About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #13 - Béla Guttman


Introduced in the last episode of this series as escaping from the Nazis alongside Ergi Erbstein, Béla Guttman was a globe trotting coach who is best known for creating the all conquering Benfica team of the early 60s before cursing the Eagles never to hit the same heights again.
A larger than life character who gave his players great self belief, he was from the same Austro-Hungarian coffee house school of coaching as Hugo Meisl, with his tactical influence most felt in the development of the 1950s Brazilian national team.
His playing career began by winning back to back titles with MTK Hungaria and international caps, but the anti-semitic government of Admiral Horthy led him to leave his country of birth for Vienna. Signing for the all Jewish club Hakoah, he won another title in 1925. Following a post season tour in 1926 he spent several seasons in the USA but having lost a fortune in the Wall Street Crash returned to Europe.
During the 1930s he coached clubs in Austria, The Netherlands and Hungary where he ended the decade winning the title and Mitropa Cup with Újpest. The outbreak of war led to him leading the life of a fugitive, even when he was eventually interned he managed to escape by jumping out of transport train with Erbstein.
Post war he flitted between coaching jobs in Romania (where he insisted on being paid in vegetables) and Hungary. His frequent departures were characterised by angry disputes, leaving his homeland for the final time when he fell out with Ferenc Puskas at Kispest.
Italy was his next destination where he worked at four clubs including AC Milan where he was sacked with the Rossoneri top of Serie A midway through the 1954/55 season. From this point on Guttman insisted on having a clause in his contract which meant he couldn’t be dismissed if his team was top of the table.
A tour to South America with Honved led to a job with Sao Paulo where he won the State championship in 1957 and introduced the Hungarian 4-2-4 formation which was subsequently adopted by the winning Brazil team at the 1958 World Cup to herald twelve years of domination.
A lucrative offer from Porto to restructure the club and win the league was accepted in 1958 and by the end of his first season he had met the challenge to win the first of three consecutive Portuguese titles. However the second two wins were with Benfica, the Eagles tempting Guttman into joining them with an even more lucrative package.
Starting the season with an unbeaten run of twenty five matches, the 1960 title followed him to Estádio da Luz, a prompted a demand for a 200,000 Escudo bonus should he go on to win the European Cup in 1961. Such was Real Madrid’s absolute domination of the competition the Benfica chairman increased the bonus by fifty per cent as he thought it an impossible feat.
With a team built around signings from the Portuguese colonies, Benfica duly reached the final in Bern where they faced favourites Barcelona who had inflicted Real Madrid’s first European Cup defeat, inspired by a trio of mighty Magyars in Kocsis, Czibor and Kubala. Despite going behind Benfica came back to win 3-2 with goals from Angolan José Águas and Mozambican Mario Coluna.
Thus Guttman duly collected his bonus and asked for half a million for retaining the trophy. To help him do so he had poached a nineteen forward from Mozambique from the grasp of deadly rivals Sporting. He had mythically heard about Eusebio earlier in the season following a chance meeting in a barber shop with a former Brazilian colleague
Benfica reached their second consecutive final after beating the double winning Spurs 4-3 in semi=final. This time their opponents were Real Madrid. Before the final in Amsterdam Guttman highlighted to his team how sport evolved over time, how achievements which once seemed remarkable were now common place implying that the Madrid stars Di Stefano and Puskas were over the hill.
Lining up in typical 4-2-4 formation, Benfica found themselves 3-2 down at half time due to a Puskas hat trick. Guttman continued to infuse his players with belief saying: “Don’t worry. We’re hoing to win this thing. They’re dead tired”.
Five minutes after the break his captain Coluna, known as the sacred monster for the way he could influence with a glance, equalised. Real then went down to ten men with no substitutes permitted for injured players. The protégé Eusebio then came to the fore, winning and then scoring a penalty before sealing the win with a second goal.
Inevitably Guttman again asked for a third pay rise, which this time was turned prompting him to leave for Penarol to live up to his maxim that “the third year is always fatal for as coach”. He also aimed a parting shot at the board saying: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion".
This curse had stood to date with Benfica going on to lose all eight of their subsequent European finals, including five European Cup finals. In 1990 the final was played in Guttman’s final resting place of Vienna. Eusebio prayed at his graveside to no end as Benfica lost again, this time to AC Milan.
Guttman continued to move from club to club into his seventies, his fiery nature coupled with financial insecurity creating a peripatetic career sealing his greatness as a coach whose influence lay in its breadth of global coverage and his unquenchable belief in his ability to scale the greatest heights with any group of players.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #12 - Ergi Erbstein


