Jimmy Hogan: the forgotten genius of football

I have spent quite a lot of time recently investigating the history of soccer using the amazing resource that is the internet.

By means of a Google search I have been able to construct links relating to a name that came from an accidentally found article from a website about coffee!

The initial source was a post called “Coffee Houses of Vienna: Birthplace of Intelligent Football”., which was an excerpt from Jonathan Wilson’s book ” Inverting the Pyramid“.

In the post Wilson looks at the role that the Coffee Houses of Vienna played in allowing football tactics to be developed that were totally different from the “kick and rush” physicality that had endured as the basis of the game for so long, particularly in England, the country where the game had developed.

The central figure in this change in philosophy was Hugo Meisl. Meisl was a close friend of Jimmy Hogan, the man from Burnley, Lancashire who had played soccer for Rochdale, Burnley, Fulham, Swindon and Bolton Wanderers.

Hogan was a real thinker about the game loved and wanted to develop his ideas about training with a ball, using close control skills and playing the game on the ground and not as an aerial bombardment!

He found problems in getting his ideas across in his home country that was dominated by non-ball physical training and a philosophy of “kick and run”.

The next phase of his career was as a coach, mostly in Europe where he pioneered his brilliantly innovative training methods in The Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, France and in partnership with Meisl, in Austria, producing the so called Austrian ” Wunderteam“.

His training methods would influence a new generation of coaches in Hungary who would produce the great Magyar team of the 1950’s who famously took on and thrashed the English national team 6-3 at Wembley Stadium in 1953.

The leading player in the Hungarian team was Ferenc Puskas, who had developed a magical close control of the football using Hogan’s methods.

To see an example of this  below is a link to a  video of Hungary’s third goal, scored by Puskas. He receives the ball from the right with the great English defender Billy Weight in close attendance. In one movement Puskas traps the ball, pulls it back in a one-two pass to himself, leaves Wright stranded and out of the game,  then shoots the ball into the net with a beautiful left foot shot.

Ferenc Puskas goal for Hungary.

This one goal showed Hogan’s ideas for all to see. He was at the match but not as a guest of the English F.A. but with tickets from Aston Villa’s allocation, as he was working with the youth team at the time!

After the match, Sándor Barcs,[6] then president of the Hungarian Football Federation, said to the press, “Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know about football.”[7] Gusztáv Sebes, the Hungarian footballer and coach, said of Hogan, “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters”.[8]

The reaction of many people in England though was very different Hogan was accused of being a ” traitor ” by some. He never really managed to get his ideas to make changes within his own country and his managerial career at Fulham and Aston Villa as well as a short spell coaching Glasgow Celtic would only be remembered by a small number of players such as Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson ( see: Ron Atkinson on Jimmy Hogan: http://youtu.be/EYsiuGiQHsc ).

The “tip-tap” ideas that Atkinson refers to at the end of the video would form the basis of the Total Football” of the Dutch and subsequently to the brilliant Barcelona team of the last few years which swept all before them with outstanding free-flowing football, not to forget the Spanish national side which has won the last two world cups using the techniques pioneered by the genius coach Hogan.

He is lauded as an all time great by European coaches and footballers but he is largely forgotten in his own country. It makes you wonder just what might have been if he had been listened to! In the forthcoming World Cup Hogan will no doubt be smiling from above as his home country battles teams from Europe and South America playing the type of football he had the vision to imagine.

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