What is the longest time a person has served a football club in any role?

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Boyers/PA</span>
Photograph: Andrew Boyers/PA

“What is the longest time a person has been at a club?” tweets Jack Chesterman. “This could be as a player then coach, not just in one position.”

“I’d like to offer Ronnie Moran, whose Liverpool career started in 1952 as a player, before moving into coaching in the 60s and finally retiring in 1998,” writes Chris Charlton-Matthews. “If ‘longest time at a club’ doesn’t have to be continuous, then I’ll throw in Guy Roux, who started at Auxerre in 1954, left in 1957, returned in 1961 and didn’t leave until 2005 for a total of 47 years.”

Related: Longest-serving football manager in England calls it a day after 50 years

Chris Grant nominates a half-centurion in east London. “Charlie Paynter served West Ham for 50 years as either trainer or manager. He started as trainer when the club was formed in 1900, a post he held until taking over as manager from Syd King in 1932. Paynter retired in 1950, handing over the reigns to Ted Fenton, and I believe still had behind-the-scenes roles after that too.”

Veering away from football-specific roles, we’d like to throw in George Sephton (Liverpool) and Peter Gilham (Brentford) who have been stadium announcers at their clubs for 50 years and 52 years, respectively. Read more here.

Jörg Michner puts forward a man who became part of the furniture at Bayern Munich. “Uli Hoeness joined Bayern in 1970 aged 18. In 1979, he had to hang up his boots aged 27 and immediately became the club’s general manager, a position he held until 2009 when he was elected president. He also held various other positions and since 2019 serves as member of the supervisory board. That’s 51 years and counting – unless you want to deduct the one year he was loaned out to Nürnberg to try and overcome his eventually career-ending injury, inflicted by Leeds’ Frank Gray in the 1975 European Cup final. Oh, and those two years he spent in prison for tax fraud from 2014-16. He was on day release for the second year, however, and worked as an assistant for Bayern’s youth team department.”

Uli Hoeness was honoured by Bayern Munich on 30 November as he stood down as president to take up an honorary role with the club.
Uli Hoeness was honoured by Bayern Munich on 30 November as he stood down as president to take up an honorary role with the club. Photograph: TF-Images/Getty Images

Shrewsbury Town’s president, Malcolm Starkey, sets the bar for one-club service even higher. “Starkey has been associated with Shrewsbury Town since 1959 as player, coach, kit supplier, club secretary, director and president,” writes Neil Turner. “Even his four-year spell with local rivals Chester is considered as undercover agent service. I think that makes 62 years. And counting.” Even without the four years at Chester it’s 58 years in total and 54 continuously.

“Ted Bates joined Southampton as a player in 1937, became a coach in 1953 and manager in 1955,” begins Matt Howell. “He stepped down to become Lawrie McMenemy’s assistant in 1973.” He later joined the board, eventually becoming club president until his death in 2003. “All in all, an absolutely astounding 66 years at Southampton.””

We have an apparent winner in the Netherlands, though. “Fred Blankemeijer signed as a youth player in the early-1940s and until his death in 2010, spent 70 years at Feyenoord,” writes Calem Martin. “He served in almost every capacity imaginable including as a youth player, first-team player for three seasons, captain of the second team, youth coach, scout, technical director and member of the board.” Can anyone beat that?

Recent Champions League teams with no foreigners

“I’m going to lay down a marker of 25 November 2014, when Shakhtar Donetsk were beaten 1-0 in the group stages by an Athletic Bilbao side that featured 11 Spaniards – specifically, of course, 11 Spaniards from the Basque region,” writes Chris Charlton-Matthews. “This was the only Athletic game in Europe that year in which Aymeric Laporte (at the time, French) didn’t play. Given that Laporte is now a Spain international, you could argue that their following game on 10 December (a 2-0 win over Bate Borisov) is another possible answer.”

Athletic Bilbao&#x002019;s fans celebrate a goal in the Champions League play-off against Napoli in 2014.
Athletic Bilbao’s fans celebrate a goal in the Champions League play-off against Napoli in 2014. Photograph: Alvaro Barrientos/AP

Have two sides gone unbeaten in the same league season?

“Reading about Galatasaray’s unbeaten season, ending in a disappointing second-place finish, I was wondering what the closest any league has come to two teams with an unbeaten season. Technically, it would be possible for two (or more) sides to be fully unbeaten, given they could draw both fixtures against each other, but I can’t imagine that has happened,” writes Paul Headon.

This has happened a few times round the world, usually in shorter seasons. UB Mingoes pipped Western Warriors to the BFA Senior League title in the Bahamas in 2017-18, with both sides going unbeaten in a nine-match season. Atlético Mineiro and Botafogo went unbeaten in Brazil in 1977 but neither won the title. And Taipower FC and Tatung FC had no losses in Taiwan’s Intercity Football League of 2011. The closest we could find in a big European league is Portugal in 2012-13. Porto went the whole season unbeaten. Benfica lost just once, the penultimate game of the season … against Porto. Kelvin scored an injury-time winner which put Porto above Benfica in the table.

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“If Leicester win the league, will Kasper and Peter Schmeichel be the first father and son to win Premier League titles?” asked Hannah Skolnick in April 2016. “And can you think of any other goalkeeping father and son duo to win the same league as each other?”

The short answer to the first question was no. Ian Wright and Shaun Wright-Phillips both had Premier League winners’ medals, while Darren Ferguson and Sir Alex Ferguson each had them for the same season – 1992-93 – though Ferguson Sr’s medal was, obviously, as a manager. As for whether any father and son goalkeepers have won the same league as each other, well, that’s harder to answer. It appeared not – certainly not any major leagues – though Pepe Reina and his dad Miguel Reina Santos do both have European Cup final medals, but neither has “winner” written on it. There’s a bit more about it here.

The Cudicini family had mixed tastes of European Cup finals: Fabio bagged himself a winners’ medal for Milan in 1969, while son Carlo watched from the bench twice, an unused sub for Milan in defeat by Marseille in 1992, and again as Chelsea lost in 2008. They were both part of Serie A-winning squads, but Cudicini Sr’s 18 starts during the 1967-68 season certainly trump Jr’s 24 bench slots and zero appearances across two title victories in 1991-92 and 1992-93. Carlo did, however, win four domestic trophies during his time at Stamford Bridge.

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Can you help?

“Which goalkeeper has had the most assists in his career?” asks Bogdan Kotarlic.

“With the Newcastle buyout in mind, have any players ever refused to sign for a club because of the owners?” writes Colin Hodgkinson.

“Perusing the World Cup qualification tables I noticed Denmark’s particularly impressive performance to date: P8 W8 D0 L0 F27 A0 Pts: 24. If they do manage to win their remaining two games without conceding, it would surely be a new record?” wonders Colin McNicholas.

“The unfortunate Vale of Leithen in the Scottish Lowland League lost their last two games 13-0 and 11-0 to Bonnyrigg Rose and Berwick Rangers, respectively. Have any senior teams lost three or more games to double-digit scorelines?” asks Billy.

Mail us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

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