March 23, 2017

The forgotten legacy of Jimmy Hogan – Part 5

When Jimmy Hogan died in January 1974 at 91-years-old he could look back on a long and very productive career as a coach. He had started early as 28-year-old man and stayed with it until his mid-70s. Most who knew him tell a story of a man who was well-mannered and polite, but who had very little else beside football on his mind. Even after he retired Hogan continued to work for Burnley and Aston Villa as a scout, turning them onto young promising players.

The impact Hogan has had on football in continental Europe is often times forgotten as his name really isn’t well-known these days. When researching a story about Alfred Schaffer, one the MTK players who was coached by Hogan, I was told by the historian I was interviewing at the time that “Hogan’s name has been forgotten by many here in Hungary”. It may not come as a surprise in Germany that Hogan’s name doesn’t ring a bell when you ask the average football fan, but consider this:

Gusztáv Sebes, the coach who took the Mighty Magyars to the World Cup final in 1954 said this about his team’s style of play: “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters.”

Sando Barcs, who was president of the Hungarian FA at the time, agreed with that sentiment saying that Hogan had “taught us everything we know about football”.

Hogan’s legacy extends to more than just the titles he collected all over Europe. Many of his ideas are today universally accepted within the world of football. Back in his days players laughed at him when he wanted to make his teams go easy on the smokes and the booze in addition to having them eat healthier food. Yes, that idea is country miles away from Arsene Wenger’s dietary plans, but back in Hogan’s days that concept was unheard of.

In terms of style and tactics Hogan preached passing the ball on the ground in order to have a free-flowing attacking line-up which allowed players to change positions as they saw fit and as the situation of play required. The player on the ball was given many passing options and possession was a way of defending for the Englishman. Given the fact that players were allowed to be creative also meant that Hogan demanded of his players that each and every one of them could fill in any given role on the pitch as the match progressed. Anybody who watches just a bit of football these days is going to find that most modern-era coaches routinely expects this of his players, but back then Hogan was one of the first, if not the first, to do just that.

What set Hogan apart from many other coaches of his era was the fact that he took an active interest in the youth development programs of the clubs where he was coaching. In his mind youngsters needed to be taught football correctly from an early age. His ability to spot talent was outstanding and a fair few of Europe’s most shining stars of the day were discovered by him. Richard Hofmann is the most famous example in Germany. Hogan wanted talent to be fostered within the clubs, rather than it being bought from elsewhere.

One of his pupils at Dresdner SC was Helmut Schön, who would later on become the coach of the German national team after being assistant to Sepp Herberger. Upon receiving the news of Hogan’s passing Schön wrote a letter to Hogan’s son Frank, telling him:

A few days ago I received the sad news that your father, Jimmy, had passed away at the age of 92 years. Due to the fact that I received the information belatedly, it was not possible for me to attend the funeral. I would like to convey to you that throughout my life I greatly admired your father and always regarded him as a shining example for the coaching profession. The Sport Club Dresden, where you and your brother played as well, does not exist any more; but the days when your father laid the foundation for the subsequent great success of this club remain alive in our memories. In my lectures to coaches today, I still mention his name frequently, and I know to tell many an interesting anecdote as well. Dear Frank, please rest assured that I and those who knew and regarded him highly will keep fondest memories of your dear father.

Schön had as a matter of fact learned the finer points of the game when he was coached by Hogan according to Uli Hesse’s book Tor!. Another anecdote that highlights how highly Schön thought of Hogan was told by the Northern-Irish international Peter McParland. After a 4-3 loss in an international between Northern-Ireland and Germany McParland was back on his way to Birmingham to get back to Aston Villa, where Hogan was still working at the time. Coincidentally McParland ended up taking the same plane as the German national team as he made his way back to England. Schön seemingly knew that Hogan was still active at the club when he approached McParland, who told Norman Fox:

I was sitting back when Helmut Schön, who was the assistant to Sepp Herberger, came along and sits next to me and he says: ‘Do you know where Jimmy Hogan is?’. I said I’m going back so I’ll see him tomorrow in Birmingham. So Helmut says, ‘Right’, and gets some paper out and writes a whole big letter to Jimmy and gave it to me. Then the president of the German Federation came along and he also wrote out a note to Jimmy. Helmut told me that he was one of Jimmy’s players and that he was a great man.

Given Hogan’s accomplishments in Hungary, his role in working on establishing his style of play in Austria which was later perfected under Hugo Meisl and when Meisl and Hogan worked together during the days of the Wunderteam gives little room in arguing against Helmut Schön’s point that Hogan was a great man. The fact that many of his ideas are universally accepted now, while too often his name goes unmentioned when they are being discussed is a sad omission in many a book or article about the history of football.

This was the final part of our series about the impact Jimmy Hogan has had on German football. Please feel free to tell us what you think about this series of articles and if you would like to see similar content being published on the Bundesliga Fanatic in the future.


Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
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.