Larry Barilli: Football manager for past 66 years wins SFA award

By Graham Fraser
BBC Scotland

Media caption,
Earlier this year, BBC Scotland News made a film about Larry and his love of football.

One of the longest-serving managers in British football history has said he is "chuffed" after being awarded by the Scottish Football Association.

Larry Barilli, 84, has been in charge of amateur teams in Greenock for 66 years.

He was named this year's Best Volunteer in Adult Football in the SFA's Grassroots Awards at a ceremony in Hampden Park.

In his career, he has managed seven teams in the Greenock area since 1953.

Image source, SFA
Image caption,
Larry Barilli, pictured with his award along with former Scotland Women’s international Suzanne Winters and Scotland manager Steve Clarke.

The great-grandfather told the BBC: "I was quite chuffed to be recognised. I got a right good cheer.

"I spoke about the old Bill Shankly saying - 'football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that'.

"When I was 38 years old, my late wife said to me 'Larry, you will need to choose between me and football. I said 'that's a pity, because I liked you'."

Larry estimates to have only missed seven games through illness over the years. He started as a player-manager when he 18 after setting up a team and naming it after the street he grew up in.

It is thought Forfar club secretary and manager James Black is the only man to have managed in Scotland for a longer time, and Larry will match his record this season when he leads his team Chaplins in the Greenock and District Welfare League.

Scotland's longest-serving football managers:

  • James Black (Forfar manager/club secretary for 66 years)
  • Larry Barilli (Manager in Greenock amateur leagues for 66 years)
  • Bob McGlashan (Arbroath manager/club secretary for 43 years)
  • Willie Maley (Celtic's manager for 43 years)
  • Jock Finlayson (40 years with Hill Of Beath Hawthorn)
  • John Hunter (35 years at Motherwell)
  • Bill Struth (34 years as Rangers boss)

Source - Scottish Football Museum

Notable others:

  • Ivor Powell, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest working football coach, aged 93. He worked as a coach for 58 years.
  • Fred Everiss (manager and club Secretary at West Brom for 46 years)
  • Guy Roux (44 years at Auxerre)
  • Roly Howard (35 years at non-league Merseyside club Marine)

After some mild abuse of the referee and colourful language that one may expect at a Sunday league game, Larry celebrated after his team Chaplins defeated Belleaire 8-2 in a league match.

Larry is believed to have managed about 2,000 games, and the Scottish Amateur Football Association is not aware of a football manager in Scotland who is older than him.

As well as managing the side, Larry is Chaplins' kit man and works as a taxi driver two days a week.

Image source, SFA
Image caption,
Larry Barilli was highlighted as "a shining example" of the impact volunteers have on Scottish football.
Image caption,
Larry Barilli started managing football teams in the year Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest.

For the past few years, some of his senior players at Chaplins have taken training while he concentrates on leading the team on match days.

After many of his players left this summer, Larry is looking forward to managing a new-look Chaplins side when they kick off their season next week.

Andy Gilchrist, West Regional Manager at the SFA, said: "Larry is a shining example of the impact that volunteers have on the grassroots game in Scotland. His dedication to the game is unrivalled and his enthusiasm has clearly not waned over the years, which is remarkable to see.

"For Larry to have been volunteering in grassroots football for more than 60 years is a truly remarkable achievement. It is quite humbling to hear how he has benefitted the lives of others and it is no surprise that he received several nominations for this award."

William Collins, the Chairman of the Greenock and District Welfare League, added: "Larry is a great example of someone who loves football at any level. He shares his enthusiasm with the local players and encourages them to play for as long as they can due to his love for the game.

"He is still pretty sharp on a Sunday. I'm sure his players will testify to that."