About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football No. 18 - Ernst Happel


Over the last twenty years an elite group of European managers such as Ancelotti, Heynckes, Mourinho and Van Gaal have moved seamlessly from post to post collecting trophies wherever they go. Tending to be on the grizzled side with a wry turn of phrase, they appear weary but have a tireless appetite for success following the template created over a thirty career from the sixties to the nineties by Ernst Happel.
He was the first manager to win the European Cup with two different clubs, and the only one to do so in the pre champions league era. He won the domestic league and cup in four different countries, squeezing in a World Cup Final to boot. He unsurprisingly summed up his career thus "everything paid off and I have no regrets".
Rarely for a successful manager he had an equally glorious playing career. A defender, one season at Racing Club Paris aside, he spent it all in his native country Austria at Rapid Vienna, winning six league titles including one double. He was capped 51 times and was part of the Austrian team which finished third in the 1954 World Cup.
From his defensive role he could see in his own words that it was "from midfield, [that] the game unfolds.". A deeply reflective manager, he was best described as taciturn in his speech, ensuring he commanded attention when he spoke.
Happel moved to the Netherlands to begin his managerial career at Den Haag, a lowly team, where he had the freedom to develop his tough but fluid 4-3-3 formation. Saying he would rather win 5-4 than 1-0, he expected his teams to shape themselves in his image: strong but with guile. The strength was represented by an aggressive pressing game, whilst the guile translated into players who could adapt ot the situation of the game.
By 1968 he had turned Den Haag into a top four team, beating Ajax to win the Dutch Cup. This was noted by Feyenoord who won the double in 1969 but decided they wanted a man of Happel's calibre to lead them into European competition.
A bon viveur who enjoyed a cognac along with his ubiquitous cigarette, he soon settled into a routine whereby he would chew the fat with regulars in a bar near Feyenoord's De Kuip stadium, pondering tactics and selection.
One of his first actions was to complete the "holy trinity" of a midfield adding Austrian Franz Hasil to the more defensive minded Wim Jansen and "De Kromme" Wim Van Hanegem. Recalling the 36 year old goalkeeper Eddy Pieters Graafland for the 1970 European Cup final against Celtic after he had initially dropped earlier in the season, defeated manager Jock Stein was moved to say afterwards: “Celtic has not lost to Feyenoord. I have lost to Happel,”.
Feyenoord went onto win the Intercontinental Cup (World Club Championship) against Estudiantes and the 1971 Dutch league title before being eclipsed by Ajax. This led to Happel electing to leave the Netherlands, staying briefly at Sevilla before spending the rest of the seventies in Belgium, firstly with Brugge where he won the league three seasons in a row from 1976 (with a double in 77). He also took them to the 1976 UEFA Cup final and 1978 European Cup final, losing on both occasions to Liverpool.
Before moving to Standard Liege he took the Dutch national team to 1978 World Cup Final where substitute Dick Nanninga equalised with 8 minutes to go against the hosts Argentina. Robbie Rensenbrink almost won the game in ninety minutes only for his shot to hit the post but Argentina ran out 3-1 winners in extra time.
After winning the Belgian Cup in 1981 with Standard Liege, Happel moved to West Germany to manage Hamburger SV. Praised by the veteran Gunter Netzer for his man management he won the Bundesliga in his first season alongside another defeat in the UEFA Cup Final. Twelve months later he retained the league title and won his second European Cup, beating a Juventus team which featured Michel Platini, Zbigniew Boniek and several of the Italian side which had won the 1982 World Cup. After a German Cup win with Hamburg in 1987, Happel returned to his native Austria, leading FC Tirol to back to back league titles, the first of which was in 1989. Fittingly his career ended in 1992 managing the Austrian national team. He died in post, with the Praterstadion in Vienna soon renamed Ernst-Happel-Stadion.

