There’s been a shake-up at England’s youngest manager table following the new permanent appointments at Bradford City and Bristol Rovers, with one of the incumbents yet to blow the candles on his 30th birthday cake.
Below we cast an eye over the 10 youngest managers currently employed in England’s top-four divisions - that’s the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two - which feature the likes of Joey Barton, Wayne Rooney, and Mikel Arteta...
1. Conor Sellars: Bradford City (29)
At the top of the pile we have a brand new face: Conor Sellars.
Aged just 29, Sellars is now the youngest permanent manager in English football after League Two side Bradford City made the rare decision to give the job to not one but two managers (more on joint-boss Mark Trueman in a moment).
In mid-December the duo were installed as caretaker managers following the exit of Stuart McCall. A couple of weeks later the pair were named interim managers, then in February (2021) they were deservedly handed the reins full-time following a remarkable transformation.
The decision - made by CEO Ryan Sparks who is only 29 himself - came after a cracking run of form which saw Selles and Trueman bag seven wins from 11 games, losing only once.
This is made even more impressive considering that the club had previously won none and lost seven of Stuart McCall’s final eight matches.
Sellars, son of former Blackburn and Newcastle winger Scott, enjoyed a varied playing career in Portugal, Iceland, and at non-league level in England.
The Englishman, who secured his UEFA A Licence in 2019 and speaks Portuguese, has been at Bradford since 2014, during which he’s held various roles, including Academy Coach, Head Foundation Phase Coach, U18 Professional Development Phase Coach, and now manager!
Wayne Rooney, 35, was appointed Derby manager in January 2021
2. Mark Trueman: Bradford City (34)
The aforementioned Mark Trueman is the second youngest boss in the top-four divisions, behind his Bradford associate Conor Sellars.
Trueman, who turned 34 earlier this month, has enjoyed a fantastic start to life in the Bantams dugout (see above section).
Similarly to Sellars, Trueman spent his playing days in the non-league circuit, and only recently (October) was on the books at Thackley.
He took his first steps into coaching with FC Halifax Town, where he won the National League U19 Alliance. Then ventured over to Bradford Academy, where he was the U18 boss.
Double-act Mark Trueman (34) and Conor Sellars (29) are the youngest managers in the top-4 tiers
3. Russell Martin: MK Dons (35)
Up until the joint-manager appointments at Bradford City, it was Russell Martin who had the title of ‘youngest manager in England’.
The now 35-year-old was a surprise replacement for Paul Tisdale in the MK Dons dugout back in November 2019, when he was still a player.
Martin had a tough task on his hands with the newly-promoted club stuck in the League One relegation zone, however despite his inexperience he impressed in his new post and later steered the club to safety while he also managed to finish above rivals Wimbledon.
He’s now got his side up in the top-half of the table; the play-offs could even be within reach with 17 games still left to play. A bright future awaits Martin whose superb start to life in management recently saw him linked with Championship side Bristol City, although this following quote was no doubt music to the ears of MK Dons fans:
“I'm very happy here, I'm so invested in the people I work with, the culture we've brought here and I want to continue to improve and grow that. And I'm invested in the club. We've got a lot of work to do, and that's all I'm focussing on.”
His record as a player...— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) November 3, 2019
- Games: 572
- International Caps: 29
- Promotions: 5
After signing for the club as a player in January, Russell Martin has been announced as the new manager of #MKDons! 👀 pic.twitter.com/pHOnS6dCq3
4. Mark Bonner: Cambridge (35)
Boyhood Cambridge fan-turned-coach-turned-manager Mark Bonner - not to be confused with the former Blackpool player Mark Bonner, or Mark Bonnar the actor! - is currently flying high at the summit of League Two, having accrued 52 points from 30 games so far this season (2020/21).
Bonner was originally named caretaker in January 2020, then secured the permanent post two months later, only to then be furloughed due to the pandemic. Turn the page to the current campaign and he’s breathed new life into the team, and wasted no time in stamping his own identity on the free-scoring club who many predicted would be fighting it out down at the other end of the table.
“I’ve always done a job I’m too young to do in the eyes of many people,” Bonner said earlier this month. “There is sometimes a stigma around people being too young to go on and coach or play in the first team, when ultimately it’s about talent. If you’re fit, hungry and talented it doesn’t really matter – young or old – what you are.”
Now the 35-year-old, who started out coaching the club’s U8s, could be on course to bring League One football back to the club for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Mark Bonner (35) is in fine form at Cambridge
5. Wayne Rooney: Derby (35)
The stand-out name in this category when it comes to success as a player, Wayne Rooney is now bidding to thrive in the managerial arena after landing the Derby job full-time in January (2021) following a couple of months as interim boss.
While the likes of Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) and Andrea Pirlo (Juventus) were fortunate enough to land high-profile first-time jobs, Rooney deserves credit for throwing himself headfirst into the lower echelons of the Championship.
