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Top 10 Young Football Managers (Part One)


Football, over the last couple of seasons, has been witnessing a ‘change of guard’. Players who we adored in their prime have retired, managers that headed some of the greatest sides in history have resigned. All this has given rise to the next generation of football personnel ranging from talented young footballers to talented young tacticians.

In this piece we will be focusing on the Top 10 Young Football Managers, that could be at the helm of some of the biggest clubs in World Football, in the not-so-distant future.

Please note that we have restricted this list to ‘upcoming’ managers rather than established ones or ones that are fairly well-known in the World of football/earned moves to big clubs (Eg: Brendan Rodgers, Andre Villas Boas etc).

Scroll down to read Analysis on each managers from experts & journalists.

Don’t miss the Second Part of this series

10. Viktor Goncharenko


Age: 36

Nationality: Belarusian

Current club: BATE Borisov

Major Honours/Accolades: 5 Belarusian Premier League titles (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012); 1 Belarusian Cup (2010); 2 Belarusian Super Cups (2010, 2011); 3 Belarusian Manager of the Year awards (2008, 2009, 2010)

Expert View:

Viktor Goncharenko’s continuation of BATE Borisov’s dominance of Belarusian football has been instigated through a powerful, organised defence and quick transitions from the midfield. His teams are far more capable of retaining possession against inferior domestic opponents, given the relatively low standard of their top flight opponents, however their ability to counter has been witnessed to great effect in Europe over the past 12 months. The story of Goncharenko’s rise to prominence is an inspirational one, and his ability to rouse his players is a trait that few coaches can truly boast to possess – particularly those as fresh-faced as the 36-year-old BATE coach – and the trust he places in domestically bred players is particularly refreshing in an Eastern European backdrop that relies so heavily on foreign talent to progress.

This write-up was contributed by Domm Norris, you can follow him on Twitter @dommnorris; also follow his excellent website dedicated to Eastern and Central European Football — (@SFUnion_)

9. Ole Gunnar Solksjær


Age: 40

Nationality: Norwegian

Current club: Molde

Major Honours/Accolades: 2 Norwegian Premier League titles (2011, 2012)

Expert Views:

The most famous Norwegian footballer of all time had decided to turn coach long before he hung up his boots. When arriving at an under-performing Molde, Solskjær’s boyhood club, he was billed as their ‘returning saviour’. They’d gone from league and cup runners-up in 2009 to a flirt with relegation in 2010. A return to the medal places was always the unspoken order.

Adding what he’d learnt in Salford – team cultivation, man management, an unrelenting drive even in the last-minute of added time – to his kindred club in a very youthful league was surely destined for success, but what he has given them exceeds even the most unrealistic expectations upon arrival. A strong spine, a sizeable squad and an adaptable set of ears were always the foundation of any successful Manchester United team, and it’s only when Molde have swayed from this that they’ve been unsuccessful; 2013 won’t yield a third successive league title for the Romsdal club as they are currently too far off the pace. But one poor transfer window and a demoralising drop in form shouldn’t overshadow Solskjær’s potential as a coach.

He’s not the most outspoken, idealistic or fashionable coach in Norway, but he is destined for at least one of two big jobs – they both play in red, one begins with ‘M’ and the other has never lost to Brazil.

This write-up was contributed by Brendan Husebø, who is an avid follower of Norwegian football. You can follow him on twitter @BrendanHusebo. Also make sure you view his Norwegian football blog:

8. Malky Mackay


Age: 41

Nationality: Scottish

Current club: Cardiff City

Previous club: Watford

Major Honours/Accolades: 1 Football League Championship (2012-13)

Expert View:

Malky Mackay turned Cardiff into one of the hardest working teams when out of possession and a team that throws in more crosses than any other team in the Championship (at one point) and I am confident is saying no other team scored more headed goals than Cardiff did. There really is a mechanical feel to the way in which Mackay’s system works and yet at the same time, despite all the individual roles, a flexibility that would allow any one of the outfield players to join in with an attack.

Mackay usually plays a 4-2-3-1 and expects both full backs to push forward and look to cross the ball. The two midfielders that sit behind the three creative players are generally ‘battlers’ – Gunnarson, Mutch etc. Three creative midfielders are typically two wingers (Bellamy, Noone, Conway) and they are accompanied by a playmaking central attacking midfielder (Kim, Whittingham) Mackay expects his striker to do all ‘the hard work’ and much of the initial pressing up front, with support from the three behind him. You’ll notice that Mackay is flexible with the profile of this player; it may be a player than runs the channels and looks to sit on the last man or a big strong target man. It’s clear that Mackay has place in his philosophy for two strong towering central defenders and takes advantage of these through Gunnarson’s forty yard driven throw-in’s.