A philosopher manager who summed up his approach as "It is not important why you win. You have to know why you have lost", Happel, married the Austrian tradition of his childhood with the nascent Dutch style he helped to create, successfully transferring the finished product from club to club across western Europe.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #17 - Vic Buckingham

The previous instalment in this series looked at the way Helenio Herrera ended the era of free flowing passing football derived from the Austro-Hungarian school of the inter war years, with his catenaccio tactic. Although remaining a dominant influence on the Italian game for a generation or more, it was quickly challenged by the Dutch system of total football, a revolution that was sparked by an Englishman.
Vic Buckingham was a former Tottenham Hotspur team mate of Arthur Rowe (TMWMMF #15) in a playing career cut short by World War Two. Buckingham admired Rowe's appreciation of the art of passing, and with Rowe's encouragement went into management in Post War England. A deep thinker and articulate speaker a spell coaching at Oxford University led to a prestigious appointment to manage Pegasus before re-entering the professional game at Bradford Park Avenue. He then took over at West Bromwich Albion, almost winning the first modern double with the Baggies in 1954 when an FA Cup win was matched with runners up spot in the League.
With a side containing future managers Don Howe and Ronnie Allen, it was one of their team mates Graham Williams who came up with a delicious metaphor to describe West Brom's style of play:
‘He wasn’t interested in defending. He wanted to see tricks and goals and push and run. He said he didn’t want us to go ‘da di da di da’, passing for the sake of passing. He always said he wanted us to play like ice cream and chocolate. That was his phrase. Just flow, like ice cream and chocolate.’
This was push and run in the style of Rowe's Tottenham, but like his mentor his team only shone briefly, overshadowed in a more physical footballing era dominated by local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In 1959 he moved to the Netherlands to manage Ajax, where the professional game was in its infancy. He found a club redolent with the influence of Jack Reynolds (TMWMMF #8), Buckingham explaining: “Their skills were different. Their intellect was different and they played proper football. They didn’t get this from me, it was there waiting to be stirred up. I influenced them but they went on and did things above that which delighted me."
Taking the opportunity to develop ideas discussed years previously with Rowe, who had spent time in Hungary, he sowed the seeds of the system which would make Ajax champions of Europe a decade later and establish Dutch football as a major force in the game. This was nothing short of a philosophy which would envelop the whole club in terms of technical development and positional play. Buckingham won the Eredivise title and the Dutch Cup, in his first two year spell in Amsterdam, when he also spotted a talented 12-year-old in the junior section called Cruyff.
By 1961 Buckingham was back in England with Sheffield Wednesday but with his reputation tarnished by a match fixing scandal which engulfed the Owls he returned briefly to Amsterdam in 1964 in time to give a debut to a teenage Johann Cruyff around whom the great Ajax team would be built.
Following a controversial spell at Fulham he returned to the continent when Barcelona, remembering an Inter Cities Fairs Cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday in the early 60s, harked back to the time of Jack Pentland (TMWMMF #9) by turning to Buckingham to rejuvenate a team that had fallen to the lower reaches of La Liga.
In a wonderful final flourish as manager Buckingham's style was the perfect match for the Catalan club, and within two seasons repeated his feat from the Hawthorns by almost winning the double.
His team were pipped to the title by Valencia, as despite having the same points and a better goal difference, the Spanish championship was decided by the head to head record between the two clubs. However he wrote his name into the club annals of history by going onto win the 1971 Copa del Rey, then known as the Copa del Generalísimo, 4-3 after extra time against deadly rivals Real Madrid, a triumph played out in front of the capital club's biggest fan, the dictator General Franco, who presented the trophy at the Bernabéu.
Back surgery forced Buckingham to step down but before he did so he worked with Barcelona to lift the Spanish FA's ban on foreign players. He was then replaced by Ajax manager Rinus Michels who brought with him his star player Johann Cruyff.
Buckingham's career then wound down at the likes of Sevilla and Olympiakos, his key role in the development of the game being a connector of football's knowledge network. A man who came into contact with others who had more illustrious careers, soaking up their ideas, first adapting and then passing them onto future greats. A man of sophistication with the ability to boil his philosophy down simply thus:

“Long-ball football is too risky. Most of the time what pays off is educated skills. If you’ve got the ball, keep it. The other side can’t score.”

