One of the most satisfying and rewarding elements of playing Football Manager is starting out as a young boss and gradually working your way up the leagues. You can really savour the achievement when you do enjoy some success because you have not taken the easy option of going straight to a big club.
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But it is not just in Football Manager where you can take charge of a club at a young age. Indeed, there are three managers in the Football League currently aged just 33. Here, we take a look at the three youngsters who are making their own mark.
The former Barnsley midfielder has already achieved a lot in just two years as a manager and he could find himself in the Premier League next season. He was only 31 when he was appointed player/manager of Hamilton in April 2013. In his first full season, he led Hamilton back into the Scottish Premiership via the play-offs. His reputation was enhanced by an impressive start to this campaign when Hamilton enjoyed an 11-game unbeaten run in all competitions. This concluded with a stunning 1-0 win at Celtic and a 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen. His exploits in Scotland alerted Norwich early in 2015 and he was appointed as Neil Adams’ replacement on January 9. He oversaw a 2-1 win at Bournemouth in his first game and Norwich have won 10 of his 15 matches in charge. He was named the Championship Manager of the Month for February and now has Norwich just two points off the automatic promotion spots, and three points off top spot. It also says a lot for his influence at Hamilton that the club have not won a game since he left for Carrow Road.
Like Neil, Johnson is another 33-year-old who is enjoying a second managerial job and he could also be in line for promotion at the end of the season. Another midfielder to step into management, Johnson must have being a boss in his genes as he is the son of former Yeovil and Bristol City manager Gary Johnson. The younger Johnson was handed the Oldham job in March 2013 and he quickly made an impact in keeping the club in League One. Last season, he took Oldham to a solid 15th place on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run at the end of the campaign. Known for his commitment to playing an attractive brand of football, Johnson had Oldham pushing for the play-offs before he left for Barnsley at the end of February. He won his first four games, including a 3-1 triumph at Oldham, and is still unbeaten after drawing the last two games. Barnsley have also conceded just twice since Johnson took over and they are only one point off the play-offs.
Murray is a 33-year-old who is certainly going to have to do it the hard way if he wants to enjoy some Football Manager-style progress up the leagues. Murray became the Football League’s youngest manager when he was handed the Mansfield job, initially on a temporary basis, last November. He beat Plymouth in his first game and then Concord in the FA Cup in his next. But he then faced the first test of his managerial abilities when winning just one of the next 11 games. He has come through that examination well and he has Mansfield firmly on course to remain in League Two. Murray has already improved Mansfield’s style of play and has adopted the attacking mentality favoured by many of the younger managers. He is now keen to really put his own stamp on the squad in the summer. Next season will be a realistic gauge of how far Murray’s managerial career could take him.