A whole host of names were linked with the post, but in the end the Rams liked what they saw and opted to give Wazza his first stab at management. Early signs show that the club got the appointment spot on.
It was by no means a glamour appointment. Rooney has stepped up to the plate and injected some much needed self-belief, he’s made his side more resolute, and now momentum is building nicely.
Some of his matches to date have been extremely impressive, from wins to nil against promotion-chasing Swansea and Bournemouth to a 4-0 thumping of Bournemouth. There have of course been lows too and while his iconic status in the game means there will always be a degree of pressure and expectation on his shoulders, Rooney has already started to make his mark as a manager.
6. Brian Dutton: Walsall (35)
Another recent addition to the managerial arena is Brian Dutton, 35, who only replaced Darrell Clarke at Walsall last week on a deal through to the end of the season.
It might be his maiden post in management but it’s one that the Walsall chairman revealed he’d been prepping the young boss for. "I've been mentoring Brian Dutton for six months to one day take the place of Darrell Clarke,” said Leigh Pomlett.
“In this very office two weeks ago Stef Gamble and I did a mock interview with him to see whether he was ready or not. That's just a sensible management think to do as managers do come and go.
“We were very pleased and very impressed with him. He is a top class coach and is committed absolutely.
Dutton, who predominantly played at non-league level, has admitted that while he’s young and inexperienced, he’s determined to prove himself in his new role. Who knows, if he gets some early wins on the board he could even catapult his side into League Two play-offs contention.
7. Alex Revell: Stevenage (37)
The 2019/20 season was a shambolic one for Stevenage who finished the curtailed campaign rock-bottom with player Alex Revell at the helm; the club’s third manager of the season who weeks earlier had just come out of retirement.
In the end Stevenage’s blushes were spared as they managed to avoid the dreaded drop because of Macclesfield’s own points deduction.
Revell (37), who only managed two games last season, has had to learn on the job in difficult circumstances in the middle of global pandemic but he’s now got his troops pushing in the right direction.
“I’ve got a few more grey hairs now,” Revell said when asked about how his first year has gone. “We’ve been through it all in the last year. It’s been a steep learning curve.”
8. Carlos Corberan: Huddersfield (37)
Carlos Corberan, 37, has had quite the coaching education so far, having worked under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini at Valencia, while he’s also managed in Cyprus and coached in Saudi Arabia.
Last summer the UEFA Pro License qualified coach made the decision to leave Bielsa’s Championship-winning side in order to go it alone at Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield, who had surprisingly parted ways with the Cowley brothers.
Results have since been mixed and consistency has been a problem, yet what is clear is the style of play the Spaniard has stamped upon the Terriers; who employ an attacking, attractive possession-based brand of football - only leaders Norwich City have seen more of the ball so far this season.
It’s not been without its problems but the new-found identity, quest for goals, and his analytical and tactical ability have certainly pleased the owners who have already handed Corberan an extended contract through to the end of the 2023/24 season.
While Corberan’s new blueprint will take time to develop, the building blocks have been put in place in what is looking like an exciting period for the club.
- Started as a fitness coach at 23— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) July 23, 2020
- Worked under Pellegrini and Valverde at Villarreal
- Recommended by Guardiola for Al-Ittihad job
- First team and Under 23 head coach under Bielsa
Huddersfield appoint the highly thought of Carlos Corberán as their new Head Coach ⚪️🔵🇪🇸
9. Joey Barton: Bristol Rovers (38)
Eyebrows were raised when Fleetwood Town offered Joey Barton his first opportunity in management in 2018, yet he proceeded to swat away the criticism and prove himself a highly-capable, astute and interesting young manager.
In his second season Barton propelled Fleetwood into the play-offs before the club surprisingly opted to take a new direction at the start of 2021. Seven weeks later and Barton is back in the dugout with Bristol Rovers where he’s bidding to resurrect an underperforming club and rejuvenate the fanbase.
Mikel Arteta (38) is the youngest manager in the Premier League
10. Mikel Arteta: Arsenal (38)
Finally, we go to Mikel Arteta who at 38-years-of-age is the only Premier League manager on this list.
The former Gunner was appointed as Unai Emery’s replacement in December 2019 following an impressive internship under Pep Guardiola at Man City.
Arteta has since lifted the FA Cup and Community Shield, won praise for developing a new youth-focused side, implemented his own identity, and asserted his authority when required.
On the downside, Arsenal endured a very poor start to the season (2020/21) which saw Arteta come under pressure. A top-four finish is now probably out-of-reach, they exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle, whereas the temperament of various players has been called into question.
However, while it’s not all gone to plan for Arteta so far there have been promising signs of progress and there are hopes that the Londoners can mount a push for Europa League glory.