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #16 - Helenio Herrera


Flick through the back pages of 2017, and you will find the latest trials and tribulations of the likes of Guardiola, Klopp, Mourinho, Ranieri and Wenger, superstar managers one and all. Despite previous characters in this series leading their teams to similar feats, all were, in their time, firmly in the shade of their team, until one man broke the mould and created the template for the cult of the manager.
Commonly known by his initials HH, Helenio Herrera was born in Argentina in 1910 to Spanish parents, and at the age of 10 moved to Casablanca, then part of the French empire. Becoming a French citizen he started his playing career in what is now Morocco then at the age of 22 moved to Paris to play for a variety of clubs around the capital. An unremarkable defender, his career was hampered by injury, retiring aged 35, Herrera openly confessing his mediocre playing career was to give him an edge when he moved into management, initially in France.
He soon moved to Spain where he won back to back La Liga titles with Atletico Madrid in 1950 and 51. After two years in Portugal he returned to Spain with Barcelona, on a mission to end the dominance of the all-conquering Real Madrid. He did this domestically, doing the double in 1959, and successfully defending La Liga in 1960. In Europe he led Barca to win the first two Inter Cities Fairs Cups (now the Europa League) but he couldn’t stop Real winning their fifth consecutive European Cup losing comfortably to them at the semi-final stage.
At this point Herrera was a manager who prized psychology, popularising phrases such as "he who doesn't give it all, gives nothing" and "with 10 our team plays better than with 11". He would post slogans like: "Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships" on signs around the ground and get players to chant them during training. He insisted on strict discipline supervising players’ diets and insisting on no smoking and abstinence from alcohol. At Camp Nou this bought him into conflict with the maverick lifestyle of star player László Kubala and led to his departure to Italy in 1960.
Angelo Moratti, the multimillionaire owner of Internazionale had spotted the opportunity to bring Herrera to Milan, and it was at the San Siro that he became known as Il Mago (the wizard) by building the Grande Inter team that would win three Serie A titles as well as back to back European Cups.
He elevated himself to greatness by adding tactical innovation to his man management, becoming the leading proponent of Catenaccio. Although this was a phrase which became synonymous with defensive play, Herrera insisted that the formation also known as Verrou (the door bolt) was a catalyst for exciting vertical play featuring rapid counter attacks.
Its origins date back to Austrian Karl Rapan’s deployment of the tactic in 1930s Switzerland. Based on a 5-3-2 formation, it created a free (libero) role known as the sweeper with a third centre back used to tidy up between the middle two defenders. Herrera used this to suck the opposing team forward, then utilised Inter’s deep lying Spanish playmaker Luis Suarez to launch accurate long balls to speedy attacking full backs Giacinti Facchetti and Brazilian Jair Da Costa. Responding to criticism of his team as defensive, Herrera would point to Facchetti’s record of scoring as many goals as a forward
In addition Herrera pioneered the use of the Ritiro to prepare his team by taking them away to a hotel for a few days to prepare for matches and using the phrase “12th player” to cite the importance of supporters which inadvertently boosted the fledgling Ultras movements in the late 60s
Herrera finally vanquished Real Madrid in the 1964 European Cup Final, defending the Trophy twelve months later by beating the other Iberian powerhouse Benfica in 65. He was denied a third win in 1967 by Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions, as his team started to wane.

He became the highest paid manager in the world in 1968 when he moved to Roma for an annual salary £150,000 pa, but despite winning the Coppa Italia in 1969 he was sacked in 1970. His career wound down in the next decade, partly due to ill health, making brief comebacks with Inter and Rimini, before ending his career at Barcelona at the start of the 80s, just as star of the greatest Briton to follow in his footsteps, Alex Ferguson, was starting to rise.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #15 - Arthur Rowe


