Saturday, August 21 – 1937
It’s going to be “made in Birmingham” as far as Aston Villa is concerned in the future. At least that’s the impression I got from Jimmy Hogan, the Villa’s pilot-in-chief, when I saw him yesterday. The basic idea of the scheme, as I understand it, is to “catch ‘em young and treat ‘em kindly” and, for this purpose an appeal has been made to Brummagen youngsters who are keen on football, to get in touch with Villa.
“You see,” said Mr Hogan, “my idea is this. When lads leave school at fourteen they often drop their football entirely until they join an amateur club when they’re eighteen or so – four years wasted.
“Now what I want to do is to get the Aston Villa Juniors – from fourteen to sixteen – up at Villa Park and train them myself. Then when they’re seventeen we can decide who we want to sign on as professionals and they can go to Frank Barson’s nursery at Perry Barr.”
I mentioned, rather tentatively, I admit, as it was the Villa who virtually “bought their discharge” from the First Division, the question of transfer fees.
Jimmy Hogan puffed at his pipe until it looked like the Flying Scotsman under full steam. Then he said: “This is the year we’re going to make our supreme effort to get back to the First Division.
Jimmy Hogan, Aston Villa.
“From private practice matches I’m convinced we’ve got four good teams – there are forty-five professionals and three or four good amateurs, and every position is duplicated – but if, at the end of the first month of the season, things aren’t going to well, we’ll be prepared to buy.
“But even if we do buy, we shan’t lose sight of the policy of ‘Birmingham first.’ I’ve had a wonderful response from the youngsters – over 100 have written already. Here, look at this,” and Mr Hogan fished in a drawer and produced a letter.
It was from a lad who won’t be fourteen until September 2, yet he’s 5ft. 11½in. tall and weighs 13st. 2lb.
Incidentally, the Villa like their goalies big. George Ephgrave, one of the reserve goalkeepers, and eighteen-year-old from the Channel Islands, stands 6ft. 4½in – and nimble withal!
But to get back to the idea of home bred players. Mr Hogan continued: “As our director, Mr Rinder, has announced, in eight years only one man – Eric Houghton – came from the reserves to the first team and kept his place.
“That’s all wrong, you know. Last year three youngsters came up and kept their places – William Cobley, John Maund and Fred Haycock. Of course, individually, bought players can become fine ‘club men,’ but on the whole it’s natural that you get much loyalty from lads who have grown up with the club.
“And that’s what we aim to do by recruiting our youngsters from Birmingham and round about, and building up our team by teaching the lads to play the football which our supporters like – and like so well that they stuck to us when we were going through a bad time.”
Finally, I asked the encyclopaedic Mr Hogan what exactly was the purpose of the debating club which I had heard he had started. He was quick to explain.
“Its purpose is two-fold. First, I know, as an old footballer, that time is apt to hang heavily on one’s hands in the winter evenings, and some of our lads are terrible shy.
“When we have a debate I’ll call on this type to talk, and, after a time, they’ll learn not to be afraid of hearing themselves talk, and it will give them more confidence all round.
“But the principal object is that if they learn to talk and explain things it ought to help them to get a job in football when their playing career is finished.
“I’ve got three or four boys here who ought to be managers or trainers when they’re through with playing, but unless they can learn to use their tongues as well as their feet they’ll never get anywhere – which is why I encourage them to talk everything out.”
(Daily Mirror, 28-08-1937)