Top 10 youngest Premier League managers after Ryan Mason took charge

Gianluca Vialli found success in the dugout at 33, while a young Andre Villas-Boas lasted just nine months at Chelsea… so who else joins Ryan Mason as the youngest managers to take charge in the Premier League?

  • Ryan Mason was appointed Tottenham interim boss after Jose Mourinho sacking
  • He became the youngest to take charge of a Premier League game aged just 29 
  • He is three years younger than the previous youngest Attilio Lombardo
  • Ex-Chelsea managers Ruud Gullit, Andre Villas-Boas and Gianluca Vialli in top 10 

What a week it was for Tottenham Hotspur.

Manager Jose Mourinho was dismissed last Monday at the same time as the European Super League storm raged. Spurs were among the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ seeking to break away and join the lucrative but loathed new competition, which soon collapsed.

By Sunday night, Spurs had also lost the Carabao Cup final and so remain trophyless for 13 years and counting. 

The one chink of light came with a midweek league win over Southampton in interim manager Ryan Mason’s first game in charge.

Former Spurs midfielder Mason became – at just 29 years, 19 months and eight days – the youngest manager to take charge of a Premier League fixture – and by quite some distance.

But what happened to the Premier League’s other young managers? We count down the top 10 and how they got on.

Ryan Mason became the youngest manager in Premier League history after he took charge of Tottenham Hotspur in their 2-1 win over Southampton last Wednesday night

Tottenham started Mason’s interim tenure with three points last Wednesday evening

10. Paul Jewell (Bradford City; 34 years, 10 months, 10 days)

Bradford City manager Paul Jewell on the sidelines during their first Premiership season in 2000

Jewell may have only been 34 but he was far from a managerial rookie by the time he took charge of a Premier League game.

Indeed, his playing career at Bradford tapered nicely into a coaching role and he was assistant to Chris Kamara before stepping up to the top job in January 1998.

Jewell was a natural in the dug-out and guided Bradford to a second-place finish in what was then Division One in 1999, sealing a return to the top-flight after 77 years away.

So his first Premiership game as a manager was Bradford’s first as a club, a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough. It was just the start of a rollercoaster season that ultimately saw the Bantams escape relegation by beating Liverpool 1-0 on the final day.

But Jewell resigned when chairman Geoffrey Richmond described their 17th place finish as a ‘disappointment’, and he took the Sheffield Wednesday job. 

9. Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest; 34 years, 7 months, 27 days)

Pearce’s playing days were far from finished when he received a first taste of management while at Nottingham Forest in 1996.

The legendary England defender was put in caretaker charge following Frank Clark’s resignation and he ultimately took charge of 12 games before Dave Bassett came in.

That Pearce would later move into management – including a spell as Forest’s manager almost two decades later – wasn’t a surprise at the time as he won six of those 12 matches and was named January 1997’s Manager of the Month in the Premier League.

There was one mishap, however. In his first game in charge, a 2-1 win over Arsenal, Pearce omitted goalkeeper Mark Crossley until the mistake was pointed out by his wife.

Stuart Pearce pictured in the dug-out during his caretaker spell as Forest manager in 1996-97

8. Alex Neil (Norwich City; 34 years, 1 month, 30 days)

Neil was the second-youngest manager in the Football League at just 33 when Norwich City brought him south of the border from Hamilton Academical in January 2015.

But the Scot’s impact at Carrow Road belied his years and, after winning 17 of his first 25 matches in the regular Championship season, he guided Norwich to victory over Middlesbrough in the play-off final.

His first game in the Premier League – at almost two months past his 34th birthday – was a 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace and Neil wasn’t able to keep them in the top flight.

Alex Neil guided Norwich into the Premier League just a few months after taking the job

7. Kevin MacDonald (Leicester City; 34 years and 1 day)

MacDonald, who would later go on to be Aston Villa’s caretaker manager on three separate occasions, performed a similar role at Leicester in November 1994.

It was inbetween the tenures of Brian Little and Mark McGhee with the 34-year-old’s playing days not long over.

The Scottish midfielder had started his playing career at Filbert Street so there was something fitting that his first managerial post – albeit a brief one – was there as well.

Kevin MacDonald pictured during one of his caretaker spells as Aston Villa boss in 2010

6. Ruud Gullit (Chelsea; 33 years, 11 months, 17 days)

The first of three Chelsea managers in the top 10. The veteran Dutch legend had still been a regular fixture in Glenn Hoddle’s team during the 1995-96 campaign but when the manager left to take the England job, Gullit was appointed player-boss.