“Keep it simple, keep it quick, keep it accurate” is a phrase most associated with double winning Tottenham Hotspur manager Bill Nicholson, but it was originally uttered by Arthur Rowe the man who had created the environment for Nicholson’s triumph, ten years previously at White Hart Lane. In doing so he not only laid a template for Spurs forever ephemeral footballing aesthetic but also planted the seed for England’s world cup triumph.
A Tottenham man by birth, Rowe grew up with the club spending time with their nursery clubs Cheshunt and Northfleet United in the 1920s. The Spurs coach at the time was Peter McWilliam, a Scot who brought with him the passing tradition of making the ball do the work, for which his native country had been renowned since Victorian times. 
In Rowe he had a willing student, although McWilliam’s departure meant by the time Rowe’s cultured centre half act was on show in the first team in the 1930s he was suffocated by the dominant English philosophy of kick and rush which he translated in these terms:  “I never scored a goal for the first team. They didn't like the centre-half to go too far over the halfway line in those days.”
England recognition followed in 1933 but a cartilage injury restricted his progress and he retired in 1939. Fate then intervened to create a serendipitous invitation to advise the Hungarian FA on developing their national game. The outward looking Rowe accepted and went onto consult with the likes of Gustav Sebes and Ferenc Puskas in a meeting of minds which promised much only to be cut short by World War two. However in being able to discuss and develop his progressive tactics, Rowe was given the confidence to implement his radical philosophy when peace returned.  
This began at Chelmsford City whom he led to the Southern League title in 1946, the Clarets almost following this up with election to the Football League. His success was noted by his alma mater and he was appointed manager at second division Spurs in 1949. What followed was in the words of his Spurs captain Ronnie Burgess, nothing short of a “revolution”.
Rowe saw his ideas as the embodiment of the notion that football was a simple game. Peppering his team talks with aphorisms such as “a good player runs to the ball, a bad player runs after it”, Rowe emphasised the importance of the short pass accompanied by swift movement off the ball as the key to success. The style, to Rowe’s distaste, became known as push and run, featuring a high frequency of wall passes, a term Rowe did approve of given how as a child he had honed his technique by kicking a ball against an actual wall.
By its nature this required players to free themselves of the strictures of their notional position, either to fall back from the forward line to collect the ball, or attack from defence to pursue it.
For what would now be an overlapping full back, Rowe signed Alf Ramsey, with the seeds of the latter’s World Cup winning wingless wonders being planted as Spurs raced to the Division Two title in 1950, leading throughout the season to win by a margin of nine points as the leading scorers and best defence.
Twelve months later, Spurs were champions of all England, winning plaudits for their breath taking football which reached its apogee in a seven goal demolition of Newcastle United. They almost defended their title, finishing runners up in 1952 but from this point on, faded quickly, a demise which led to Rowe suffering greatly from anxiety and depression, resigning his post in 1955 in the wake of an FA Cup defeat to York.
His success in developing instantly, with the addition of Ramsey, an existing Spurs squad into an irresistible force for three seasons created sky high expectations which he couldn’t maintain. However having imbued his philosophy in his players Bill Nicholson and Eddie Baily he had created the management team that would take the club to new heights in the early sixties, winning not only the double and back to back FA Cups, but also England’s first European title. In 1954 he had also signed Nicholson’s captain Danny Blanchflower.
The fifties also saw the flowering of the managerial talent Vic Buckingham (MWMMF 17) at West Bromwich Albion. He had been a team mate of Rowe’s at Tottenham in the 1930s and considered him his mentor.
Rowe returned to football as assistant manager at fourth division Crystal Palace in the late fifties, becoming manager in 1960 and taking the Eagles to promotion in 1961. He again resigned due to the pressure of the job in 1962 but soon reverted back to his assistant role, helping the club to another promotion in 1964 as Palace continued a decade long climb to a first ever season in the top flight.
Granted a Selhurst Park testimonial, an honour not received at White Hart Lane, Rowe drifted around the game into the seventies with spells at Orient, Brentford, West Brom and Millwall. He had become something of a forgotten man, remembered only by those privileged to see his team play in a pre-television era. This proved to be a fleeting glimpse of what English football might have become, as with the exception of the tantalising triumphs of Nicholson’s Spurs and Ramsey’s England, clubs reverted to type.
Rowe summed up this devotion to character rather than intellect saying:  “All you need to remember is that 50 per cent of the people in the game are bluffers. So a decent manager's halfway there when he starts out.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #14 - Gusztáv Sebes



Having started on a mitteleuropa trail that began with Meisl and continued with Hogan, Erbstein and Guttman, it is inevitable that the last Hungarian to feature in this series is Gusztáv Sebes, the man who coached the magnificent Magyars of the 1950s and changed football forever.
The son of a cobbler, Sebes was born in Budapest, and spent time in Paris working as a fitter for Renault, playing for the works team Olympique Billancourt. However he spent the bulk of his playing career with MTK Hungaria winning three League titles.
Following retirement he was put in charge of the national team as the Deputy Minister for sport. Influenced by the great Austrian and Italian national teams of the 1930s he aimed to draw the majority of his players from one or two clubs. This was made easier following the nationalisation of sports clubs under the post war Soviet regime. The ministry of defence took over Kispest, renaming it Honved. Already containing Ferenc Puskas and Jozsef Bozsik, the team was augmented using conscription, with Sandor Kocsis, Zoltan Czibor, Laszlo Budai, Gyula Lorant and Gyular Grosics. As the army team Honved could become the training camp for the bedrock of the Hungarian national team.
Back at his old club MTK, coach Marton Bukovi pioneered the use of the 4-2-4 or M-M formation, using a deep lying centre forward. With this team providing the rest of Sebes eleven, he then layered on his philosophy of what he called socialist football, and what is now known as total football.
Essentially this required every player to have equal responsibility in attack and defence, and thus able to play in any position on the pitch. In practical terms this meant developments such as overlapping full backs and a false nine. The stage was now set for Hungary to rock the world of football.

