1953: Magyars Hail Hogan

Thursday 12 September 2013 08:59
Jimmy Hogan

For many years, the English football authorities were insufferably arrogant, having a much higher opinion of themselves than the playing strength of the country justified. When the European Cup (now Champions League) was inaugurated in 1955-56, for example, the reigning English champions, Chelsea, were forbidden to participate, and they meekly submitted to the ruling. The following year, however, Matt Busby was not prepared to put up with such nonsense and took Manchester United into the fledging competition.

They also adopted a high and mighty attitude to the World Cup, declining to take part in the first two three tournaments, in 1930, 1934 and 1934. When England did finally enter in 1950, we found out just how good we were when we were humbled by the United States and did not progress beyond the first stage. Yet even up to Coronation year of 1953, we could boast that we had never been beaten on our own soil by a foreign country, not counting the Republic of Ireland as ‘foreign’. Then Hungary came to visit in November 1953. The Magyars, led by the magnificent Ferenc Puskas, trained at Craven Cottage and went on to thrash the might of England 6-3 at Wembley. They played football from a different planet and utterly out-classed the country that had given the sport to the world.

Yet somehow training at Craven Cottage was appropriate, in some ways the spiritual home of Puskas and his men. When the final whistle went, the victors were quick to praise the contribution to the development of football in Hungary to a then 71-year-old Englishman, Jimmy Hogan. Described many years ago by Brian Glanville as “for almost 40 years, the most remarkable coach produced by any country in the history of the game”, this soccer pioneer was a former Fulham player and manager. As a player he was a journeyman, and spent the years from 1905 to 1908 at the Cottage after spells at Rochdale, Nelson, and Burnley. The last of his 19 appearances for us was in the 1908 FA Cup semi final against Newcastle, when we lost 6-0.

Following relatively short stays at Swindon and Bolton, Hogan embarked on a coaching career in Europe in 1912. He always claimed that his interest in the theory of football started when he was at Fulham, where he was influenced heavily the clever, ball-playing Scots in our squad at that time. He went first to Holland but by 1914, he was the Austrian National coach. After the war, he worked in Switzerland, Hungary and Germany before again coaching Austria. He was the coach to the national side which played England at Stamford Bridge in 1932 when England scraped a lucky 4-3 win. Fulham’s Jim Hammond was 12th man that day.

His impressive record led the Fulham directors to appoint him ‘Manager-coach’ in the summer of 1934. It was a bold step because Hogan was not the traditional administrator manager. He was a genuine coach, involved in everything from tactics, to training routines to diets, years before others caught up. He disapproved of the tactics introduced by Herbert Chapman at Arsenal and then widely copied, the stopper centre half. He wanted the ball played on the ground, a passing game with wing halves, inside forwards and wingers playing down either flank in triangles, just as they did at Fulham a generation earlier.

Sadly he failed at Fulham. The players did not respond positively to his methods and the directors did not believe mature players needed coaching.  Results were at best indifferent and shortly before Christmas, Hogan was taken to hospital suffering appendicitis. It was while he was recovering that the board behaved badly and sacked him. He returned to Europe, to help Austria to the 1936 Olympic Final and the managed Aston Villa in the closing peacetime seasons, helping them to promotion back to the top flight. He continued to work as a coach after the war but found the hurdles of traditional attitudes too high to surmount. This prophet without honour in his own country died at the age of 91 in Burnley in January 1974.