His first game in charge was a forgettable goalless draw with Southampton but things soon picked up. In his first season, Gullit led Chelsea to FA Cup success, their first major trophy in 26 years. They also finished sixth in the Premiership.

Gullit didn’t play as frequently, of course, but he still picked himself 13 times during the course of the season and 10 the following year, his last before hanging up his boots.

However, he left the Stamford Bridge in acrimonious circumstances the next season with chairman Ken Bates saying: ‘I didn’t like his arrogance – in fact I never liked him.’

Ruud Gullit’s first season as Chelsea player-manager saw them win the FA Cup at Wembley

5. Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea; 33 years, 9 months, 28 days)

As they’d done with Jose Mourinho seven years earlier, Chelsea looked to Porto for some managerial magic when Carlo Ancelotti left in the summer of 2011.

Andre Villas-Boas, 33, was the most promising young manager in European football and Chelsea had to pay the Portuguese club a whopping £13.3million in compensation to get him.

But his first game, a goalless draw away to Stoke, maybe didn’t augur too well and by the spring the pressure had begun to mount on the young boss.

They had dropped out of the Premier League top four, were out of the League Cup and trailed 3-1 after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli.

He was fired after a 1-0 defeat to West Brom on March 4, 2012 and replaced by Roberto Di Matteo, who went on to win the Champions League for Chelsea that very season. Villas-Boas resurfaced the following season at Tottenham, but it didn’t end well.

Andre Villas-Boas in his familiar crouching pose on the touchline in his first league game 

4. Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea; 33 years, 7 months, 27 days)

Where the Gullit story leaves off, the Vialli story begins at Chelsea, who went for an even younger boss when they appointed him.

The Italian striker was one of Gullit’s signings in the summer of 1996 and was aged 33 when he replaced Gullit as player-manager in February 1998.

He made a very successful start, winning the League Cup and then the European Cup Winners’ Cup, while also finishing fourth in the league.

They challenged for the title in 1998-99, eventually finishing third, which was the club’s highest finish since 1970.

And his second full season saw Chelsea lift the FA Cup and reach the Champions League quarter-finals. But he lasted just five games of the next campaign following a dressing room fall-out.

Gianluca Vialli (right) celebrates their 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup win with Dennis Wise

3. Chris Coleman (Fulham; 32 years, 7 months, 22 days)

Coleman had finished off his playing career with Fulham just at the time they were rising through the divisions and into the Premier League.

He joined their coaching staff as soon as he retired from playing and worked under Jean Tigana. But by the end of the 2002-03 campaign, with the club staring down the barrel of relegation, Tigana was sacked and Coleman put in caretaker charge.

The Welshman did brilliantly and steered them away from danger to earn the job on a full-time basis.

And his first full season in charge saw Fulham defy all pre-season predictions and finish ninth.

Despite being one of the youngest mangers ever in top-flight football, Coleman had well and truly proved himself and remained Fulham boss until April 2007.

Chris Coleman (left) may have been a rookie manager but did brilliantly in the Fulham job

2. Attilio Lombardo (Crystal Palace; 32 years, 2 months, 8 days)

Crystal Palace’s ‘bald eagle’ was much loved after he arrived at Selhurst Park in 1997, just in time for their return to the Premier League.

But when manger Steve Coppell moved upstairs to become director of football, few predicted that Lombardo, 32, would be appointed in his place with the Swedish international Tomas Brolin as an interpreter.

He’d been out injured for a few months anyway, in which time Palace’s encouraging start in the Premier League had given way to a relegation scrap.

In the end, the managerial novice couldn’t keep them up. He did stay with the club and play briefly in the First Division before returning to Italy and Lazio, where he won a number of honours under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Attilio Lombardo (centre) ponders Crystal Palace’s game plan during his first game in charge

1. Ryan Mason (Tottenham Hotspur; 29 years, 10 months, 8 days)

Lombardo was the Premier League’s youngest boss for some 23 years before Mason overtook him last Wednesday night. The Spurs manager became the first Premier League boss in his twenties.

He is also considerably younger than Lombardo was and you do wonder if there will be anyone younger.

Jose Mourinho was sacked as Tottenham’s manager last Monday after 17 months in the role

But Mason was powerless to stop Pep Guardiola and Man City win the Carabao Cup on Sunday

The week ended on just as glum a note as it had started for Tottenham’s players

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