At the age of just 31, Michael Paton has become the youngest current manager in the SPFL following his appointment as Brechin City first team player/boss.
Paton has opened up a five-year gap on Ross County’s Stuart Kettlewell and Dundee’s James McPake.
Courier Sport looks at five other head coaches who have made ‘youngest ever’ football headlines down the years.
1 – Jim Duffy
Injury cruelly cut short the former Dundee defender’s career and, with Norris McWhirter still with us, Duffy went into the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest manager in Britain’s football leagues at the age of just 29. This spell at Falkirk lasted just over a year until a fall-out with the Brockville board but, after a playing comeback, he went on to become one of the Scottish game’s longest-serving bosses, twice at Dens Park and currently at Dumbarton.
2 – Ian Cathro
The Dundonian had built up a reputation as a sharp-minded coach through his work at Dundee United’s academy, then as part of Nuno Espirito Santo’s backroom team at Rio Ave and Valencia and under Steve McClaren and Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United. He had a burning desire to be his own man, however, and his old Tannadice mentor Craig Levein gave him his big chance front and centre at Hearts, where he replaced Robbie Neilson. Branded a laptop manager by his critics, Cathro was only 30 when he started the job and Paton’s age when he was dismissed from it. Whether he returns as a head coach remains to be seen but he has certainly bounced back to good effect by reuniting with Nuno at Wolves.
3 – Lewis Fraser
Back in 2017 the Edinburgh man, a football unknown in his home country, could claim to be the youngest manager in a Uefa-recognised league. He was 23.
At that time he was is in charge of second-tier Gibraltar side Angels FC, having worked on match analysis for Peterborough United and Hibs and been a youth coach at Lincoln Red Imps.
Fraser went on to manage Olympique 13 and Mons Calpe Intermediate but has never progressed out of Gibraltar.
4 – Attilio Lombardo
In the late 90s the Italian ‘Bald Eagle’, who had famously won plenty of trophies with Juventus and Sampdoria and, almost as famously, danced the Lambada with James Richardson for Saturday morning Channel 4 entertainment, spread his wings and landed at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park.
Even Lombardo’s class couldn’t keep Palace off the bottom of the table in the English top flight and in the March he was appointed manager when Steve Coppell was moved upstairs, despite barely being able to speak a word of English (he had a Swede, Thomas Brolin, designated as his translator).
Five of the remaining seven games were lost and Palace went down but Lombardo remains the youngest Premier League manager (he was 32), with Chris Coleman, Gianluca Vialli, Andre Villas-Boas and Ruud Gullit completing the top five.
TELLY GOLD: Attilio Lombardo doing the Lambada with @acjimbo on Gazzetta Football Italia.
Weekend telly at its finest.pic.twitter.com/IrlholLxYb
— It’s A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) November 17, 2019
5 – Julian Nagelsmann
Michael Paton has about as much in common with Julian Nagelsmann as dance partners Lombardo and Richardson did with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
But if he wants to choose a role model for best young manager out there, it has to be the German.
Gloss over the fact that his RB Leipzig team were thrashed by Manchester United and he was out-thought by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (the shame) if you could. It’s a stellar CV he has built up.
Nagelsmann had only turned 33 in July when he guided Leipzig into a Champions League semi-final, little over four years after coaching Hoffenheim’s under-19s.
The youngest manager in Bundesliga history was now the youngest to get to a Champions League last four. The former might be beaten in the next few years but the latter is a record likely to stand the test of time.
Just the two years to get there then, Michael.