November 22, 2017

Richard Hofmann: One of Jimmy Hogan’s Discoveries – Part 2

Developing youngsters at the club and turning them into first-team players was one of Jimmy Hogan’s top priorities. The Englishman had a knack for finding talent where nobody else would bother to look. Despite being employed by the DFB to hold lectures and training sessions after arriving in Germany, Jimmy Hogan never stopped looking for talented youngsters. On one of his journeys he came across Richard Hofmann, who at the time was playing for Meerane 07, a club just outside of Zwickau in Saxony.

Hogan discovered quickly that Hofmann was quick, nimble, and blessed with a shot out of this world. Upon discovering him, Hogan left Hofmann a training schedule and told the inside forward that he could turn him into an international if Hofmann followed his instructions. Hogan kept checking up on his prospect during his fleeting visits to Meerane. After a while, he was so impressed by the young lad that he recommended the player to national team coach Otto Nerz.

In 1927, the lad from Meerane made his debut for the national team in Germany’s 3-1 away loss in Copenhagen against Denmark. Little did Hofmann know that it would mark the beginning of a splendid career with the national team.

The first step towards ensuring that he’d improve as a player was taken when Hogan joined Dresdner SC after his contract with the DFB was up. Hogan insisted on getting the player onto his team, and Hofmann was more than happy to join the side coached by his mentor. Back then, it was common for the best footballers to receive money and promises of cushy jobs under the table, as German football considered itself to be a sport for amateurs who weren’t paid living wages or bonuses. The rules set by the DFB were rather strict, but the clubs and the players decided to ignore them.

The press, of course, knew all to well that the better players were getting more than they were allowed to receive. Hofmann was of such talent that there was no doubt about other services being needed to to secure his talent. German magazine Fussball cleverly remarked on the matter:

“It’ll be interesting to find out whether or not Hofmann is going to continue his career as a taxi driver in Dresden, or if his move also entails a change in career paths.”

Hofmann’s Glorious Career in the National Team

Hogan knew what sort of jewel he had uncovered. When asked about his inside forward, he said:

“He’s stubborn; he knows what he wants. When Richard sees a ball there’s no stopping him. If he shoots, I don’t want to be the keeper on the receiving end.”

The fact that Hofmann was a good, skilled finisher who could deliver a shot with a lot of force didn’t go unnoticed by the public. Soon there were rumours and urban myths about his shots destroying goal nets and even breaking goal posts.

National team coach Otto Nerz appreciated his skills in front of goal. Between 1927 and 1933 Hofmann appeared a total of 25 times for Germany, scoring a staggering 24 goals for Die Nationalmannschaft. He managed to score three goals in five matches, all of which came in different years.

His most famous hat trick came in the match between Germany and England in Berlin back in 1930. Jimmy Hogan had made the journey to see the match between the two teams and had mixed feeling about the affair. For a long time, Hogan had warned that the English had been too complacent in assuming that they were the world’s best football team, completely ignoring all the developments taking place in the rest of Europe. On the other hand, he was still a patriotic Englishman who wanted his team to win.

The German national team arrived late to the match and was booed onto the pitch by its fans, as the crowd had witnessed the English national team standing alone on the pitch as the national anthems were played. None of the 50,000 spectators in the Grunewald stadium in Berlin expected the German team to win against the fully professional English team on that 10th of May in 1930.

Things had already gotten off to a bad start for national team coach Otto Nerz who discovered that his star player was still in bed as the team were getting ready to leave for the match. Many coaches would have left Hofmann in bed and simply started with somebody else in his place, but as luck would have it, Nerz decided to wake up his striker and drag him onto the bus himself under the laughter of Hofmann’s teammates.

Accordingly, most of them weren’t surprised when England got into the lead fairly early on. Hofmann didn’t have the best of times at the start of the match, with Fussball-Woche noticing that he often went missing during the early exchanges of the game. However, out of the blue the striker managed to equalise for Nerz’s boys. It was shot from 25-yards out that saw Hofmann control the ball just like Hogan had taught him, before he smashed home a finish that left the English goalkeeper Hibbs baffled. Later on, Hibbs admitted that he didn’t move an inch.

