Crystal Palace vs West Ham: Roy Hodgson and David Moyes longevity tough to emulate with young bosses in vogue
Earlier this week, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expressed his gratitude that West Ham’s board had backed David Moyes through a troubled campaign, if only for the fact it prevented him, at the age of 55, from becoming the Premier League’s oldest boss.
After turning 60 on Tuesday, Moyes joked he was thankful for Roy Hodgson’s return to Crystal Palace for much the same reason.
Tomorrow’s meeting of the London clubs is also one between the League’s two eldest statesmen, although that categorisation is a little unkind to Moyes: at 15 years younger, he is Hodgson’s closest contemporary in the same way that Adelaide is the city of Perth’s nearest neighbour at a distance of 2,000 kilometres away.
Hodgson is an outlier, an extraordinary case, having been dragged out of retirement to surpass his own record as the Premier League’s oldest-ever manager in a bid to keep Palace up, a job that looks done, even with five games still to go.
That Moyes, though, is the only manager in the division in his sixties — and only four days into them at that — is indicative of a wider trend, one that suggests the kind of top-level longevity achieved by the Hammers boss will be increasingly tough to match amid the quickening churn and intensifying strain of modern management.
“To get to a thousand games, I don’t know how I’ve done it,” Moyes said in a special interview with Premier League Productions to mark his landmark birthday this week. “When I look back and think about how managers are going to do it, it’s not going to be an easy thing to do with the way things are going.”
The current average age of the 20 top-flight managers is 48.8, about a year younger than half a decade ago, though such is the rate of turnover that those statistics are only much use as a snapshot (five weeks ago, neither the oldest, Hodgson at 75, nor the youngest, 31-year-old Ryan Mason, were in post, and neither is likely to be five weeks from now).
The greatest managers, like players, have often made early breakthroughs — Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff all won their first trophies before turning 40 — but even beyond the obviously exceptional there seems a growing willingness to trust younger managers sooner, energy and ideas in vogue over proven success.
Hodgson aside, the Premier League fashion for sending an SOS to a wisened old goat at the first sign of trouble looks to be fading. Southampton (perhaps unwisely) and Bournemouth, for instance, have their survival hopes in the hands of 39-year-old coaches after mid-season sackings.
West Ham’s hierarchy stuck with Moyes through their own travails this season, in part because they viewed him as exactly the kind of coach they would look to appoint were they to pull the trigger — and right now they look like being rewarded, with the Hammers probably one win from safety and into a second successive European semi-final.
The Scot puts his staying power down to his acceptance of a changing culture within and beyond the sport, even if he has, at times, evolved reluctantly.
“You hear about the hairdryer treatment. I’ve talked about Scottish managers having a toughness and an edge about them,” Moyes said. “I think I had that much more in the early part of my career and, if I’m being honest, that was when I had my best spells as well. But I think society’s changed now, and you have to move with it.”
There seems a growing willingness to trust younger managers sooner, energy and ideas in vogue over proven success
Stories from the late Nineties of Moyes fining his Preston players in cases of lager brought onto the team bus belong to a different era, so goodness only knows how Hodgson reflects on the game’s transformation since his managerial career began in 1976.
“Roy is incredible,” Moyes added. “[But] my plan’s not to be here at 75 if I can help it — my plan’s to be on the golf course!”