World War Two and its aftermath led to an incredible movement of people around Europe as borders were drawn and redrawn. The next three articles in this series will focus on three men who despite being uprooted from their home, ended up having a lasting impact in the country where they ended up.
My first subject is Ergi Erbstein, a Hungarian Jew who created Il Grande Torino side which tragically perished in the Superga air disaster. Born in 1898, Erbstein was a Hungarian army officer in World War One who spent most of his playing career with Budapesti AK but also had short spells in Italy and the USA. Following retirement in 1928 he returned to Italy as a manager of several clubs including Bari and Lucchese before arriving at Torino. His time in Turin was cut short by World War Two but he returned post war and alongside Leslie Lievesley with unprecedented success.
He first came to prominence whilst at Lucchese in the mid 1930s, taking the club from the regional leagues to Serie A and a still best ever finish of seventh. His success was due to a holistic approach to management which encompassed scouting, tactics, technical skill, physical fitness and motivation.
This led to a move to Torino in 1938 but Mussolini’s race laws led to his decision to leave Italy, and after being stopped by the SS he was deported with to Hungary where Jews faced similar oppression to that in Nazi Germany. Inevitably Erbstein ended up in a concentration camp but along with Bela Guttman (MWMMF #13), he escaped by jumping from a train whilst being transported.
Following the end of the war Erbstein returned to Torino to finish what he had started. His football philosophy utilised a scouting network ensuring the opposition were thoroughly analysed and players signed to suit his style of play which evolved from swift counter attacking using long diagonal balls to crisp short passing.
With ten Torino players starting for Italy in, appropriately, a match against Hungary, his team were at the peak of their powers when he took them to Benfica for a friendly in the spring of 1949.

Tragically the plane crashed against the Superga cliff-side monastery on its return flight killing Erbstein, Lievesley and the squad. Only able to field a youth team for their remaining league fixtures, Torino’s opponents did likewise and they won a fifth consecutive Scudetto at the end of the season, a fitting tribute to Erbstein and his groundbreaking team.
You can read about his amazing life in more detail in the recently published Erbstein: football's forgotten pioneer by Dominic Bliss which is available from www.theblizzard.co.uk

