The lad from Lancashire, Jimmy Hogan: Not a local hero

Jimmy Hogan Football World War One Hungary

The lad with impact ideas

Jimmy Hogan was born on 16 October 1882 in Burnley, just five months after the club. He actually played for them. The Football League was founded some six years later and Burnley was one of the founding members so he was born as the game came into existence. This lad from Lancashire had a huge impact on the continental game yet his name is not often mentioned on home soil.

When you consider that the fledgeling league had been codified by the upper classes, it’s something of a miracle it was taken up by the working classes. It was some 400 years in the making and this popular sport has so many tactical variations. Which one is the best? As Jimmy Hogan once put it:

“I don’t care whether a pass is long or short, forwards or backward. I just care if it is right. It has to be right for the team.”

Isolated England

The difference between the English and the Scottish game was profound. The Scottish passing game emphasises skill over physical power and the versatility of all players being comfortable on the ball was a style he encountered whilst playing for Fulham FC. The trainer, Jock Hamilton, instilled these ideas on a youthful Hogan and he, in turn, exported them around Europe. The rigidity of the English game would be undone by a team inspired by Hogan. It is that passing a ball to a colleague in an intelligent and constructive manner that we enjoy today and so many great coaches use in their own way. Tactics are evolutionary and are redefined with each epoch.

Timing is everything for Jimmy Hogan. Timing passes and timing his career. This talented inside forward took a break out of his playing game as Hogan was invited to Dortrecht FC in the Netherlands. His influence on Dutch football is profound. It may have been 60 years before the total effects were felt but all the greats of our game seem to trace their greatness back to Hogan: Johan Cruyff included. In 1910 the Dutch were just interested in learning skills from an English master. Europeans just wanted to learn from someone who came from the home of football.

The wanderer Jimmy Hogan

At the end of his contract, he came back to this sceptred isle where he played for Bolton Wanderers, helping them to secure promotion. His good name was passed around and it wasn’t long before his talents were procured by Austrian Hugo Meisl. He had heard Hogan was looking for a full-time coaching position. They were worlds apart but united by the love of the beautiful game. Hogan moved to Vienna to help get Austria ready for the Stockholm Olympics. The tactics were to pass the ball quickly and get into space for the next move. His regime was a controlled diet and rigorous workouts. Hogan’s style may seem pedestrian by today’s standards but before World War One he was a pioneer. Six weeks was not enough to win any medals but it made sure that his methods were admired.

They were admired by Meisels who asked Hogan to coach the national team and Vienna’s local clubs. It was too good an offer to pass up. Everything about this was polar opposites yet it worked. Vienna is a beautiful city and a complete contrast to the dreary reality of Burnley. Meisels was a wealthy Jewish Banker and Hogan was a poor Roman Catholic. This made them both outsiders in their native lands who were united by a love of football. With hopes of building a team to dominate Europe, Austria eventually produced a strong team with Meisels hopeful idealism and Hogans practical, tactical realism. They were a dream team.


Hopes were put on hold as hostilities in Europe were drawing to the conclusion we know. He may have been able to predict trends in football, but Jimmy Hogan and his family were in Austria as war was declared in 1914. The British consulate didn’t seem too worried so there was no hurry in Hogan’s mind. Hogan was arrested as an enemy alien but was spared from being sent to an internment camp. He was sent to Hungary to coach MTK but had to register every day with the police. Separated from his family, he did what he did best-teach a nation how to enjoy playing football.

Eager to learn these Hungarian boys absorbed Hogans teachings despite the fact they were often called away to fight. They formed the basis of a team that would conquer Europe in a good way. Hogan’s methods brought immediate success as they won the league in 1917. Hogan was allowed to go home to be reunited with his family. MTK went on to win the league again the following year. The impact was huge as Hungary went on to produce some of the greatest football ever seen.

Shunned on home soil

The homecoming Hogan had was not as romantic as he had hoped. Emotions ran high in England with many having lost their lives serving “King and Country”. Hogan was not getting any sympathy. Norman Fox explains it so:

“When the war ended he returned to England and was told that men who had suffered financially as a result of the war could claim £200 from the FA.

He was almost destitute but when he went to London the secretary, Francis Wall, opened a cupboard and offered him a pair of khaki socks. ‘We sent these to the boys at the front and they were grateful.’ The unsubtle message was: ‘Traitor’.”

He clearly was not going to be accepted in England so he returned to Europe. This time he gave his talents to Switzerland. He coached Young Boys Berne. He was a sort of consultant coach as he trained the national team too. He took his ideas to Germany as well. Mastering simple ideas was something the Germans did well. Coaches took every word he said and used it to develop their own team. Switzerland reached the finals of the 1924 Olympics, which was an outstanding achievement.

It seemed that football was a uniting influence on these newly created states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia as well as the newly defined Hungary and Austria. Meisels had an idea to use football to placate the regions nationalism. The Mitropa Cup encouraged the best teams from Central Europe to play each other. Simple and effective it drew huge crowds.

Wunderbar for the wunder team

The entrepreneurial Meisels employed Hogan once more to help him continue his dream of producing a strong Austrian team. Hogans methods were proven and so was Meisels’ vision. The “Wunderteam” was born. With 14 successive victories, Austria were making an impact. They reached the World Cup Semi-finals in 1934 and the finals of the Olympics in 1936. Once again politics defeated football. Hugo Meisels died of a heart attack in 1937 and with his death, the vision died too. He was spared the horrors that would see his co-religionists wiped out with the Anschluss the following year. His team were also absorbed into Germany’s Nazi machine. Their chance to shine was gone.

Local prophet returns

Hogan had already returned to England avoiding internment and worse. He was disliked at Fulham and Aston Villa so his career faded out. England may have drawn the blueprint for football but they were not ready for its development into the beautiful game. Hogan prophetically said:

“I have watched continental football grow from a mere baby to a strapping young man who will go onto full manhood and eventually deprive Britain of her footballing supremacy.”

When the Hogan inspired “Mighty Magyars” came to Wembley I wonder what went through Hogan’s mind as they tore England apart 3-6. They played the football that Hogan taught them according to Gusztav Sebes. They were the first continental team to beat England on home ground.

Hogan died in January 1974. The then secretary of German football Hans Passlack described him as the ‘father of modern football in Germany’. That year Germany won the World Cup and the manager, Helmut Schon had been a player for Dresden FC when Hogan had a brief stint there. Ironically they had defeated the Hogan inspired team of Holland-the nation who gave the name to Hogan’s philosophies: Total Football. Austria, Hungary, Germany and Holland all had one muse in common-the lad from Lancashire, Jimmy Hogan