FA Cup: Romsey Town manager, 22, to be youngest ever boss

By Nabil HassanBBC Sport
Manager, 22, proud to make FA Cup history

Romsey Town manager James Phillips is set to make FA Cup history on Saturday, with the 22-year-old believed to be the youngest-ever boss in the competition.

Phillips will lead the Wessex League Division One side against Fareham Town in the Extra Preliminary Round.

He was appointed manager of the Hampshire-based club in April and says it will be a huge honour to make FA Cup history at the weekend.

"I'm immensely proud, it's a massive achievement," Phillips told BBC Sport.

Phillips began coaching at Lyndhurst Football Club at the age of 16. He gained his FA Level One badge after doing a course linked to Southampton FC and done through Totton College.

He was offered the position of assistant reserve-team manager at Romsey Town last season before taking over the reins.

James Phillips on his coaching apprenticeship
"I was one of those sad people after school who was sat there for hours playing Championship Manager. I always used to try and take a really small club up through the leagues."

Impressive runs in the Southampton Senior Cup and Hampshire Intermediate Cup followed, and in April Phillips was named first-team manager, taking over from Carl Bennett and John McFarlane.

And now, on Saturday, he is likely to become the youngest manager in the history of the FA Cup, with the Football Association confirming they were unaware of anyone younger.

Phillips first became interested in coaching through a popular computer game - and now he is playing it out in reality.

"I was one of those sad people after school who was sat there for hours playing Championship Manager," he said. "I always used to try and take a really small club up through the leagues.

"From a really young age that got my interest going. Now I'm doing it in real life. It's a little bit different with a bit more pressure."

Impressively, Phillips has continued to improve himself as a coach completing the FA Level Two course and will next month start his Uefa B Licence.

Stan Cullis
Stan Cullis is the youngest FA Cup winning manager - he was 33 when Wolves beat Leicester in 1949

It is this dedication that has helped him earn the respect of senior players at Romsey, some of whom are over 10 years older.

"The eldest player at the moment is Ben Andrews, who is 33. He's club captain and has been there for about six or seven seasons," said Phillips, who works as a custom vehicle builder.

"I worked with Ben last year and he's been absolutely superb for me. Any help I've needed he's been there for me. He's a good leader for all the younger players and I've never had any issues with any of the players, especially him. He's always backed me 100%."

Phillips, who lives with his mother and stepfather, is expecting the odd "raised eyebrow" in the Wessex League this season when he lines up on the touchline but is "100% ready for it".

He added: "My ultimate aim is to work in the professional game in some capacity, whether that be as a coach or a manager, in the future."