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Next Chelsea Manager Betting: Hiddink poses an age old question

Premier League RSS / / 19 May 2009 /

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As Guus Hiddink suggests that he's a little too long in the tooth to manage in the Premier League, Dan Fitch examines whether age really is an issue and when Fergie will take up gardening.

Starting a new job is never fun. You don't know where the toilets are and it takes a good while until you feel comfortable enough to just sit around all day doing nothing but surf the net.

Imagine though what it must be like to take a new job, where before you even start, people are making it clear that they don't want you in the role. Although it worked out OK for Boris Johnson.

This is the position that Carlo Ancelotti will find himself in, should he take the Chelsea job. We know this because during their game against Blackburn, the Chelsea faithful were singing en mass: "You can stick Ancelotti up your arse".

The reason that the Chelsea fans are so against Ancelotti, is because they are so in love with Guus Hiddink. The veteran Dutch coach has become a huge favourite at Stamford Bridge after he turned around Chelsea's season, of which the highlight was clearly their spirited away defeat at Tottenham.

Guus has admitted that he did consider staying on at Chelsea, but has decided to concentrate on getting Russia to the 2010 World Cup.

One of the factors that he cited was that he's getting on a bit and that managing a Premier League club was a young man's game. Of course, another factor in his decision may have been that having to constantly look over your shoulder for a KGB hitman, is also a young man's game.

So is it only the young that can survive the pressure of managing a Premier League club? A quick look at the league table would seem to disprove such a theory.

Down at the bottom of the Premier League, you've got the thirty-something Alan Shearer and Gareth Southgate, in charge of clubs that have only amassed thirty-something points.

Then at the top of the league there's Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who's just claimed that he could carry on for another five years, despite the fact that he should have already collected his bus pass.

Fergie is now 67 years old, then there's Harry Redknapp at 62, Roy Hodgson at 61, Professor Wenger at 59 and even the sprightly looking Martin O'Neill clocks in at a coffin-dodging 57.

If Ferguson really does stay on at Old Trafford for another five years, then the [5.9] available on Martin O'Neill to replace him represents poor value, as the Villa boss would probably be considered too old for the job.

When or 'if' Ferguson will ever retire, will always be a hot topic, because most people are itching to see United make a real pig's ear of finding his successor.

You get the feeling that whoever does eventually take over, will have to take out a restraining order against Fergie, to keep him away from Old Trafford. He'd be like an ex-landlord of a pub, who still goes in there every day and insists on dispensing advice to the new bar staff on how best to pour a pint of Guinness.

If anything, Ferguson has now left it too late to retire. If he'd stepped down when he originally said he would, then he could have got himself a cushy job as an international manager and eased into retirement. Now he's left himself with the stark option of contesting Champions League finals, or pruning roses. United are [2] to be crowned champions of Europe again.

One of things that the golden oldies in charge of Premier League clubs have in common, is that they're of the age where they were established enough, to not have to deal with their chairmen appointing meddling directors of football. They've been able to live or die by their own decisions and have prospered as a result.

Ferguson said recently that one of the factors that makes him carry on, is that being around young people keeps him young. This may be the problem at Chelsea, where the ageing squad are making Hiddink feel old before his time.

So no Guus, we do not accept that you're too old to be a Premier League boss. The Betfair punters still clearly think that Hiddink is up to it, as he remains at [16] to keep the Chelsea job, with Ancelotti the [1.49] favourite.

This price could drop if Hiddink masterminds an FA Cup victory, with Chelsea [1.46] to win the trophy. He certainly has a chairman who believes that age is just a concept. If you don't believe me, just do a Google search for 'Abramovich's girlfriend'.

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