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #11 - Jack Greenwell

Jack Greenwell was a Durham miner who not only played an influential role in the development of FC Barcelona but also remains the only non South American manager to win the Copa America.
Born in Peases West near Crook, County Durham he followed his father down the mine when he left school. He was an amateur player of distinction playing for his home town club Crook Town but it was an invitation to play as a guest for West Auckland in an early international competition, the Thomas Lipton Trophy, in Italy in 1909 which was to change his life. Whilst playing in the tournament which the English team won, Greenwell was spotted by the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Gamper, and in 1912 Gamper invited Greenwell to join his team. He quickly settled in Catalonia, becoming fluent in both Catalan and Castillian Spanish and marrying Doris, a dancer from the Moulin Rouge risqué cabaret.
He played for four seasons up to his retirement in 1916, and then on the recommendation of the players, Gamper appointed him manager.
At the time Spanish clubs only completed in their regional championship, with the winner going onto play in the Copa Del Rey. In a six year spell in charge Greenwell led Barcelona to four Campionat de Catalunya and two Copa del Rey.  This was to become known as the club’s first golden era but it was not without controversy.
Greenwell had a radical football philosophy which emphasised the need for passing in favour of dribbling. He also wanted to develop players so they could fit into any position in the team, a salient move in an age before substitutes. This would lead to his teams building from the back and can be seen as a fledgling tiki taka style for which the club are now renowned. However when he took Paulinho Alcántara, who was Barcelona's star striker, and played him as a centre back there were protests and calls for Greenwell’s dismissal but Gamper stuck by his man as the club established themselves as the premier club in Catalonia.
Greenwell moved onto smaller Catalan clubs UE Sants and CD Castellon in the mid 1920s before moving to Espanyol where he again won the Campionat de Catalunya and the club’s first ever Copa del Rey in 1929. He then returned to Barcelona to win a fifth Campionat de Catalunya and also managed Valencia, Gijon and Mallorca. By now a high profile symbol of Catalonian Nationalism, Greenwell was forced to flee Spain due to the civil war in 1936.
He was appointed as a tactical advisor to Peru in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the quarter-finals, the Peruvians came back from a two goal deficit to Austria, to take the tie to extra-time. They then had three goals disallowed but went onto score twice only for a pitch invasion to force an abandonment. This was blamed on Peruvian supporters so a replay was ordered which Peru refused to contest and so they returned to South America.
Greenwell went with them and became manager for the inaugural Bolivarian Games in 1938 which Peru won. He then combined running the national team with managing club side Universitario, winning the national championship in 1939.
Peru then hosted the 1939 Copa America which was contested on a league format. In the final match in Lima Peru faced Uruguay, the strongest South American team of the era. With both teams having previously won all their games, this was effectively a final. In front of a capacity crowd of 40,000 spectators, Peru won 2-1 to lift the Copa América for the first time.
Greenwell then accepted an offer to work in Colombia, who were not affiliated to FIFA. Asked why he would isolate himself he replied “did the people of Colombia not deserve the beautiful game just because FIFA deemed so?”
He died of a heart attack in 1942, two days after he managed Santa Fe to a 10-3 win over local rivals Deportivo Texas. On his person were found two items he carried constantly: an image of St. George killing the Dragon, which he referred to Catalan style as St. Jordi, and a small piece of cloth of the blaugrana colours.
That Barcelona remained so important to him reflected his length of service as their manager which at seven seasons remains second only to Johan Cruyff. The latter was a football icon that completed the club’s transition into a global phenomenon, the former a Durham miner that started the process.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #10 - Vittorio Pozzo


Only one manager has won back to back World Cups, Vittorio Pozzo, who led Italy to consecutive wins in 1934 and 1938 which established the Azurri as the dominant European national team. Known as il Vecchio Maestro (the old master), the foundation of Pozzo’s triumphs were in his Metodo formation which emphasised the need for strong defence, presaging the Catenaccio style for which the Italians became renowned in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Pozzo grew up in Turin in the late nineteenth century and was an academic who studied languages. As well as travelling abroad to study he played football in France, Switzerland and England. In 1906 he returned to Italy and helped to found Torino where he spent the last five years of his playing career, becoming technical director in 1912. He led the national team at the 1912 and 1924 Olympics, winning bronze in Paris at the latter games. In between in World War One he served in the Italian Alpini an elite mountain warfare military corps. Following the death of his wife in 1924 he moved to Milan and managed AC combining his job with the Rossoneri with writing for La Stampa.
At the end of the decade Pozzo became the national team’s Commissario Tecnico, the first to be appointed to the run the Azurri free of interference from the FA. He immediately won the first Central European International Švehla Cup in 1930, beating Austria’s wunderteam led by Hugo Meisl (MWMMF 5#) who had created the competition. This encouraged him to implement his Metodo (Method) formation which he had been devising since watching Manchester United's centre-half Charlie Roberts at the turn of the century. Influenced by Meisl and Herbert Chapman (MWMMF #4), Pozzo discarded the traditional Cambridge 2-3-5 formation and looked to strengthen the midfield. However rather than Chapman’s WM, he came up with a WW or 2-3-2-3. This relied less on the centre-half and more on the inside forwards, withdrawn from the front five, with Internazionale star Giuseppe Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari perfect for the role to spearhead swift counter attacks backed by a numerical superiority in midfield.
These homegrown players were complemented controversially by Oriundi, South American born Italian nationals, including the centre half playmaker Luisito Monti who played for Argentina in the 1930 World Cup final. Pozzo shrugging off the criticism referring to their Italian army service saying: "If they can die for Italy, they can also play for Italy".
Authoritarian but paternalistic and attentive, Pozzo refereed every small-sided training match himself; never hesitating to send a player off if he deemed it necessary. If two players were not getting along personally, he made them roommates in the team’s next hotel.
Inevitably his reign was influenced by the fascist dictatorship led by Mussolini which governed Italy and he worked alongside Giorgio Vaccaro – a general from the fascist militia during that first World Cup campaign which was held in Italy, the finals being coloured by allegations of weak refereeing said to favour the hosts.
Pozzo’s team moved comfortably into the quarter-finals where they contested a fierce battle with Spain which ended 1-1 after extra time. A replay was ordered for the following day with the teams missing eleven players between them through injury, the Italians scoring the only goal of the game. In the semi-final Italy met Austria and again won by a single goal which came early in the match from oriundi Enrico Guaita scoring from close range with their opponents crying foul after Meazza had fallen over the goalkeeper.
In the final, Italy looked to have met their match in Czechoslovakia team, who took the lead with twenty minutes to go and looked set for victory. Pozzo responded by switching the positions of forwards Schiavio and Guaita. This simple ploy gave the Italians a way back into the game, and sparked a spell of relentless pressure that eventually led to the equaliser through another oriundi Raimondo Orsi with nine minutes. They won the Cup in extra time when a hobbling Meazza, all but left alone to drift in and out of the match, picked out Guaita from the wing. The Roma midfielder slid the ball to Schiavio, who just managed to poke in the winner five minutes into the extra period.

