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Mister By Rory Smith

Release date: 07th April, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £12.99
You Save: £6 (31%)
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More than a decade ago, Norman Fox wrote a critically acclaimed book about an accomplished and hugely successful football coach named Jimmy Hogan called Prophet or Traitor?. Though Hogan enjoyed considerable success, particularly as coach of Hungary’s ‘Magical Magyars’ who trounced England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953, the book was a commercial failure, ostensibly because few readers had heard of Hogan; not long afterwards, the publishers went out of business.

Rory Smith’s Mister, the tale of the “men who taught the world how to beat England at their own game”, takes up Fox’s baton, name-checking him frequently in this fascinating story of a wide range of British football coaches who have tried their hand abroad.

As anyone who has ever worked overseas for a prolonged period will tell you, travel broadens the mind, a point made by Roy Hodgson in this book’s thoughtful introduction. The observation is true of every profession and includes, as Smith points out, an eclectic collection of Britons capable of spreading the football word to every corner of the globe.

Smith’s book is stuffed full with marvellous anecdotes and recounts a conversation between Sir Richard Turnbull, the penultimate governor of Aden and Denis Healy, then Britain’s defence secretary, which took place in the mid-1960s.

“When the British Empire finally sinks beneath the waves,” Turnbull told Healy, “it will leave behind only two monuments: the game of association football and the expression ‘f*** off’.” How prescient Turnbull’s words proved to be.

The men responsible for Britain’s long-lasting sporting (rather than verbal) legacy included trail-blazers such as former Blackburn Rovers player Fred Pentland who, following a prolonged spell as a PoW in World War I, went on to become one of Atletico Bilbao’s greatest managers.

Ex-Nottingham Forest footballer Alf Spencer took charge of Barcelona in 1923 where he was credited with urging his charges to play the ball on the ground; Jesse Carver enjoyed success in Italy before returning to coach Coventry City and George Raynor took Sweden to the World Cup Final in 1958 but struggled to find a managerial post upon his return to England. Two years after losing the 1958 final (to Brazil, who fielded a 17-year-old Pelé), Raynor was applying for a job as a storeman at the Butlins holiday camp.

It could be argued that we not only gave the world the game, but we then presented the world with the coaches capable of assembling teams good enough to beat us. As the number of British coaches active in professional football falls, this book reminds us of how we could do with a Jimmy Hogan or George Raynor.


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