Union ??, West Germany 42, Italy 55
1986 World Cup
Argentina 46, West Germany 40, France 48, Belgium 62
France 51, Spain 40, Portugal 62, Denmark 43
1982 World Cup
Italy 53, West Germany 50, Poland 40, France 49
West Germany 48, Belgium 56, Italy 51, Czechoslovakia ??
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