Their rise to prominence began at the 1952 Olympics staged in Helsinki. Hungary cruised to the final scoring twenty goals and conceding just two, beating defending champions Sweden in the semi-final. The gold medal was won with a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia, and the watching head of the FA Stanley Rous was moved to invite Hungary to play England.
The fixture was to be played in November 1953. In the meantime Hungary won the Central European International Cup. Sebes planned meticulously for the England game, using the heavier ball favoured by the English, and a training pitch which matched the dimensions of Wembley. He also played training matches against teams using the English style.

With rising star Nandor Hidegkuti scoring a hat-trick, Hungary stunned England with a 6-3 win, the first time England had lost to a non British team on home soil. Also to the fore was the brilliant Puskas, scoring one of his two goals with an amazing drag back to leave captain Billy Wright flat on his back before firing the ball into the back of the net. The fact that the match was important not just for the result but also its introduction of a radical exciting way of playing the game was symbolised by the commentary “here’s the number five and he’s not playing centre half”. A few months later Hungary emphasised their superiority by winning the return match 7-1 in Budapest.
By the time of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, Sebes’ team had been unbeaten for four years. They sailed through the group stage and beat 1950 runners up Brazil 4-2 in a quarter-final which became known as the Battle of Berne due to a post match brawl in the tunnel. In the semi-final they overcame defending holders Uruguay 4-2 leading to a final tie against West Germany who they had already beaten in 8-3 in the group stage. Puskas had broken his ankle in this win and was absent from the following two matches but returned for the final.
Playing in heavy rain Hungary were two nil up in eight minutes but the Germans had levelled the score only ten minutes later. Hungary threw everything at the Germans hitting the woodwork twice and having two shots cleared off the line but went behind with six minutes to go. Puskas thought he had equalised in the dying minutes only for his goal to be disallowed for offside. In a match mired with controversy there were post match allegations that the Germans had taken performance enhancing drugs.
Back in Hungary the first defeat of the Golden team since 1950 triggered demonstrations which goalkeeper Grosics believed sowed the seeds of the 1956 uprising. Grosics ended up under house arrest whilst Sebes himself came under severe criticism. He carried on in his post for two more years before being sacked. The Soviet invasion of 1956 led to the defection of the team’s stars and by the time of the next World Cup only four players remained.
The spirit of the mighty Magyars lived on in the performances of the players in club football, most notably Puskas at Real Madrid, and Sebes’ place in history is assured as the man who drew together the threads spun over thirty years to produce one of the most exciting teams the world has ever seen. Its fluid and flexible philosophy endured most notably through Holland in the 70s and Brazil in the 80s before finally finding the ability to synthesise the aesthetic of style and a winning ruthlessness in the modern day Spanish team.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #13 - Béla Guttman


