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The Oldest Managers In Premier League History

When Roy Hodgson was reappointed as Crystal Palace manager in March 2023, he once again became the oldest active Premier League boss (and he already held the record as the oldest ever). But Hodgson is not the only septuagenarian to have taken charge of a Premier League club.

In this article, we’ll highlight the other managers who have plied their trade in one of the most intense leagues in the world while many of their peers had long since settled for their pipe and slippers. We’ll kick things off with Roy himself as he yet again enters the lion’s den of the Premier League.

Roy Hodgson – 75 Years, 235 Days+

Roy Hodgson England Press Conference
Image: katatonia82, Bigstock Photo

When Hodgson takes charge of his first Crystal Palace match in his latest stint at the club, he’ll be well on the way to being 76 years old. How long he stays in his post remains to be seen, but he’s still comfortably the oldest Premier League manager ever. Having started his football life as a youth player for Palace, it could be a fitting end to his managerial career. And what a managerial career it’s been!

Hodgson has managed too many clubs to list them all in this article but some of the highlights have included Inter Milan, Liverpool, Malmo, West Brom and Fulham. While he’s also taken charge of several international sides including England (of course), but also Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. He gained his first managerial position way back in January 1976 when appointed the boss of Halmstads BK and promptly led them to the Swedish top-flight title – the first in the club’s history! He repeated the trick in 1979, and after an ill-fated stint at Bristol City, he returned to Sweden where he enjoyed success at Malmo.

Given his longevity and the number of relatively high-level clubs he’s managed, it could be argued that Hodgson’s haul of silverware is a little underwhelming. There have been a smattering of Swedish championships and also cups in Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland. But the closet he got to real success in one of the biggest leagues in Europe was when he lost in the finals of the UEFA Cup (in 1996/97 when at Inter Milan) and the UEFA Europa League (in 2009/10 while at Fulham).

As for his time as England manager… well, let’s just say he didn’t exactly set the world alight. But he had a very respectable win ratio (58.9%) that is just shy of Sven-Göran Eriksson’s, but better than the likes of Bobby Robson, Steve McClaren, Terry Venables and Don Revie.

Bobby Robson – 71 Years, 192 Days

Sir Bobby Robson Statue at St James' Park
Image: DarrelBirkett, flickr

Speaking of Bobby Robson, the much-loved manager is next in our list having also managed into his 70s. He was 71 years and 192 days when he took charge of his final Newcastle United match (a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa, incidentally). Like Hodgson, Robson was a manager who spread his wings and gained experience in many leagues.

He started his managerial career in 1967 at Vancouver Royal Canadians for whom he was player-manager. Then he moved to take charge of Fulham where, to be frank, things didn’t go well. Fulham got relegated from the top flight and Robson got the boot the following November.

It was his next job, at Ipswich Town, that allowed Robson to build a reputation as a very good manager. During his time at the club he led them to an FA Cup (1977/78), a UEFA Cup (1980/81), a Texaco Cup (1972/73) and even a national indoor five-a-side tournament victory! He also led them to second-place finishes in the top flight in 1980/81 and 1981/82 (missing out to Aston Villa and then Liverpool).

In 1982, he was handed the England job, and though he wasn’t always the most popular (at least in the media), he led the Three Lions to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Italy in 1990, the furthest they had got since winning the tournament in 1966. He also guided England to the quarters in the tournament before, in Mexico.

As a manager, he won the Dutch championship twice with PSV, the Portuguese championship twice with Porto, and the Copa del Rey and the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona. While working at Barca, Robson also employed a certain Jose Mourinho as his interpreter… and later employed him as his assistant. Clearly some of Robson’s tactical astuteness rubbed off on Mourinho!

Alex Ferguson – 71 Years, 139 Days

Sir Alex Ferguson Statue at Old Trafford
Image: coward_lion Bigstock Photo

One of the greatest football managers of all time, Alex Ferguson began his managerial career in 1974 at East Stirlingshire but soon moved to St Mirren where he led his side to the second-tier title in Scotland.

It was at Aberdeen that he really caught the attention of the footballing world, however. He led the Dons to three Scottish top-flight titles, four Scottish Cups, the Scottish League Cup, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and even the European Super Cup, beating Hamburg. It was no surprise that English chairmen began seeking his services and he was appointed the boss of Manchester United in November 1986.

Given how little time managers are giving to find success in today’s trigger-happy days, it is notable that Ferguson did not win his first piece of silverware at United until the FA Cup in 1989/90. But that trophy opened the floodgates and four more FA Cups were to follow, along with a record-breaking haul of 13 Premier League titles. Throw in a couple of Champions Leagues, a UEFA Super Cup, and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, along with four League Cups and a hatful of Community Shields… well, he’s essentially untouchable when it comes to managerial success in the Premier League era.

Neil Warnock – 70 Years, 162 Days

Map of Cardiff with Red Pin

Unlike Ferguson, who stayed at Man United for so many seasons, Neil Warnock is much more of a journeyman. At the time of writing, Warnock is in charge of second-tier side Huddersfield Town, and though he’s 74 now, he was aged 70 when last in charge of a Premier League side (Cardiff City).

During his managerial career, which began back in 1980 at Gainsborough Trinity, he’s had 19 different jobs (sometimes returning to former clubs). His biggest jobs have arguably been at Sheffield United, Leeds United and Middlesbrough. He’s a man who clearly likes the North of England!

That said, perhaps his biggest success was winning the second tier with QPR in the 2010/11 season, and the closest he’s come to emulating that has been when finishing as runners-up in the second tier (once with Sheffield United and once with Cardiff City). He’s also successfully led sides through the second and third-tier play-offs, and won the Football Conference with Scarborough.

Of course, given the clubs Warnock has managed over the years – i.e. those who have had rather modest budgets, to put it politely – his real success has often been keeping his side in whatever division they were playing it at the time. And that’s something that shouldn’t be discounted, especially in the Premier League era. At the time of writing, Warnock is still going strong at Huddersfield Town, so who knows how long he’ll continue? If he pulls off a miracle there, he might even challenge Hodgson’s record as the oldest Premier League manager in the coming years!

Claudio Ranieri – 70 Years, 93 Days

Italian Flag

The last of our septuagenarian Premier League managers is Claudio Ranieri. The man from Italy has had four stints in the Premier League, most notably with Chelsea from 2000-2004 and indeed with Leicester (more of which later).

But it was during his relatively short stay as Watford boss that he turned 70 and thus earned a place on our list! Of course, as so many before and since have realised, the shelf-life of Watford managers is not long. Indeed, Ranieri only lasted 14 games in the Watford dugout, after which he was replaced by the man at the top of our list, Roy Hodgson (and he was only given 18 games in charge!).

Watford job aside, though, Ranieri has enjoyed a long and successful managerial career, and has led teams in his native Italy, Spain, France and, as mentioned, England. He even had a brief spell as the Greek national team’s boss. But his biggest success undoubtedly came when leading unfancied Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2015/16.

Against odds of 5,000/1 (did you back it?!), the Italian masterminded what was to become one of the biggest shocks in football history. Of course, football is a fickle business, and he was sacked in February the following season!