On the back of the World Cup success, Pozzo was awarded the title of Commendatore for greatness in his profession, and more significantly in the context of the global game encouraged a move from attacking to the counter attacking systems which dominate to this day.
In 1936 Italy again beat Austria in major finals, this time to win the 1936 Olympics in Berlin having found a new goalscoring partner for Meazza in Lazio’s Silvio Piola. Pozzo then headed for France for the 1938 World Cup aiming to become not only the first manager to defend the World Cup but also the first to win outside of his own country.
After being the hosts in Paris in the quarter-finals, the Italians travelled south to Marseilles to meet Brazil in the last four. Pozzo learned that the Brazilians were so confident of appearing in the final in Paris that they had requisitioned the only airplane from Marseilles to Paris on the day after the semi-final. Pozzo asked if they would allow Italy to use the plane should they win only to be told "it is not possible because to Paris we will go, because we will beat you in Marseilles". This provided the ideal motivation for Pozzo’s players and they won 2–1 headed back to Paris by train for the final which they won 4–2 against Hungary (below).



Pozzo continued to develop his tactics moving the centre-half into a defensive three, in a revised formation known as the Sistema (system). As football was interrupted by World War Two Pozzo secretly became involved with the antifascist resistance, helping supply food to partisan rebels and assisting the escape of Allied prisoners. He then ended his career as national coach at the 1948 London Olympics. He followed the Italian national team for La Stampa until his death in 1968

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #9 - ‘El Mister’ Fred Pentland


Having spent the last few chapters of this series in central Europe we now head south to the Mediterranean, starting with the story of ‘El Mister’ who coached the first team outside the British Isles to victory over England and transformed Spanish football.
Born in Wolverhampton he had a distinguished career as an outside right forward in the Edwardian era having spells in the first division with Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough. Whilst with Boro he won five England caps in 1909. Injury forced his retirement in 1914 and he was appointed coach of the German Olympic team, unfortunately the subsequent outbreak of World War One meant Pentland was interned in Ruhleben camp along with up to 5,000 other prisoners. Whilst there he organised cup and league competitions for his fellow inmates. There were enough footballers in the camp to make up an England XI and alongside fellow Middlesbrough and England team mate Steve Bloomer; Pentland appeared in the triangular Coupe de Allies tournament which also featured a French and Belgian team. He remained in the camp until the armistice upon which he returned to England.
Appointed French national coach, he took them to the semi-final of the 1920 Olympics held in Antwerp. After the games he moved to Spain where he was to stay for fifteen years and make a lasting significant impact on the development of the Spanish game.
During five years of internment Pentland had plenty of time to debate and theorize about football with his fellow ex professional footballers. This crystallized into a simple motto “Get the simple things right and the rest will follow.”
Eschewing the English kick and rush style which was brought by his countrymen to Iberia in the late nineteenth century, Pentland instead focussed on skill, possession, short passing and rapid movement, a style that became commonly known as push and run. This philosophy necessitated a change of formation so Pentland abandoned the traditional 2-3-5 in favour of a 2-5-3 which made for more creativity in midfield.
This was tried first at Racing Santander but after a year he moved on to Athletic Bilbao for the first of two spells which would transform the history of the Basque team. Los Leones were the most English of Spanish clubs, with even their red and white striped kit having originated from Southampton but despite Pentland being the latest in a long line of English coaches at San Mamés he was to lead the club in turning their back on their forebears. Using the force of his considerable character, Pentland introduced his favoured methods of play and won the 1923 Copa Del Rey. Known in the city as El Bombin, Pentland would invite his players to stamp on his trademark bowler hat when they won a big game. Addressing him by the more respectful El Mister, the players were encouraged to be more professional, being given lessons in how to dress and even how to tie their shoelaces.

