Jimmy Hogan: The Englishman who inspired the Magical Magyars

By Chris BevanBBC Sport

You might not expect the 'Magical Magyars' of 1953 and former Manchester United managers Ron Atkinson and Tommy Docherty to have much in common, but they were actually all inspired by the same remarkable man.

England humbled by Hungary in 1953

His name was Jimmy Hogan and, although he played, managed and coached on these shores, he is an Englishman better known - and far more celebrated - in mainland Europe.

Sixty years on from Hungary's famous 6-3 win at Wembley on 25 November 1953, and the end of the myth of England's invincibility, it seems a good time to look back at Hogan's legacy and tell his extraordinary footballing tale.

In fact, the occasion demands it: immediately after the final whistle on that momentous day of Ferenc Puskas drag-backs and Nandor Hidegkuti's deceptive deep-lying centre-forward play, Hungarian Football Federation president Sandor Barcs dedicated the victory to Hogan.

"Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know about football," Barcs said, and the Hungarians were not alone.

The English and Hungarian captains, Ferenc Puskas (left) and Billy Wright lead out their teams at Wembley in November 1953
Captains Ferenc Puskas (left) and Billy Wright lead out Hungary and England at Wembley in 1953

Germany and Austria's coaches also learned a lot from Hogan's brand of quick, short, incisive passing football and the Lancastrian worked in France, Switzerland, Scotland and the Netherlands too.

His favoured tactics, which demanded versatility and the ability to pass the ball on what he always called "the carpet", were a forerunner of what would become known in the 1970s as 'Total Football' but he paid a heavy price back home for being a few decades ahead of his time.

Perversely, given that what remains England's most humiliating defeat owed its origins to Hogan's philosophy, only his own country declined to listen.

Hogan's travels

It is almost exactly 100 years since Hogan first went to Hungary, via a spell in internship in Austria at the start of World War I.

Born in Nelson in 1882, the former Burnley, Fulham, Swindon and Bolton inside-forward was in his early 30s when he took charge of Budapest club MTK in 1914, introducing a brand of football that was to become known as "the Danubian Style" and sparking a national obsession with the game in a country where it had previously been largely ignored.

He briefly came home in 1918, where he was called a traitor by the Football Association for working abroad during the war, before embarking on a tour of Europe that saw him coach in Switzerland, Germany and back in Budapest during the 1920s. He helped Switzerland reach the final of the 1926 Olympics and more titles with MTK followed.

It was in the 1930s that he began to be appreciated by a wider audience, working with Hugo Meisl's legendary Austrian national side during a period when they were known as the 'Wunderteam'external-link before being appointed Fulham manager in 1934.

He had developed his approach while a player for the Cottagers, influenced by the ball skills of some Scottish team-mates.

But this was to be no triumphant homecoming - his senior players decided they did not want to be coached and Hogan was sacked after only 31 games.

Jimmy Hogan (r) with his players during his time as Aston Villa manager in 1936
Jimmy Hogan (r) with his players during his time as Aston Villa manager in 1936

Hogan went back to Austria, and helped them reach the final of the 1936 Olympics before taking over at newly relegated Aston Villa.

This was his most successful spell in his homeland, seeing him win promotion back to the top flight and reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but he still made an unceremonious exit, sacked while in hospital with appendicitis just after the outbreak of World War II.

Witnessing the 'Match of the Century'

After the war, Hogan coached at Brentford and Celtic where he would be an early influence on Docherty, then a teenage midfielder but who would go on to become a forward-thinking coach himself. 'The Doc' was entranced by Hogan's philosophy of passing football.

"He used to say football was like a Viennese waltz, a rhapsody," Docherty told BBC Sport. "One-two-three, one-two-three, pass-move-pass, pass-move-pass. We were sat there, glued to our seats, because we were so keen to learn.

"His arrival at Celtic Park was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Hogan then worked as youth team coach at Aston Villa, where he had the same effect on Atkinson, who back then was a teenage apprentice with the midlanders.

Atkinson says everything Hogan did was geared around ball control and passing, and told BBC Late Kick Off: "When Jimmy came to Villa, he was revolutionary.

"He would have you in the old car park at the back of Villa Park and he would be saying 'I want you to play the ball with the inside of your right foot, outside of your right foot, inside again, and now turn come back on your left foot inside and outside'.

"He would get you doing step-overs, little turns and twist on the ball and everything you did was to make you comfortable on the ball."

Hungary's fifth goal in their 6-3 win at Wembley in 1953
At Wembley in 1953, Hungary tormented England with their passing, movement and precise finishing

Appropriately, Hogan was at Wembley to watch Hungary in 1953 but he was not a guest in the Royal Box, as some accounts have it. Instead the 71-year-old went of his own accord and took some of his Villa youngsters with him to watch.

The game was billed before kick-off as 'the Match of the Century' and it did not disappoint.

What Hogan witnessed was perfection of the work he had pioneered. The Olympic champions, who were unbeaten in 32 games, completely out-passed and out-played their hosts.

England were masters no more, and the Magyars did not forget the contribution their old mentor had made to their rise to prominence.

"As the match was staged by the FA, we felt we could not invite him ourselves," Hungary's president Barcs told the press after the game. "But I would like to say that Hungary will invite Jimmy Hogan to come to Budapest next May when we meet England again, and then we will honour him.

"You can see how we have learned his lessons. If I may say so, England could with advantage take to themselves some of the hints which Mr Hogan gave us. We are grateful to him and for his influence on our game."

Hogan's legacy lives on

Sixty years on, Hungary are still grateful to Hogan, who died aged 91 in 1974.

There are only two surviving members of that legendary 1953 team - goalkeeper Gyula Grosics and defender Jeno Buzanszky - but they will both be at the annual Hungary Football Federation gala on Monday, which has been brought forward to mark the anniversary of their country's most significant footballing triumph.

Jeno Buzanszky (L) and Gyula Grosics (R) are the two surviving members of the Hungary team of 1953
Jeno Buzanszky (L) and Gyula Grosics (R) are the two surviving members of the Hungary team of 1953

"It is still a source of great pride," HFF head of communications Marton Dinnyes told BBC Sport. "From grandmothers to small children, everybody knows that result: the 6-3 as we call it - not the 3-6. It is part of the wider culture of Hungary.

"It was a special thing to beat the inventors of the game. I would not say Jimmy had a big impact on the outcome of that match but he had a major role in establishing our football culture and all football people in this country are still aware of that.

"Football was an amateur sport in Hungary when he arrived but his knowledge, experience, ideas and passing style were very important for our players to learn from. He started our journey to a different level.

"For that, he should have a place in the Hall of Fame but I cannot tell you from Hungary how important he was for English football."

The answer, through no fault of Hogan's, is 'not very'. Our own history might have been very different had his ideas not been overlooked.