Saturday, 23 February 2013

Charlie O'Hagan

1923 - 24 : Sevilla (Spain)

A forward (or inside-left in his time), Charles O'Hagan was an Irish footballer, born in Buncrana, Co. Donegal in 1881. 

As a player, O'Hagan represented a number of sides in Ireland, England and Scotland, prior to the Great War, finishing his career with Third Lanark in 1913. He never won any major trophies as a player, but did represent his country 11 times between 1905 and 1909, scoring twice.

The first of these caps he won while on the books of Tottenham Hotspur, where he formed a front-line partnership with Jack Kirwan, another future continental manager. It was while he was playing in Scotland, that his career was ended by the onset of the First World War.

O'Hagan fought in the war with the Highland Light Infantry, and saw action on the Western Front, mainly in France. Surviving the war, he was appointed manager of Norwich City in England in 1920. However, his time with the canaries was short lived, as he resigned later that season, having won just 4 matches.

It is surprising then to see that in 1923, O'Hagan popped up in the Southern Spanish province of Andalusia. He was appointed Head Coach of local giants Sevilla FC. Sevilla are Spain's oldest club, and were established in 1905 by the city's British expatriate community. Between then and 1910, the club played many friendly games, before entering competitive tournaments in Andalusia. In 1915 they played their first game outside the region, succumbing to two defeats to Real Madrid in the capital.

In 1918, the club found it's first official home, when it moved into the enclosed Campo Reina Victoria, built on land owned by local aristocracy, who supported the club. The ground featured wooden terraces and a short pavilion, and was one of the most advanced football grounds in Spain at the time.

The Campo Reina Victoria

O'Hagan replaced local coach Arturo Ostos, and was Sevilla's first ever foreign manager. He inherited a talented team of early Spanish internationals as well as a sprinkling of British talent. 

O'Hagan won the Andalusian Championship
The Irishman's first game in charge was a friendly against Levante, which Sevilla lost 3-2. A number of friendlies against Spanish and Portuguese sides followed before the Andalusian Championship campaign. Here O'Hagan guided the club to victories in all of their matches, including two wins over eternal rivals Real Betis. The first of these was a 3-0 win at home, and the second was an away 4-2 victory in the last game of the season. As there was no La Liga to be played then, this amounts to the equivalent of a League title for O'Hagan.

In the Copa del Rey, the Irishman's charges were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Real Union in the Quarter Finals. 

O'Hagan administered the first truly international phase of the club's history, as he managed them in a host of friendlies against sides from England, Portugal and inter-war Poland and Czechoslovakia. He finished his season on a triumphant tour of Eastern Spain and the Canary Islands before resigning at the end of the season.

During O'Hagan's time at Sevilla, another Irishman Patrick O'Connell was in his second season managing Racing Santander, winning the Cantabrian Cup as O'Hagan had won the Andalusian. O'Connell would later guide Real Betis to their only ever La Liga triumph, before following O'Hagan to Sevilla F.C. managing the club during the Second World War. This makes Sevilla F.C. the only continental European club to have had two Irish managers.

O'Hagan himself retired from the game after his spell in Spain and moved to America to become a journalist. He died however, in 1931, aged just 49, in New York.

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