Why do managers like Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger keep going?
Seventy-year-old Harry Redknapp is back in football; Mrs Redknapp thinks he's mad. Meanwhile, 67-year-old Arsene Wenger seems set to stay at Arsenal beyond the expiry of his contract this summer; that is making the fans mad.
Both men could be happily retired by now, casting their lucrative judgements from the comfort of the pundit's sofa and dining out on a lifetime of anecdotes. They are both financially comfortable and both men, assuming Arsenal don't mount an uncharacteristic charge for the Champions League next season, have long since achieved the zenith of their careers. But they cannot walk away.
"The money I am not interested in," said Redknapp this week as he returns to the game with Birmingham City, having resigned from QPR in February 2015 after a career that's taken him along the south coast at Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and through north London at West Ham and Tottenham. "I get fed up sitting around doing nothing. It gets me out of the house."
Redknapp and Wenger are not the only managers to plough on past a pensionable age. Sir Bobby Robson was 71 when he managed for the last time in the Premier League in 2004. Guus Hiddink was 69 when he steadied Chelsea after Jose Mourinho's sacking last season. And Sir Alex Ferguson was 71 when he finally brought the curtain down on his career in 2013.
The financial rewards are obvious; there has never been more money in the game. Pride is always an issue, too -- it's widely believed that Ferguson would have retired a year earlier had he not been pipped to the title on the last day of the season by Manchester City -- but for some managers, the lure of football is far simpler than that.
"He just loves the game," said Clive Allen, who was part of Redknapp's coaching staff at Tottenham, to ESPN FC. "He loves that involvement and he's missed that. He's done his media work but knowing Harry, he loves being in the office talking football, being out on the training field."
For Redknapp, taking the Birmingham job is a no-lose situation. The Blues, with only two victories in their last 24 games, have plunged towards the relegation zone. The decision of the new owners to part company with former manager Gary Rowett, who had the Blues in seventh place, in December and hire Gianfranco Zola, who took them to 20th before he quit earlier this week, has proved one of the most self-defeating in recent years.
If Birmingham do slip into the third flight, it certainly will not be Redknapp's fault. If he can save them -- and, remember, they have a more than reasonable squad and a three-point advantage over 22nd-place Blackburn Rovers -- his reputation will be enhanced.
"They will have a passionate football man taking charge," Allen added. "The players will know his reputation and he won't disappoint them. He doesn't suffer fools; he knows what he wants and over the years, he's shown that he understands footballers, he understands their abilities and he wants them to get the best out of themselves."
For Wenger, of course, it's a little more complicated.
In reputation terms, he is already at the poker table, pushing his watch and car keys towards the croupier. Had he left in 2014 or 2015 with an FA Cup in hand, he would be remembered fondly by the Arsenal fans who jeer him now, acknowledged as both the best manager in their history and the man who sustained them through the challenges of their transformative stadium move. Instead he stayed on and his reward has been the steady collapse of all the respect he earned. But while many feel that a natural end has been reached, all the rumours around the club suggest that Wenger will be staying on for next season.
Former Arsenal defender Nigel Winterburn believes that Wenger and Redknapp, while being very different characters, are very similar in their love for the game and their reluctance to walk away.
"Arsene is still so passionate about football," he said. "He still watches so many games. He wants to be in control of everything that's happening at the club, he wants to be first in and last out. I think he'll stay, but we'll have to wait and see.
"When you work for that long, I think you know when the time is right. You'll know when you can no longer do the job. He's already said that he'll be in a manager's role next season somewhere. But I think it will be at Arsenal."
Winterburn signed for Redknapp at West Ham in 2000 after the end of his 13-year spell with Arsenal and the former defender insists that players who give their all will find success under the manager.
"It doesn't surprise me at all [that he has come back to the game]," Winterburn said. "He loves football. When he's not managing you always see him on TV and radio, he's still very passionate, but he's always been enthusiastic and he'll never change."
Allen certainly has no doubt as to why managers keep going. "Football is a drug," he said. "Sometimes it's not until you're without it that you realise how important it is, how much you love it, how much you need it. That's Harry -- I don't think he can be without it."
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.