Introduced in the last episode of this series as escaping from the Nazis alongside Ergi Erbstein, Béla Guttman was a globe trotting coach who is best known for creating the all conquering Benfica team of the early 60s before cursing the Eagles never to hit the same heights again.
A larger than life character who gave his players great self belief, he was from the same Austro-Hungarian coffee house school of coaching as Hugo Meisl, with his tactical influence most felt in the development of the 1950s Brazilian national team.
His playing career began by winning back to back titles with MTK Hungaria and international caps, but the anti-semitic government of Admiral Horthy led him to leave his country of birth for Vienna. Signing for the all Jewish club Hakoah, he won another title in 1925. Following a post season tour in 1926 he spent several seasons in the USA but having lost a fortune in the Wall Street Crash returned to Europe.
During the 1930s he coached clubs in Austria, The Netherlands and Hungary where he ended the decade winning the title and Mitropa Cup with Újpest. The outbreak of war led to him leading the life of a fugitive, even when he was eventually interned he managed to escape by jumping out of  a transport train with Erbstein.
Post war he flitted between coaching jobs in Romania (where he insisted on being paid in vegetables) and Hungary. His frequent departures were characterised by angry disputes, leaving his homeland for the final time when he fell out with Ferenc Puskas at Kispest.
Italy was his next destination where he worked at four clubs including AC Milan where he was sacked midway through the 1954/55 season with the Rossoneri top of Serie A. From this point on Guttman insisted on having a clause in his contract which meant he couldn’t be dismissed if his team was top of the table.
A tour to South America with Honved led to a job with Sao Paulo where he won the State championship in 1957 and introduced the Hungarian 4-2-4 formation which was subsequently adopted by the winning Brazil team at the 1958 World Cup to herald twelve years of domination.
A lucrative offer from Porto to restructure the club and win the league was accepted in 1958 and by the end of his first season he had met the challenge to win the first of three consecutive Portuguese titles. However the second two wins were with Benfica, the Eagles tempting Guttman into joining them with an even more lucrative package.
Starting the season with an unbeaten run of twenty five matches, the 1960 title followed him to Estádio da Luz, and prompted a demand for a 200,000 Escudo bonus should he go on to win the European Cup in 1961. Such was Real Madrid’s absolute domination of the competition the Benfica chairman increased the bonus by fifty per cent as he thought it an impossible feat.
With a team built around signings from the Portuguese colonies, Benfica duly reached the final in Bern where they faced favourites Barcelona who had inflicted Real Madrid’s first European Cup defeat, inspired by a trio of mighty Magyars in Kocsis, Czibor and Kubala. Despite going behind Benfica came back to win 3-2 with goals from Angolan José Águas and Mozambican Mario Coluna.
Thus Guttman duly collected his bonus and asked for half a million Escudoes for retaining the trophy. To help him do so he had poached a nineteen forward from Mozambique from the grasp of deadly rivals Sporting. He had mythically heard about Eusebio earlier in the season following a chance meeting in a barber shop with a former Brazilian colleague
Benfica reached their second consecutive final after beating the double winning Spurs 4-3 in the semi-final. This time their final opponents were Real Madrid. Before the tie in Amsterdam Guttman highlighted to his team how sport evolved over time, how achievements which once seemed remarkable were now common place implying that the Madrid stars Di Stefano and Puskas were over the hill.
Lining up in typical 4-2-4 formation, Benfica found themselves 3-2 down at half time due to a Puskas hat trick. Guttman continued to infuse his players with belief saying: “Don’t worry. We’re going to win this thing. They’re dead tired”.
Five minutes after the break his captain Coluna, known as the sacred monster for the way he could influence others with a glance, equalised. Real then went down to ten men with no substitutes permitted for injured players. The protégé Eusebio then came to the fore, winning and then scoring a penalty before sealing the win with a second goal.
Inevitably Guttman again asked for a third pay rise, which this time was turned down prompting him to leave for Penarol to live up to his maxim that “the third year is always fatal for as coach”. He also aimed a parting shot at the board saying: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion".
This curse has stood to date with Benfica going on to lose all eight of their subsequent European finals, including five European Cup finals. In 1990 the final was played in Guttman’s final resting place of Vienna. Eusebio prayed at his graveside to no end as Benfica lost again, this time to AC Milan.
Guttman continued to move from club to club into his seventies, his fiery nature coupled with financial insecurity creating a peripatetic career sealing his greatness as a coach whose influence lay in its breadth of global coverage and his unquenchable belief in his ability to scale the greatest heights with any group of players.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #12 - Ergi Erbstein


World War Two and its aftermath led to an incredible movement of people around Europe as borders were drawn and redrawn. The next three articles in this series will focus on three men who despite being uprooted from their home, ended up having a lasting impact in the country where they ended up.
My first subject is Ergi Erbstein, a Hungarian Jew who created Il Grande Torino side which tragically perished in the Superga air disaster. Born in 1898, Erbstein was a Hungarian army officer in World War One who spent most of his playing career with Budapesti AK but also had short spells in Italy and the USA. Following retirement in 1928 he returned to Italy as a manager of several clubs including Bari and Lucchese before arriving at Torino. His time in Turin was cut short by World War Two but he returned post war and alongside Leslie Lievesley with unprecedented success.
He first came to prominence whilst at Lucchese in the mid 1930s, taking the club from the regional leagues to Serie A and a still best ever finish of seventh. His success was due to a holistic approach to management which encompassed scouting, tactics, technical skill, physical fitness and motivation.
This led to a move to Torino in 1938 but Mussolini’s race laws led to his decision to leave Italy, and after being stopped by the SS he was deported with to Hungary where Jews faced similar oppression to that in Nazi Germany. Inevitably Erbstein ended up in a concentration camp but along with Bela Guttman (MWMMF #13), he escaped by jumping from a train whilst being transported.
Following the end of the war Erbstein returned to Torino to finish what he had started. His football philosophy utilised a scouting network ensuring the opposition were thoroughly analysed and players signed to suit his style of play which evolved from swift counter attacking using long diagonal balls to crisp short passing.
With ten Torino players starting for Italy in, appropriately, a match against Hungary, his team were at the peak of their powers when he took them to Benfica for a friendly in the spring of 1949.

