Meet the Scottish great-grandad who’s the UK’s longest serving football manager

Meet Britain’s longest serving football manager – an octogenarian who has been in the job for 65 years.

Larry Barilli, 83, from Greenock, has been involved in amateur football management since he was 18 years old
Larry Barilli, 83, from Greenock, has been involved in amateur football management since he was 18 years old

Larry Barilli, 83, has been a player and manager since he was 18. He played in 35 cup finals, winning 23 of them, and has 11 league titles under his belt.

The amateur footballing stalwart, who lives in Greenock in Inverclyde, first set up a team aged 18 and kept on playing into his 40s in his role as an inside left.

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His career as a manager has exceeded even his hero Alex Ferguson’s for longevity by 26 years. Despite his age, the great-grandfather can still do keepie-uppies.

Larry Barilli in his playing days
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His first team, Barnhill Rovers, was named after the street where he grew up.

The latest, formerly named Bayhome Builders FC, was renamed Chaplins FC two years ago.

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Larry, who has only missed six games in 65 years, lamented “too much pushing, shoving and pulling shirts” in the beautiful game.

He has stern words for modern footballers, saying: “There is too much passing about at the back now for my liking.

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Larry Barilli - back row, fourth from left, as a manager

“When I played you were always trying to get forward to score a goal.

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“Now they will pass all day, they are all at it.

“There is also a lot more pushing, shoving and pulling shirts.

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“When I played I was never ever booked.”

Every Sunday he sends his players onto the pitch, in all weathers, and watches from the touchline.

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And despite his age, the father-of-six, who still works part time as a taxi driver, takes home the players’ laundry every week.

He no longer attends mid-week practices, but says after the death of his wife, the footballers have become his second family.

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When he is not cheering on his own team, which play in the Greenock District Welfare League, Larry takes a keen interest in Greenock Morton FC.

And he keeps an eye on Celtic in the Premiership, but said sometimes their playing is ‘boring’, with too much passing.

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Great-grandfather-of-nine Larry said: “I was over 40 when I stopped playing.

“When you are getting a lot of players coming through, it is hard to pick yourself to play.

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“It is not nice to pick yourself in front of others.”

He added: “My career has been longer than Fergie’s. In 65 years I’ve missed maybe half a dozen games.

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“But there’s an awful lot of pushing and shoving and I don’t think it’s a good thing.”

Larry also disagreed with post-match referrals to a committee to make a decision about a players’ behaviour.

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“It’s something for the ref,” he said.

“Celtic are very good at passing it back. It certainly is very boring.

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“I think Scotland will qualify for the next World Cup. I feel sorry for the managers – the clubs should come before the national team.

“I think Scotland could do quite well. The managers are trying very hard.

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“They have not had very much luck.

“I think most teams have got one of those players that will be a bit rough and get booked.

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“I loved it when I was playing football.”