Leaving Bilbao in 1925 he led Atlético Madrid to the 1926 Copa Del Rey final then moved onto Real Oviedo for a season, returning to Atlético in 1927, where he won the Campeonato Del Centro, the regional league for clubs in the Madrid area. In 1929 he was coach alongside manager José María Mateos of the Spanish national team which beat England 4-3 in Madrid, England’s first ever defeat to a non-British team.

Barcelona won the inaugural La Liga in 1929 using Pentland’s style of play but in 1930 El Mister claimed the title for himself, making a triumphant return to Bilbao with an invincible season which included another Copa Del Rey win. He made it a double double in 1931 (squad pictured above) and went on in the following two seasons to twice defend the Copa Del Rey and finish runner up twice in La Liga. Going back to Athletico Madrid in 1934, his third spell there was curtailed by the onset of the Spanish Civil War and he went back to England.
After a short spell as manager of Barrow, his career in football ended with the outbreak of World War Two. His impact on Athletic Bilbao was not forgotten though and he was invited back to San Mamés in 1959 to receive the club’s Distinguished Member’s medal. He kicked off a special testimonial game against Chelsea on this occasion, a feat repeated by his daughter Angela in 2010. His death in 1962 was commemorated at the San Mamés stadium by a special ceremony reserved solely for people who have significantly contributed to the Basque culture. His statue remains at San Mamés to this day.

The high water mark of his time at Bilbao was a 12-1 win over Barcelona in 1931, the record defeat ever suffered by the Catalans. This established his footballing philosophy as the superior one in Spain and was adopted nationwide with Barcelona and Real Madrid going on to owe much to the influence of El Mister as they dominated firstly Spanish and then European football.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #8 - Jack Reynolds

The most notable absence from the oligarchy of clubs which currently dominate European football must be Ajax. Revered not just for their success from the 70s onwards, but also their tactical philosophy of total football, the origins of their eminence lie with English coach Jack Reynolds.
Born in Bury, Reynolds’ playing career was similar to that of Jimmy Hogan (MWMMF #7), retiring at the age of 30 after spells in and out of the league with the likes of Burton United, Grimsby Town, Watford and New Brompton (Gillingham Town). Like Hogan he saw a future in coaching on the continent, starting in 1912 with St. Gallen in Switzerland where he impressed enough in a two year spell to be appointed German national manager. Unfortunately this coincided with the outbreak of World War One so he moved to the Netherlands instead and in 1915 started what was to become the first of three spells in charge of Ajax Amsterdam spanning 27 years. By 1919 he had led the club to their first pieces of silverware winning the KNVB (FA) Cup in 1917 and back to back Eredivisie (League) titles in 1918 and 1919, the latter being an invincible unbeaten season. Following the armistice he took charge of the Dutch national team for one match before fellow Englishman Fred Warburton was appointed on a permanent basis.
He continued at Ajax until 1947, apart from three years at Blauw Wit in the mid-1920s, and the Nazi occupation during World War Two when he was interned in a labour camp in Upper Silesia alongside PG Wodehouse where he arranged international football games between other prisoners and laid a cricket pitch.
He won five more Eredivisie titles in the 1930s and an eighth in his final season in charge in 1947. During this time he laid the foundations for the Total Football system with which Ajax would rule Europe under Rinus Michels (MWMMF #21 and coached by Reynolds during the 1940s) in the early 1970s. After his death in 1962 a stand at Ajax’s De Meer Stadium was named after him and when the Godenzonen moved to their current home at the Amsterdam Arena, he was remembered in the Jack Reynolds lobby.
Known by the Dutch as Sjek Rijnols, his greatest legacy lies not in the trophies won but the coaching philosophy introduced whereby all age group teams at the club were coached in the same tactics and style of play. In this way he changed the club forever.
Ajax expert and author Menno Pot said that he:
“really reshaped the club into something professional, even though the players weren't paid at the time. Football was an amateur game, but he introduced professional training methods, professional facilities that really allowed Ajax to make a huge leap forward. He was the man who came up with the idea that every player at Ajax should play the same system and the same formation. He wanted them to play offensively with skill, rather than with physical power."

