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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.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #16 - Helenio Herrera

Flick through the back pages of 2017, and you will find the latest trials and tribulations of the likes of Guardiola, Klopp, Mourinho, Ranieri and Wenger, superstar managers one and all. Despite previous characters in this series leading their teams to similar feats, all were, in their time, firmly in the shade of their team, until one man broke the mould and created the template for the cult of the manager.
Commonly known by his initials HH, Helenio Herrera was born in Argentina in 1910 to Spanish parents, and at the age of 10 moved to Casablanca, then part of the French empire. Becoming a French citizen he started his playing career in what is now Morocco then at the age of 22 moved to Paris to play for a variety of clubs around the capital. An unremarkable defender, his career was hampered by injury, retiring aged 35, Herrera openly confessing his mediocre playing career was to give him an edge when he moved into management, initially in France.

He soon moved to Spain where he won back to back La Liga titles with Atletico Madrid in 1950 and 51. After two years in Portugal he returned to Spain with Barcelona, on a mission to end the dominance of the all-conquering Real Madrid. He did this domestically, doing the double in 1959, and successfully defending La Liga in 1960. In Europe he led Barca to win the first two Inter Cities Fairs Cups (now the Europa League) but he couldn’t stop Real winning their fifth consecutive European Cup losing comfortably to them at the semi-final stage.
At this point Herrera was a manager who prized psychology, popularising phrases such as "he who doesn't give it all, gives nothing" and "with 10 our team plays better than with 11". He would post slogans like: "Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships" on signs around the ground and get players to chant them during training. He insisted on strict discipline supervising players’ diets and insisting on no smoking and abstinence from alcohol. At Camp Nou this bought him into conflict with the maverick lifestyle of star player László Kubala and led to his departure to Italy in 1960.
Angelo Moratti, the multimillionaire owner of Internazionale had spotted the opportunity to bring Herrera to Milan, and it was at the San Siro that he became known as Il Mago (the wizard) by building the Grande Inter team that would win three Serie A titles as well as back to back European Cups.
He elevated himself to greatness by adding tactical innovation to his man management, becoming the leading proponent of Catenaccio. Although this was a phrase which became synonymous with defensive play, Herrera insisted that the formation also known as Verrou (the door bolt) was a catalyst for exciting vertical play featuring rapid counter attacks.
Its origins date back to Austrian Karl Rapan’s deployment of the tactic in 1930s Switzerland. Based on a 5-3-2 formation, it created a free (libero) role known as the sweeper with a third centre back used to tidy up between the middle two defenders. Herrera used this to suck the opposing team forward, then utilised Inter’s deep lying Spanish playmaker Luis Suarez to launch accurate long balls to speedy attacking full backs Giacinti Facchetti and Brazilian Jair Da Costa. Responding to criticism of his team as defensive, Herrera would point to Facchetti’s record of scoring as many goals as a forward
In addition Herrera pioneered the use of the Ritiro to prepare his team by taking them away to a hotel for a few days to prepare for matches and using the phrase “12th player” to cite the importance of supporters which inadvertently boosted the fledgling Ultras movements in the late 60s

Herrera finally vanquished Real Madrid in the 1964 European Cup Final, defending the Trophy twelve months later by beating the other Iberian powerhouse Benfica in 65. He was denied a third win in 1967 by Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions, as his team started to wane.

He became the highest paid manager in the world in 1968 when he moved to Roma for an annual salary £150,000 pa, but despite winning the Coppa Italia in 1969 he was sacked in 1970. His career wound down in the next decade, partly due to ill health, making brief comebacks with Inter and Rimini, before ending his career at Barcelona at the start of the 80s, just as star of the greatest Briton to follow in his footsteps, Alex Ferguson, was starting to rise.

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