Despite favouring the crossing game, Mackay also appreciates good football being played and does look to play the ball out from the back, through the midfield (rather than the Dave Jones long ball method Cardiff fans got annoyed with!). Mackay’s approach has all the right elements to launch Cardiff City into the Premier League scene and really challenge for the mid-table positions along with the likes of Swansea, Norwich, Southampton etc.

In short, Mackay’s approach is all about having different options in attack and playing through the basic principles of football (using the width and playing through midfield etc).

This write-up was contributed by Jed Davies. A coach, tactician, theorist and author, more commonly known by his twitter handle @TPiMBW. Make sure you view his website,, and check out info on his upcoming book — The Tiki-Taka Handbook

7. Sami Hyypiä


Age: 39

Nationality: Finnish

Current club: Bayer Leverkusen

Expert Views:

In his career as a player, Hyypia was known as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense defender.  But even then there was always a sense that he was readymade for a coaching role after he hung up his boots.  In fact, as soon as he completed his training courses, Bayer Leverkusen offered him a position as assistant at the club.  And after seeing out the 2011-12 season as the club’s caretaker he, alongside Sascha Lewandowski, took over in a dual coaching role for the 2012-13 campaign. A year later, Leverkusen qualified directly for the Champions League after a tactically transformative and impressive season.

Despite his and Lewandowski’s dual roles at the club, it was Hyypia’s vision that shaped Leverkusen’s style and success.  He transformed Leverkusen from a club without a true identity to one of the most dangerous and effective counter attacking teams in Germany.   His implementation of the 4-3-3 not only reinvented the team but also got the best out of several of their players.  Under Hyypia, players previously criticized for failing to live up to expectations like Andre Schürrle or versatile yet underwhelming players like Gonzalo Castro and Stefan Reinartz, really thrived.

So how and what did Hyypia do?  For one, instead of using Reinartz at center-back he put him alongside Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes in a three man midfield.  With three players equally capable of holding the ball as they are doing defensive work, it created a platform for the three attackers and fullbacks to focus largely on attacking with pace.  Rolfes was responsible for covering the left and Bender on the right while Reinartz sat in front of, or slotted into the backline.  Carvajal especially was a big revelation down the right, which is why Real Madrid have already activated their buyback clause. Alongside Castro in front of him they made up one of the best right sided pairings in the league and each helped get the best out of the other.

Similarly, Schürrle was relieved of the defensive duties he had last year and became the prime initiator of their counter attacks.  As soon as the ball was won back in their defensive third, the ball was launched quickly forward to make best use of Schürrle’s speed.  With overlapping fullbacks and Kiessling and Castro ready around the box, Leverkusen became renowned for putting together deadly and precise counter attacks.  The system catered to each players strengths and also got the best out of Kiessling who was free to drop back but also had the kind of service that a striker his type thrives on.  They may be without Schürrle going into next season but the team’s development is far from over.  And all under the watchful eye of the hard-nosed, no-nonsense Hyypia.

This write-up was sent by German football expert, Cristian Nyari, you can follow him on twitter @Cnyari. He is the chief editor of (@Bundesliga4u).

6. Roberto Martinez


Age: 40

Nationality: Spanish

Current club: Everton

Previous clubs: Swansea City; Wigan Athletic

Major Honours/Accolades: 1 FA Cup (2013); 1 Football League One title (2007-08)

Expert Views:

Change is something that has been clamoured for in the stands at Everton in recent years and this summer’s changing of the guard at Goodison Park is a crucial one, with the Toffees replacing a man long tipped for greatness in the game with one held in a similar esteem.

But while Roberto Martinez and his predecessor David Moyes have been charged with unenviable tasks of building on already impressive legacies, that is where similarities end.

Evertonians are relishing the attractive style of play that became synonymous with the Spaniard’s time at Wigan being replicated at Goodison, but concerns about the manner of their departure from the Premier League, after three consecutive great escapes, linger.

He does, however, inherit a solid and cohesive defence – something that was sorely lacking at the Latics – and providing he can retain the services of alleged Manchester United target Leighton Baines, that should go some way in quelling fears of a return to the bad old days for Everton.

In-keeping with his new club’s long-standing mantra, Martinez has set the bar high by targeting Champions League qualification as the ultimate aim of his Blues tenure.

Delivering that, or ending Everton’s 18-year trophy drought will validate claims by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan that this self-styled student of the game was destined for bigger things.

This write-up was contributed by well-respect freelance journalist & broadcaster, Richard Buxton. You can follow him on twitter @Richard_Buxton_

Part Two

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