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.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #8 - Jack Reynolds

The most notable absence from the oligarchy of clubs which currently dominate European football must be Ajax. Revered not just for their success from the 70s onwards, but also their tactical philosophy of total football, the origins of their eminence lie with English coach Jack Reynolds.
Born in Bury, Reynolds’ playing career was similar to that of Jimmy Hogan (MWMMF #7), retiring at the age of 30 after spells in and out of the league with the likes of Burton United, Grimsby Town, Watford and New Brompton (Gillingham Town). Like Hogan he saw a future in coaching on the continent, starting in 1912 with St. Gallen in Switzerland where he impressed enough in a two year spell to be appointed German national manager. Unfortunately this coincided with the outbreak of World War One so he moved to the Netherlands instead and in 1915 started what was to become the first of three spells in charge of Ajax Amsterdam spanning 27 years. By 1919 he had led the club to their first pieces of silverware winning the KNVB (FA) Cup in 1917 and back to back Eredivisie (League) titles in 1918 and 1919, the latter being an invincible unbeaten season. Following the armistice he took charge of the Dutch national team for one match before fellow Englishman Fred Warburton was appointed on a permanent basis.
He continued at Ajax until 1947, apart from three years at Blauw Wit in the mid-1920s, and the Nazi occupation during World War Two when he was interned in a labour camp in Upper Silesia alongside PG Wodehouse where he arranged international football games between other prisoners and laid a cricket pitch.
He won five more Eredivisie titles in the 1930s and an eighth in his final season in charge in 1947. During this time he laid the foundations for the Total Football system with which Ajax would rule Europe under Rinus Michels (MWMMF #18 and coached by Reynolds during the 1940s) in the early 1970s. After his death in 1962 a stand at Ajax’s De Meer Stadium was named after him and when the Godenzonen moved to their current home at the Amsterdam Arena, he was remembered in the Jack Reynolds lobby.
Known by the Dutch as Sjek Rijnols, his greatest legacy lies not in the trophies won but the coaching philosophy introduced whereby all age group teams at the club were coached in the same tactics and style of play. In this way he changed the club forever.
Ajax expert and author Menno Pot said that he:
“really reshaped the club into something professional, even though the players weren't paid at the time. Football was an amateur game, but he introduced professional training methods, professional facilities that really allowed Ajax to make a huge leap forward. He was the man who came up with the idea that every player at Ajax should play the same system and the same formation. He wanted them to play offensively with skill, rather than with physical power."
This became the Ajax tradition which bore such prized fruits in the 1970s that it was seen as the ideal for all other clubs to aspire to. Today the financial muscle of Arsenal and Barcelona has allowed them to become its best exponents. If only Ajax could join them.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #7 Jimmy Hogan

Earlier articles in this series investigated the stories of men who pioneered the game in South America, today’s subject Jimmy Hogan, an Englishman of Irish descent, did so in Europe. Known as the ghost of English football for the way his ball playing philosophy was rejected in his homeland, he had an enduring influence on the continent, particularly in Mittel Europa countries such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.
Born in Burnley, Hogan was initially destined for the priesthood, but despite graduating from St Bede’s college in Manchester as head boy at the turn of the century, he elected to pursue a lifelong career in football.
As a player this amounted to little, appearing for a number of clubs up to the outbreak of World War One, with his longest spells coming at Bolton Wanderers and in his hometown of Burnley. On one occasion he pondered whether his ball skills needed improving but technique was of no concern to his coach so From that day I began to fathom things out for myself, I coupled this with taking advice from the truly great players. It was through my constant delving into matters that I became a coach in later life. It seemed the obvious thing, for I had coached myself as quite a young professional.”
This drive for self-improvement allied to an adherence to the Scottish philosophy of passing football first flowered on a summer tour to the Netherlands when having helped Bolton to beat Dordrecht 10-0 he pledged to “go back and teach those fellows how to play properly” taking over the Dutch national team for a short spell which included a memorable 2-1 win over Germany. This brought him to the attention of Hugo Meisl (MWMMF #5) who took him to Austria and began to shape the development of the game there. This was halted by the outbreak of World War One with Hogan being interned as an enemy alien.
Fortunately this was noticed by the English educated vice president of MTK Budapest, Baron Dirstay, who intervened to allow Hogan to become coach of the Hungarian club, whose league restarted in 1916, Hogan leading them to back to back titles.
Following the armistice Hogan returned to England and eagerly approached the FA, keen to share his continental experience. However he was shunned as a traitor by officials, suspicious of his apparent disappearance during the war.