Directly before halftime, England’s lead was restored, and the crowd was shocked by the fact that Germany’s opponents weren’t even celebrating getting back into the lead.

Germany had a one-man advantage, as a terrible collision had seen English winger Mardsen stay in the dressing room with an injury (substitutions weren’t allowed back then). Additionally, it started to rain, and rain somehow always bodes well for the German national team when it comes to special occasions.

In the 49th minute it was once again Hofmann who had broken free. As Hibbs dived towards him, the German forward simply lifted the ball over the English goalkeeper. Hogan later admitted:

“I had known with a mixture of elation and national sorrow, that the moment he approached Hibbs, the goal was a certainty.”

11 minutes later Hofmann even managed to get Germany into the lead, but shortly before the final whistle David Jack managed the equaliser for England to bring a memorable 3-3 to a close. It was the very same man who, one year later, stated that Hofmann was the best inside forward in the world, causing Arsenal to take a closer look at him. Rumour has it that some of the English players even tried to buy Hofmann’s shoes off him after the final whistle. Despite the lucrative offers from abroad, the striker decided to stay at Dresdner SC. His performance even caused one German paper to name him “King Richard III”. To this day, Hofmann is the only German player who has scored three goals in an international against the English national team.

Hofmann had a few other memorable performances for the national team. Among them was his performance in Germany’s 5-3 win over Hungary. At the halftime break, the Germans went into the dressing room with a 3-0 deficit, but an electric performance by Hofmann inspired the team to one of the finest turnarounds in the history of the German national team.

At other times, the man who had to play with a distinct bandage (due to the loss of one ear in a horrific car accident) could surprise the public and his teammates with his outstanding wit. During an away match against Denmark, Hofmann was chosen to be the captain of the national team and was hence invited to the royal lodge were he met the Danish king. The Danish monarch asked how he felt, and Hofmann cheekily replied:

“Thanks, good. Mr. King.”

His answer, was of course, the talk of the dressing room after the match. Hofmann put his teammates into their place by saying:

“You lot don’t know how the likes of us talk among ourselves.”

After his performances, Hofmann turned into a national celebrity and was the first crowd favourite of German football.

Unforgiven by the DFB

Maybe some of the reason why Hofmann isn’t remembered as Germany’s first big star might be the fact that he played so many years ago and never won a big title with the German national team. The striker was never given the chance to do so, though.

In 1933, Hofmann was asked if he could put his face on some ads by the German tobacco brand Bulgaria. He happily agreed to do so. Not long afterwards, the DFB decided to ban him from the national team for two years, because he violated the statute of the DFB’s rules stating that all footballers must conduct themselves as amateurs. Germany went to the semifinals of the 1934 World Cup, but many wondered if they could have made it all the way with Hofmann on the team.

Even after his ban expired, the Dresdner SC man wasn’t allowed back onto the national team. During a 1935 match between Germany and Czechoslovakia in Dresden, the crowd chanted “Free Hofmann” with some of the higher-ups of the DFB being present. They budged not one bit. Even after his ban expired, Hofmann was never allowed to represent his country again.

Making Dresdner SC into One of the Best Teams of the War Years

Hofmann was given little choice but to concentrate all his efforts on club football. Towards the end of career and after the outbreak of World War II, Dresdner SC had their best team place in the club’s existence. A certain Helmut Schön and Willibald Kreß were the players besides Hofmann who were key in securing the club’s cup victories in 1940 and 1941 and the German championships of 1943 and 1944.

About his former teammate, Schön had only good things to say. The future German national team coach went as far as saying that Hofmann was the “backbone of the team, both in terms of the qualities he provided as a player and morally.” It’s a shame that titles started to come Hofmann’s way only during the war years, as those were filled with uneven matches because of many players being drafted in Germany’s effort to win the second world war.

Both Hofmann and his former coach Jimmy Hogan have been reduced to footnotes in the history of German football. However, taking a closer look at the record, one could argue that both deserve more recognition in the history books.

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 part 3.

Sources:

Kicker Almanach 2016
Norman Fox: Prophet or traitor? – The Jimmy Hogan story

ICYMI:

Part 1

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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.