Miscellaneous Items of Interest!
Prophet or Traitor?* -
An Unsung Hero of our Town and Parish
On Friday, October 7th 2021, Fr David led the prayer at a memorial service for Jimmy Hogan, “the coach who changed the face of European football”. Jimmy is credited with being the inspiration for Hungary’s (in)famous victory 3 – 6 over England at Wembley in 1953. This was the first non-British side to beat England in a home fixture, and it was a calamitous event for English football at the time. He is widely described as the coach who gave life to all the success that European National sides have grown to achieve since the middle of the twentieth century. Experienced and knowledgeable authorities in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Holland and France all still pay tribute to his contribution to their football success.
The Memorial Service was initiated by a group of football clubs and organisations which had arranged for a headstone to be raised on Jimmy’s hitherto unmarked grave. Amongst those who attended were the Hungarian Consul, Burnley’s Mayor, and representatives of many of the clubs where he had successfully coached, including Burnley, Aston Villa, and Celtic. One of his granddaughters gave a brief and touching reminiscence of ‘Grandad Jimmy’. Representatives of the many organisations who have worked to elevate Jimmy’s name and legacy laid wreaths alongside those laid by the Hungarian Embassy and Celtic FC.
A commemorative plaque has also been placed in the Burnley FC Memorial Garden in Jimmy’s memory.
Jimmy was born in Nelson in 1882, educated at St Mary Magdalene’s and Bede College Manchester. He spent several periods of his much-travelled life in Burnley, and is said to have loved it as a place to call home. He was a devout Catholic and his faith is often seen as being the source of his disciplined approach to training, and always an active part of all his interactions with everyone he encountered. In his later years, he was a parishioner at St Mary’s where his Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr Myerscough in 1974. He lived with his niece, Margaret Melia, who is also named on the gravestone, along with other relatives, Ellen and Peter Melia. They were well-known and loved member of St Mary’s parish.
He played club football in England, and Europe, starting in 1902 with a four-year spell with the Clarets, and from where he went to Fulham, with Bolton and Aston Villa amongst his clubs. He then became a coach, a career which started pre-WW1 and ran into the 1950s. His approach was based on skill, ball-control and technique, at a time when most English clubs didn’t even consider a coach to be necessary – ‘if you’re good enough, just get on with it’!!
He introduced his methods into Austria and Switzerland, and later Hungary, with great success, taking Switzerland to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1932, and Austria to the final of the 1936 Olympics. He was also active and successful in Germany, France and Holland, three of the nations that have dominated post-war European football. Some achievement!
After the Hungary defeat of England the Head of the Hungarian FA sung his praises, and considered him to be the total cause of their success. Hungary’s coach said: “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our soccer history is told his name should be written in gold letters”. When asked to explain their success Hungary’s Head of Delegation said “You had better go back 30 years to the time your Jimmy Hogan came to teach us how to play”. In Europe he is widely regarded as the man who prepared the ground and sowed the seeds for the success of generations to come.
Sadly, in England he was considered to be a traitor for this achievement. Little recognition is given to the fact that he would have loved to have ‘plied his trade’ in the UK, if he had been able to get the authorities at the time to share his dream. Instead, the dream became the reality of football success in Europe to England’s eventual cost. It is thought that the single-mindedness that Jimmy derived from his devotion to his faith, alongside his ‘ahead of his time’ methods, and his open self-certainty led him to being unacceptable in the culture of his age.
Jimmy finished his coaching years in the UK, working amongst others at Celtic and Aston Villa where he is remembered with admiration. At age 71, Jimmy was, at Wembley for the Hungary match, where he had taken some Aston Villa youth players so that they could see the use of his techniques in action in the Hungary team.
Jimmy is a somewhat forgotten or neglected hero, a man of our parish, our town, and of English football. The activities leading to the Memorial Service, the headstone, and the commemorative plaque may be the start of the recognition he deserves?
May he rest in peace.
*’Prophet or Traitor’ is the title of a biography of Jimmy written by Norman Fox. Our thanks to him for his work and the title of this article.