This became the Ajax tradition which bore such prized fruits in the 1970s that it was seen as the ideal for all other clubs to aspire to. Today the financial muscle of Arsenal and Barcelona has allowed them to become its best exponents. If only Ajax could join them.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #7 Jimmy Hogan

Earlier articles in this series investigated the stories of men who pioneered the game in South America, today’s subject Jimmy Hogan, an Englishman of Irish descent, did so in Europe. Known as the ghost of English football for the way his ball playing philosophy was rejected in his homeland, he had an enduring influence on the continent, particularly in Mittel Europa countries such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.
Born in Burnley, Hogan was initially destined for the priesthood, but despite graduating from St Bede’s college in Manchester as head boy at the turn of the century, he elected to pursue a lifelong career in football.
As a player this amounted to little, appearing for a number of clubs up to the outbreak of World War One, with his longest spells coming at Bolton Wanderers and in his hometown of Burnley. On one occasion he pondered whether his ball skills needed improving but technique was of no concern to his coach so From that day I began to fathom things out for myself, I coupled this with taking advice from the truly great players. It was through my constant delving into matters that I became a coach in later life. It seemed the obvious thing, for I had coached myself as quite a young professional.”
This drive for self-improvement allied to an adherence to the Scottish philosophy of passing football first flowered on a summer tour to the Netherlands when having helped Bolton to beat Dordrecht 10-0 he pledged to “go back and teach those fellows how to play properly” taking over the Dutch national team for a short spell which included a memorable 2-1 win over Germany. This brought him to the attention of Hugo Meisl (MWMMF #5) who took him to Austria and began to shape the development of the game there. This was halted by the outbreak of World War One with Hogan being interned as an enemy alien.
Fortunately this was noticed by the English educated vice president of MTK Budapest, Baron Dirstay, who intervened to allow Hogan to become coach of the Hungarian club, whose league restarted in 1916, Hogan leading them to back to back titles.
Following the armistice Hogan returned to England and eagerly approached the FA, keen to share his continental experience. However he was shunned as a traitor by officials, suspicious of his apparent disappearance during the war.
After a short time working in a cigarette factory in Everton, Hogan returned to mainland Europe, this time to Switzerland where he coached Young Boys Berne and helped prepare the national team for the 1924 Olympics in Paris, where they reached the final. Following a short spell with Lausanne he moved over the border with Dresden, lecturing thousands of German footballers including Helmut Schoen on his footballing principles. His influence was so great that on his death in 1974 the German Football Federation secretary Hans Passlack described him as “the father of modern football in Germany”.
In the 1930s Hogan was reunited with Meisl in Austria and together they created the Wunderteam starring Mathias Sindelaar becoming, Italy aside, the decade’s pre-eminent European national side. After a spell coaching Racing Club de Paris, Hogan returned home for good in 1936 becoming Aston Villa manager, leading them to promotion from Division Two in his first season. Although he also had spells leading Fulham, Brentford and Celtic, it was as a coach that he was at his best and at this time he influenced the early careers of future managerial luminaries Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson.
Always with an eye to learning from the best, at the age of 71, the now white haired Hogan, took a group of Aston Villa juniors including Peter McParland, to see England play at Wembley in 1953. The visitors were Hungary who stunned the crowd by inflicting a first ever home defeat by a score of 6-3 to boot. After the came the Mighty Magyars coach Gusztáv Sebes (MWMMF #14) commented: “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters.”

