March 23, 2017

Jimmy Hogan’s Dramatic Escape from Germany – Part 4

After turning Dresdner SC into a force to be reckoned with within German football, Jimmy Hogan and his family thought it was time to move on. Hogan had fallen out with some of the officials at the club. Once again, his argument was financial in nature. In the past, he had left several clubs because he thought he wasn’t paid well enough. This time, there was also the ever-changing political scene in Germany at the beginning of the 1930’s. Both Hogan and his good friend Hugo Meisl saw and worried about the rise of fascism in Germany. The Englishman had already been burnt once by the politics of the day changing overnight.

Back in 1914, he was working with Meisl in Vienna, spending some of the happiest days of his life in the booming and sophisticated Austrian capital. World War I was right around the corner, though. When Hogan got in touch with the British consulate less than 48 hours before the war broke out, he was told not to worry about what was going on. There was no need for a speedy escape from Austria.

It turned out there was, and Hogan was jailed fairly quickly, as Austria was one of the countries going to war with his native Great Britian. At first, he was detained by Austrian authorities and questioned at a police station. Afterwards, Hogan was sent to the Elizabeth Promenade Prison where a guard explained to him that the reason for him being there was the simple fact that the concentration camps weren’t yet ready. On the inside, Hogan was confined to a depressing prison cell. When his wife came to visit him a few days later, she describe his looks as “convict-like.”

At that time, travel without a passport was the rule rather than the exception. The outbreak of war had left the coach and his family practically stateless. When asked by the Burnley Express about the time after the outbreak of the First World War, Hogan said:

“I was thrown into prison alongside thieves and murderers. My wife and children were frightened to death and had to make a shift for themselves. I eventually got out of the prison, but the Austrian FA broke my contract and left us to starve. Our story of hardship is too long to relate in detail. Suffice to say that the American Consul sent my wife to England in March 1915, and I was saved by two Englishmen who had obtained their freedom by giving 1000 Pounds to the Austrian Red Cross.”

The Englishmen who had saved the coach from his jail cell were the Blythe brothers, Ernest and Eddie, who had established themselves in Vienna by owning a large department store and marrying Austrian women. Upon his release, Hogan acted as their man for odd jobs around the house for the next two years. The Blythe brothers had to guarantee that Hogan’s conduct would be flawless. Had he not been released that day, he would have been taken to a concentration camp, according to Hogan’s biographer Norman Fox.

After two years of staying with the Blythe family and one year of being apart from his family, Hogan was told he could leave Austria. The coach was put in the hands of a guard who told him that he was lucky to go home, which caused Hogan to ask:


His hopes were badly let down when the guard told him that he was going to Budapest. In the end, Hogan was put in charge of MTK Budapest and saw the rest of the war years from the sidelines in Hungary, while turning the MTK into one of the finest teams that Europe has seen to this very day.

After the war was over, Hogan returned home to Burnley to live with his wife and their children at his in-laws. He was keen on finding new employment at a club. When he heard about the FA issuing payments to coaches and players who had been damaged by the war, he borrowed five pounds to make the train journey to the capital. On the journey to London, he thought about what he had heard earlier. Maybe the FA would give him as much as 200 pounds, which would allow him to set up his own business.

After the long journey, Hogan was met by secretary Fredrick Wall who sneered at him, telling Hogan that he wasn’t eligible for any payments. The fund was set up for those who went to war, Wall told him. In the end, Hogan was given a pair of khaki socks, which had helped to keep the soldiers warm, according to Wall. For once in his life, Hogan didn’t actually know what to say, as Wall clearly regarded him as somebody who had betrayed his country during a time of war.

Having lived through that experience, Hogan wasn’t keen on gambling on what the political future might hold in store. Meisl had been working behind the scenes to make sure that he would get an interview at Racing Club de France upon leaving Germany. At that time, Hogan and his family had less than 200 pounds to their name and needed all the money they could scrape together to start their lives in France. The only problem at the time was that the German government had issued a law that didn’t allow for considerable amounts of money to be taken out of the country.

It was Hogan’s daughter Mary who came up with the idea that made sure that the family could take all their belongings out of the country. She told her father to exchange all his money into 1,500 Deutschmark notes. The crafty girl then proceeded to take the stitches out of four of the pleats her father and her two brothers wore and hid the money in those trousers before putting the stitches back in.

Mary’s idea gave the family a chance to leave the Germany with all their belongings, but it also meant that they ran the danger of being busted by German police. At the border crossing, the German police entered the train to make sure that nobody was in violation of the law. Passengers had to take off their coats and shoes, while the police thoroughly searched their belongings.

Hogan tried to use his British charm and to make small talk with the guards at the border crossing, but later on admitted that the “perspiration was just running down my back.”

The guards controlled the Hogan family’s bags very thoroughly, but they weren’t a match for Mary who had managed to hide the money so well that even the German border patrol didn’t manage to suspect where it might be hidden. Hogan remembered the relief upon entering France:

“As we passed over the frontier – with me and my two lads sitting safely on our little Bank of England – we gave three hearty British cheers.”

Jimmy Hogan would return to Germany for the 1936 Olympics, when he and his good friend Hugo Meisl were once again coaching the Austrian national team. The Olympic village was formed as a map of Germany, with the German athletes living in an outlier part that was, strangely enough, formed liked Czechoslovakia. His team lost only to Italy in the final and was involved in one of the most-controversial football matches in the history of the Olympic football competition when Peru claimed that Austria had replaced an injured player (the Peruvians were leading 4-2 at the time). The match had to be abandoned, and Peru went home in protest when the Olympic committee decided that the match had to be replayed.

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In this series of articles we are going to take a closer look at the impact the English coach Jimmy Hogan has had whilst he was working in Germany. Many coaches have made a name for themselves and have been mentioned among the greats of all time, however, Hogan’s name could be part of that discussion, but is almost never mentioned. The stories and anecdotes we have collected from Hogan’s time spent improving German football may convince you that just maybe this coach deserves a mention in that debate. Stay tuned for the 5th and final part of this series.

Source: Norman Fox: Prophet or traitor? – The Jimmy Hogan story

In case you missed earlier installments in Niklas Wildhagen’s Jimmy Hogan series:

Part 1: Jimmy Hogan and the Art of Communicating with Your Feet
Part 2: Richard Hofmann: One of Jimmy Hogan’s Discoveries
Part 3: Jimmy Hogan takes charge of Dresdner SC

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.