After a short time working in a cigarette factory in Everton, Hogan returned to mainland Europe, this time to Switzerland where he coached Young Boys Berne and helped prepare the national team for the 1924 Olympics in Paris, where they reached the final. Following a short spell with Lausanne he moved over the border with Dresden, lecturing thousands of German footballers including Helmut Schoen on his footballing principles. His influence was so great that on his death in 1974 the German Football Federation secretary Hans Passlack described him as “the father of modern football in Germany”.
In the 1930s Hogan was reunited with Meisl in Austria and together they created the Wunderteam starring Mathias Sindelaar becoming, Italy aside, the decade’s pre-eminent European national side. After a spell coaching Racing Club de Paris, Hogan returned home for good in 1936 becoming Aston Villa manager, leading them to promotion from Division Two in his first season. Although he also had spells leading Fulham, Brentford and Celtic, it was as a coach that he was at his best and at this time he influenced the early careers of future managerial luminaries Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson.
Always with an eye to learning from the best, at the age of 71, the now white haired Hogan, took a group of Aston Villa juniors including Peter McParland, to see England play at Wembley in 1953. The visitors were Hungary who stunned the crowd by inflicting a first ever home defeat by a score of 6-3 to boot. After the came the Mighty Magyars coach Gusztáv Sebes (MWMMF #14) commented: “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters.”

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Men Who Made Modern Football #6 Frank Buckley

Unlike his predecessors in this series, Frank Buckley was an innovator in some of the darker arts of the beautiful game which plague us to this day. On the pitch this was his development of “English” tactics which reached their apogee in the all-conquering Wolves team of the 1950s. Off it this was the wheeler dealing transfer market activity which saw him give priority to the bottom line rather than the needs of the team.
Know commonly as the Major due to his military service in World War One, Buckley was born to a military family in Urmston, Lancashire in 1882. He won a scholarship to St Francis Xavier's College for Boys in Liverpool which was run using the philosophy of Muscular Christanity cherished by some of his predecessors in this series.
Following his father into a career in the army, he was spotted by Aston Villa playing football for his regiment and decided to buy himself out of the army to sign a professional contract. He went onto play for Brighton, Manchester City and United, Birmingham and Derby, winning an England cap whilst at the latter, shortly before war broke out in 1914.
Buckley became the first to sign up for the Football Battalion, rising to the rank of Major by the time they reached the front in 1916. His football career was effectively ended by an injury sustained at the Battle of the Somme, but he returned to the front in 1917 and was was "mentioned in dispatches" for the bravery shown during hand-to-hand fighting.
Following the Armistice, Buckley was appointed manager of Southern League Norwich, creating a nationwide scouting network of his former army comrades who were all ex-players, to build a team of talented young players. He resigned in 1920 following a dispute with the board and then spent time out of the game as a sweet salesman.
He returned to football in 1923 as Blackpool instantly making his mark by changing their kit to the distinctive tangerine well known to this day. As well as buying young talent which he would sell for a generous fee safe in the knowledge of a replacement already lined up, Buckley put paramount importance on the physical fitness of his squad. He combined diet (including a smoking ban) with physiotherapy as well as novel fitness routines such as weight training. Having established a reputation for building an effective squad which could be milked to provide a healthy profit, Buckley was appointed manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1927.

Buckley's stay at Wolves can be taken two ways. On the face of it, he appeared to achieve only modest success with the club; they won the Division Two title in 1931–32 and finished runners-up in the Division One in 1937–38 and in both the First Division and the FA Cup the following season. An alternative view is that during his stay at Molineux, Buckley once made the club a £100,000 profit within one year, purely on transfer deals; he toyed, provocatively, with the media (instigating the empty rumour that his players were using a monkey gland treatment to aid performance), he used psychologists to instil confidence in his players and was responsible for bringing through Stan Cullis and offering Billy Wright a start in professional football.  After he had left the club, however, the full value of his vision, not least the Wolves youth programme, came to fruition and did so much to shape the Wolves side of the 1950s, when they won three Division One championships, twice won the FA Cup, and were one of few genuine challengers to the Busby Babes.
His impact can be summed up by Cullis who went onto manage Wolves through their 1950s golden era:  "I soon realised that Major Buckley was one out of the top drawer. He did not suffer fools gladly. His style of management in football was very similar to his attitude in the army. Major Buckley implanted into my mind the direct method of playing which did away with close interpassing and square-ball play. If you didn't like his style you'd very soon be on your bicycle to another club. He didn't like defenders over-elaborating in their defensive positions. Major Buckley also knew how to deal with the press." 
Buckley left Moulineux towards the end of the second world war and with his scouting network showing his age, made little impact at his final few short appointments at Notts County, Hull City, Leeds United and Walsall. He did sign Jack Charlton for the Whites though and started a process of youth development that would bear fruit in the Revie era.
This reflected his major contribution to the English game, that of talent development and profit, with a focus on physical fitness and simple, direct football. A blueprint for the mercantile nature of the modern game in this country, undoubtedly successful but forsaking the emotional tug of attractive football and glorious success measured by silverware.