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #6 Frank Buckley


Unlike his predecessors in this series, Frank Buckley was an innovator in some of the darker arts of the beautiful game which plague us to this day. On the pitch this was his development of “English” tactics which reached their apogee in the all-conquering Wolves team of the 1950s. Off it this was the wheeler dealing transfer market activity which saw him give priority to the bottom line rather than the needs of the team.
Know commonly as the Major due to his military service in World War One, Buckley was born to a military family in Urmston, Lancashire in 1882. He won a scholarship to St Francis Xavier's College for Boys in Liverpool which was run using the philosophy of Muscular Christanity cherished by some of his predecessors in this series.
Following his father into a career in the army, he was spotted by Aston Villa playing football for his regiment and decided to buy himself out of the army to sign a professional contract. He went onto play for Brighton, Manchester City and United, Birmingham and Derby, winning an England cap whilst at the latter, shortly before war broke out in 1914.
Buckley became the first to sign up for the Football Battalion, rising to the rank of Major by the time they reached the front in 1916. His football career was effectively ended by an injury sustained at the Battle of the Somme, but he returned to the front in 1917 and was was "mentioned in dispatches" for the bravery shown during hand-to-hand fighting.
Following the Armistice, Buckley was appointed manager of Southern League Norwich, creating a nationwide scouting network of his former army comrades who were all ex-players, to build a team of talented young players. He resigned in 1920 following a dispute with the board and then spent time out of the game as a sweet salesman.
He returned to football in 1923 as Blackpool instantly making his mark by changing their kit to the distinctive tangerine well known to this day. As well as buying young talent which he would sell for a generous fee safe in the knowledge of a replacement already lined up, Buckley put paramount importance on the physical fitness of his squad. He combined diet (including a smoking ban) with physiotherapy as well as novel fitness routines such as weight training. Having established a reputation for building an effective squad which could be milked to provide a healthy profit, Buckley was appointed manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1927.
Buckley's stay at Wolves can be taken two ways. On the face of it, he appeared to achieve only modest success with the club; they won the Division Two title in 1931–32 and finished runners-up in the Division One in 1937–38 and in both the First Division and the FA Cup the following season. An alternative view is that during his stay at Molineux, Buckley once made the club a £100,000 profit within one year, purely on transfer deals; he toyed, provocatively, with the media (instigating the empty rumour that his players were using a monkey gland treatment to aid performance), he used psychologists to instil confidence in his players and was responsible for bringing through Stan Cullis and offering Billy Wright a start in professional football.  After he had left the club, however, the full value of his vision, not least the Wolves youth programme, came to fruition and did so much to shape the Wolves side of the 1950s, when they won three Division One championships, twice won the FA Cup, and were one of few genuine challengers to the Busby Babes.
His impact can be summed up by Cullis who went onto manage Wolves through their 1950s golden era:  "I soon realised that Major Buckley was one out of the top drawer. He did not suffer fools gladly. His style of management in football was very similar to his attitude in the army. Major Buckley implanted into my mind the direct method of playing which did away with close interpassing and square-ball play. If you didn't like his style you'd very soon be on your bicycle to another club. He didn't like defenders over-elaborating in their defensive positions. Major Buckley also knew how to deal with the press." 
Buckley left Moulineux towards the end of the second world war and with his scouting network showing his age, made little impact at his final few short appointments at Notts County, Hull City, Leeds United and Walsall. He did sign Jack Charlton for the Whites though and started a process of youth development that would bear fruit in the Revie era.

This reflected his major contribution to the English game, that of talent development and profit, with a focus on physical fitness and simple, direct football. A blueprint for the mercantile nature of the modern game in this country, undoubtedly successful but forsaking the emotional tug of attractive football and glorious success measured by silverware.