Heynckes the lat­est man­ager to show age is no bar­rier

Bay­ern’s choice for in­terim po­si­tion shows Hodg­son is part of a wider trend, writes

The Guardian - Sport - - Football - Si­mon Burnton

Jupp Heynckes was for­mally in­tro­duced as Bay­ern Mu­nich’s in­terim man­ager on Mon­day, declar­ing that de­spite hav­ing re­tired four years ago he was “look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge” of lead­ing the club through the re­main­der of the sea­son, which will con­clude a few days after his 73rd birth­day. “Crit­ics say I’ve been out of the game for four years but foot­ball’s not been rein­vented,” said Heynckes, who will take charge of the team for the first time against Freiburg to­mor­row. “Age is a num­ber and noth­ing more. Some feel old at 45 but I’ve not changed. I still love mu­sic and sport. I feel young.”

In July Turkey’s search for a new man­ager led them to the 72-year-old Mircea Lucescu, whose first job in in­ter­na­tional man­age­ment came in 1981, half his life­time ago. Last month Crys­tal Palace handed Roy Hodg­son the task of res­cu­ing their dire sit­u­a­tion, mak­ing him the first man aged over 70 to be ap­pointed man­ager by a Premier League club. “It’s a drug

that gets in your veins and stays there,” he said. “At the mo­ment I’m feel­ing as good as I’ve ever felt. You can’t tear up your birth cer­tifi­cate but it’s how you feel.”

Heynckes, Hodg­son and Lucescu have been man­agers longer than any of their charges have been alive, the English­man hav­ing first donned a mono­grammed track­suit in 1976, three years be­fore Heynckes and Lucescu laid out their first train­ing cones. Alex Smith, how­ever, can con­sider all of them to be sprightly young­sters, the Scot hav­ing be­come the old­est man­ager in Europe’s pro­fes­sional leagues when he stepped into the breach at Falkirk two weeks ago at the age of 77.

“You never lose the love of it,” says Smith, who has stepped back into the role of tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor since Paul Hartley’s ap­point­ment last week but is still in­volved in train­ing every day. “I don’t know when I’m go­ing to stop. I love every morn­ing, get­ting up and com­ing in to work. I love the buildup to the game: Fri­day night,

Satur­day morn­ing. I still get some Satur­day nights when I can’t talk to any­body be­cause I’m so an­noyed. Foot­ball’s al­ways been that to me, I love it. I was brought up in a min­ing vil­lage and peo­ple were work­ing in the pits. That was drudgery. Peo­ple work­ing six or seven days a week to try to earn a liv­ing. That’s a job that really takes guts and courage. This, it’s just fun.”

The trend for old man­agers re­flects the age­ing of the pop­u­la­tion as a whole and the re­sult­ing shift in at­ti­tudes. What is now in fash­ion was once con­sid­ered just in­firm: in 1991 Don Howe was sacked as Queens Park Rangers’ head coach at the age of 55 on the ba­sis that he was too old

Jupp Heynckes, who is in his fourth spell at Bay­ern Mu­nich, started man­ag­ing in 1979, be­fore any of his play­ers were born

to lead them through “what is likely to be a revo­lu­tion­ary pe­riod in English foot­ball”. “I can’t un­der­stand what a younger fel­low will be able to do that I couldn’t,” Howe grum­bled, be­fore go­ing on to coach else­where for an­other 12 years.

When the Premier League started in 1992 82% of its man­agers were younger than 50, their av­er­age age was 45 and the old­est, Brian Clough, was 57. Now a quar­ter of English top-flight dugouts shelter coaches older than Clough was then, half are in their sec­ond half-cen­tury and their av­er­age age is 51. Of Europe’s top five leagues, only in the Bun­desliga is the av­er­age age of cur­rent man­agers be­low 50.

But as coaches drift to­wards their dotage some chal­lenges do arise. “The thing that con­cerns you is, some­times you think you might be out of touch,” says Peter Tay­lor, who be­came the fourth-old­est man­ager in the Foot­ball League at 64 when he took care­taker charge of Gilling­ham last month but left the club yes­ter­day. “That’s

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