SIMON SHELDON EXAMINES HOW AN ENGLISH COACH AND AN AUSTRIAN MANAGER TRANSFORMED THE CONTINENTAL GAME...
WHENEVER there are polls to choose the best British coach in history, the names of Ramsey, Busby, Paisley, Stein, Clough and Ferguson are the ones that come up.
But if the same question is asked in Europe, then the name Jimmy Hogan crops up time and again. Hogan became one of the most important and influential football coaches in Europe.
He was born in 1882 to Irish working-class parents in the village of Nelson, Lancashire.
He grew up obsessed with the game and was a skilled inside-forward who played for Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Rochdale and Swindon Town but it was at Fulham (1905-08), with whom he reached an FA Cup semi-final, where he was inspired by coach Jock Hamilton and his football philosophy.
“The Scottish passing game emphasises skill over physical power and the versatility of all players being comfortable on the ball, able to interchange position and pass the ball to a colleague in an intelligent and constructive manner,” he said.
This was the style of football he taught once his playing days were over.
By the time Hogan was ready to get into coaching, he was lured abroad, among other British coaches, to European clubs who were full of talented individual players, but were disorganised, tactically naïve and not as fit as players here at home.
So, in 1910 at the young age of 28, he arrived in the Netherlands at Dordrecht FC and came across a group of players that were hungry to learn new ideas of training unburdened by years of sticking to traditional methods.
Over the next two years, Hogan made a huge impression on his Dutch players and Dutch football in general.
However, his work was also noticed in Austria by Hugo Meisl, the general secretary of the Austrian Football Association.
Meisl was very different to Hogan, although he was only a year older. He was the son of a rich Jewish merchant and enjoyed a comfortable upbringing in Bohemia and Vienna.
He grew up in love with football but wasn’t good enough to try to become a professional player. He was highly educated and began a career in banking, but gave it up to become a respected referee, journalist, administrator and, eventually, a manager.
In 1912, Meisl invited Hogan to Vienna to help coach the national team. The pair hit it off immediately with Hogan’s knowledge and appreciation of the differing styles and techniques in Europe impressing Meisl.
The Englishman spent six weeks helping the squad prepare for the Olympics in Stockholm. Determined to build a tidy passing side, he worked them very hard, stressing constant practice to obtain power over the ball. Quick passes and looking for space soon became
known as the ‘Viennese school of football’. Hogan was also one of the first coaches to understand the value of controlled diets – cutting down on the amount of meat the players ate and increasing fruit and vegetables.
At the Olympics, the young Austrian team did well, beating Germany 5-1, before losing to the Netherlands in the quarter- finals (the gold medal was won by Great Britain).
The world was torn apart with the outbreak of war in 1914. Meisl went to war, while Hogan was interned as a civilian prisoner of war before being sent to Hungary to coach under supervision.
Here, he continued with his principles of how he thought the game should be played and nurtured young boys who would after the war go on and become top class players and part of the ‘Magic Magyars’ of the 1950s.
After the war, Hogan enjoyed spells with clubs in Switzerland and Hungary. In fact, he coached the future German World Cup winning manager Helmut Schon who said that in every coaching session he had ever taken for the rest of his career, he’d remember advice from Hogan.
New nations Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Yugoslavia had been created from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and Meisl decided that football was the most peaceful way to channel the region’s simmering nationalism and proposed an annual tournament for the best clubs.
In 1927, the Mitropa Cup was born, contested by teams from the four new countries plus Italy and Switzerland. The tournament drew huge crowds and helped bring professionalism to the game in central Europe.
The Mitropa Cup and its successor, the Latin Cup, would pave the way for the European Cup that started in 195556.
By 1931, Meisl was the Austrian manager and, with the national side on his mind, he sent for Hogan. The pair set about creating the finest side in Austrian history, which would come to be known as the Wunderteam.
Inspired by the fluid skills of Matthias Sindelar (the Mozart of Football), they defeated their European rivals in 14 consecutive matches, including beating Scotland 5-0, Germany 6-0 and 5-0, Switzerland 8-1 and Hungary 8-2.
In December 1932, Austria lost 4-3 to England despite outplaying them for much of the match.
The Wunderteam went from strength to strength, reaching the 1934 World Cup semi-finals and the 1936 Olympic final, unfortunately losing both to a legendary Italian team.
Overall, Meisl and Hogan lost just three out of 31 matches, scoring 101 goals. Their style of play was the closest Hogan came to realise his dream of a side that passed, moved and swapped positions seamlessly. Total Football.
In 1937 and ’38, two events shattered what surely would have been a glittering future for Austrian football. First, Hugo Meisl died aged just 55 and then the German Anschluss
destroyed what they had created. The nation’s football reputation has yet to recover.
As the Second World War loomed, Hogan had already headed home, where he managed Fulham. The players disliked his unconventional training methods - using the ball! - and so he was sacked after only 31 games.
It was then on to Aston Villa where he had a little more success, leading them to promotion and an FA Cup semi-final.
After the war, he coached the Villa youth team and in 1953 he took a group of apprentices to Wembley to watch his Hungarian friends play England.
That day Hungary gave England their greatest football humiliation, 6-3. The Magic Magyars dedicated their win to Jimmy Hogan.
Hogan spent his last years in Burnley and even in his 60s he could still enthrall crowds with his footballing skills.
When he died in 1974 aged 91, tributes came in from all over Europe with the German FA hailing him as one of the founders of the modern game.
Hogan always warned that English football would be overtaken by the ‘continentals’ as they embraced his beliefs of the short pass, exploitation of space and good technique, and his hatred of the mindless long ball.
Hogan himself said in the 1930s: “I have watched continental football grow from a mere baby to a strong lad and develop into a strapping young man who will go on to full grown manhood and eventually deprive Britain of her football supremacy.”
Hogan had proved a world-class parent, ably assisted by his old friend Hugo Meisl.
Smart work: Aston Villa manager Jimmy Hogan
Trailblazers: Jimmy Hogan with the Austrian Wunderteam
Leader: Hugo Meisl
Lasting impression: West Germany coach Helmut Schon