It was interesting to see Jimmy Hogan get three votes and Hugo Meisl one in the recent managers’ ratings; though neither essentially should have had them. Not because they were unworthy of distinction, salient figures both in the development of the European game, but because neither was distinguished as an out and out manager.
True, Hogan in the latter 1930s managed both Aston Villa and Fulham, but with disappointingly little impact. At Villa, once such a pre-eminent club of largely Scottish skills, the Chairman replied to Hogan’s pleas for constructive football, “Get the ball in the bloody net, that’s what I want!”
Meisl, Hogan’s essential guru when he first came to coach in Vienna before the Great War, and did so much to turn him into the superb coach he became, was the great eminence of Austrian football, the grand embodiment of the famed inter war Wunderteam, but never a coach or actual manager of any kind.
Hogan, a little Lancastrian with a modest English career as a inside forward, had coached in Holland but when first he came to Vienna found he just couldn’t get through to the local players. A long intense session with Meisl put paid to that and he went onto coach not only the Wunderteam, but to excel in Hungary and Germany too.
Even after the Second World War, he coached inspiringly at Celtic and was eulogised by Tommy Docherty, then one of his young pupils. How significant it was that when he brought his Wunderteam to play England at Stamford Bridge in 1932, he and his players sat watching three days earlier in disbelief how Chelsea and Everton, each featuring one of the great centre forwards of their day, little Scot Hughie Gallacher for Chelsea and big Dixie Dean for Everton, simply and constantly banged the ball down the middle to each man.
Thus far back and doubtless even further goes the battle in English football between the long ball, basic theorists and those who want to play a less hectic and more rationally constructive game. Wing Commander Charles Reep with his misbegotten Match Analysis, his squiggly diagrams and his emphasis on the long ball, so enthusiastically taken up by Stan Cullis when in charge of Wolves, was simply in the 1950s the heir to the cruder tradition.
And after him, long after, as we know came Long Ball Charlie Hughes, who did so much damage when head of coaching at the Football Association, dogmatic to the nth degree, and Graham Taylor who at Watford actually employed Reep as his advisor. Far from being innovators, they were merely turning the clock back for decades. Fulham by the way sacked Hogan when he was in hospital.
It is hardly surprising that Roman Abramovich has read the riot act to his expensive, miserably unproductive, youth section. The mountain which partutates???nothing but mice. Even under Frank Arnesen, a fine inside forward for Denmark and still a major executive in the Bundesliga, sterility ruled. Not least in the case of the youngsters purloined from Leeds United, who won protest and appeal received large sums of money in compensation. Neither player made the minimal impact.
There did very recently seem hope in the promise of the young inside forward – I hate that blanket term, midfielder – Josh McEachran, still only 20 but when sent out on loan to Swansea and Bolton, he made scant impact. Arsenal, meanwhile, at least through their youth scheme produced Ashley Cole, destined to thrive at Chelsea and our one true playmaker, Jack Wilshere (initially a Luton Town schoolboy) but two from so many years and such huge expenditure on youth development was hardly rewarding.
So since the time they snatched the teenaged Nicolas Anleka from an outraged Paris Saint Germain, for nothing (save an almost derisory £50,000 ‘gift,’ through the taking of the 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, to the latest raid on two of Barca’s young talents, the Gunners have swooped upon European teenagers. Arsene Wenger himself once said that there simply wasn’t the young talent in England.
And so Fulham say goodbye to Mohamed Fayed (the “Al” was an honorific he bestowed on himself and alas he never did get given British citizenship.) Whatever his trials, tribulations, triumphs and machinations elsewhere – the horrific death in Paris of Princess Di and his son Dodi would always torment him, though his bitter accusations against Prince Phillip and the Royals were shockingly discordant – he was the salvation of Fulham.
Spending some £200 million in raising them from the Fourth Division to the Premiership, having bought them for £6.5 million; selling them to the even richer Shahid Khan for a reported £150 million or so, he surely deserved to get most of his money back.
Whatever his pretensions, whatever his occasional excesses, whatever his dealings (successfully with the likes of Haiti’s tyrant Papa Doc Duvalier) you couldn’t grudge him the applause he milked before each home game as he strolled the pitch, swinging his scarf.