Tragically the plane crashed against the Superga cliff-side monastery on its return flight killing Erbstein, Lievesley and the squad. Only able to field a youth team for their remaining league fixtures, Torino’s opponents did likewise and they won a fifth consecutive Scudetto at the end of the season, a fitting tribute to Erbstein and his groundbreaking team.
You can read about his amazing life in more detail in the recently published Erbstein: football's forgotten pioneer by Dominic Bliss which is available from www.theblizzard.co.uk

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Men Who Made Modern Football #11 - Jack Greenwell

Jack Greenwell was a Durham miner who not only played an influential role in the development of FC Barcelona but also remains the only non South American manager to win the Copa America.
Born in Peases West near Crook, County Durham he followed his father down the mine when he left school. He was an amateur player of distinction playing for his home town club Crook Town but it was an invitation to play as a guest for West Auckland in an early international competition, the Thomas Lipton Trophy, in Italy in 1909 which was to change his life. Whilst playing in the tournament which the English team won, Greenwell was spotted by the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Gamper, and in 1912 Gamper invited Greenwell to join his team. He quickly settled in Catalonia, becoming fluent in both Catalan and Castillian Spanish and marrying Doris, a dancer from the Moulin Rouge risqué cabaret.
He played for four seasons up to his retirement in 1916, and then on the recommendation of the players, Gamper appointed him manager.
At the time Spanish clubs only completed in their regional championship, with the winner going onto play in the Copa Del Rey. In a six year spell in charge Greenwell led Barcelona to four Campionat de Catalunya and two Copa del Rey.  This was to become known as the club’s first golden era but it was not without controversy.
Greenwell had a radical football philosophy which emphasised the need for passing in favour of dribbling. He also wanted to develop players so they could fit into any position in the team, a salient move in an age before substitutes. This would lead to his teams building from the back and can be seen as a fledgling tiki taka style for which the club are now renowned. However when he took Paulinho Alcántara, who was Barcelona's star striker, and played him as a centre back there were protests and calls for Greenwell’s dismissal but Gamper stuck by his man as the club established themselves as the premier club in Catalonia.
Greenwell moved onto smaller Catalan clubs UE Sants and CD Castellon in the mid 1920s before moving to Espanyol where he again won the Campionat de Catalunya and the club’s first ever Copa del Rey in 1929. He then returned to Barcelona to win a fifth Campionat de Catalunya and also managed Valencia, Gijon and Mallorca. By now a high profile symbol of Catalonian Nationalism, Greenwell was forced to flee Spain due to the civil war in 1936.
He was appointed as a tactical advisor to Peru in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the quarter-finals, the Peruvians came back from a two goal deficit to Austria, to take the tie to extra-time. They then had three goals disallowed but went onto score twice only for a pitch invasion to force an abandonment. This was blamed on Peruvian supporters so a replay was ordered which Peru refused to contest and so they returned to South America.
Greenwell went with them and became manager for the inaugural Bolivarian Games in 1938 which Peru won. He then combined running the national team with managing club side Universitario, winning the national championship in 1939.
Peru then hosted the 1939 Copa America which was contested on a league format. In the final match in Lima Peru faced Uruguay, the strongest South American team of the era. With both teams having previously won all their games, this was effectively a final. In front of a capacity crowd of 40,000 spectators, Peru won 2-1 to lift the Copa América for the first time.
Greenwell then accepted an offer to work in Colombia, who were not affiliated to FIFA. Asked why he would isolate himself he replied “did the people of Colombia not deserve the beautiful game just because FIFA deemed so?”
He died of a heart attack in 1942, two days after he managed Santa Fe to a 10-3 win over local rivals Deportivo Texas. On his person were found two items he carried constantly: an image of St. George killing the Dragon, which he referred to Catalan style as St. Jordi, and a small piece of cloth of the blaugrana colours.
That Barcelona remained so important to him reflected his length of service as their manager which at seven seasons remains second only to Johan Cruyff. The latter was a football icon that completed the club’s transition into a global phenomenon, the former a Durham miner that started the process.