Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Thomas Coggins

1910 - 11 : Genoa (Italy)
1911 - 12 : Andrea Doria (Italy)
1912 - 25 : Genoa (Italy)
1928 - 29 : Derthona (Italy)
1937 - 38 : Andrea Doria (Italy)

Thomas Coggins was a pioneering Irish player, coach, journalist and referee who spent a majority of his career in Italy. Although born in England, Coggins was raised in Ireland by his Irish parents, and according to Italian records of the early 20th century, he was registered as an Irishman.

He was born in Ormskirk in July 1879. Little is known about his early life or if he played football in Ireland or Britain, but in 1910 he appears in the roster for Italian club Genoa CFC. 

Its full name is Genoa Cricket & Football Club, and this reflects the very British nature of the club's origins. Founded in 1893, it served as a social club for British expats in Genoa, then regarded as the most English city in Italy. Early into its existence, football began to dominate the club as success was found under English coach James Spensley.

In 1898, Italian football began to develop with the creation of the Football Championship (today known as Serie A). Genoa entered into the league in its first season, and had been crowned champions 5 times by Coggins' arrival.

His sole season as a player with the Rossoblu was one of significant change for the club. January saw the opening of the Marassi Stadium, now named the Luigi Ferraris. 

That year Genoa finished the Italian Championship in 5th place. Matthew Kunding's Juventus finished in last place while early pace-setters Pro Vercelli were champions. Coggins played just 2 matches, although; given that he was 31 perhaps he was never more than a squad member.

Coggins may be in this early
picture of Andrea Doria
Coggins was on the move the next summer, and he signed for another Genoa based side, Andrea Doria. This club no longer exists, as it merged 1946 with another club to form Sampdoria (future club of Liam Brady).

Andrea Doria had been founded in 1895 as a Gymnastics Society and played its first season in the Italian League in 1902. Between then and 1911 they became fierce rivals with Genoa. That season, Coggins again made just two appearances as Andrea Doria ended in 6th place, while Pro Vercelli were again champions.

He retired following the end of the 2011-12 campaign and returned to Genoa to coach the youth team at the request of Ettore Leale. He also completed his refereeing course, and was an official during the 1913-14 season. It was in his capacity as youth team coach that in 1912, Coggins referred the club to an Englishman named William Garbutt for the Management job at the club. Garbutt would become the first fully professional manager in Italian football and his arrival at Genoa would spell a revolution in coaching on the peninsula  Garbutt's methods would be modeled by Italian coaches for generations, and without Coggins' role in his appointment, Italian football might have been completely different.

At the outbreak of World War I, Italian football was suspended from 1915 to 1918, however in 1915-16 a replacement tournament was operated. Known as the Coppa Federale, it was contested by 15 clubs divided into 5 separate divisions. With Garbutt joining the British Army, Coggins took command of the Genoa team

His team played very well, and earned a 1-1 draw with giants Juventus. Coggins led them to 2nd place, being beaten 3-1 by AC Milan in the final.

Following the Federale final; Coggins, then aged 37, enlisted in the British Army where he fought alongside the Italians at the Piave River, before being relocated to the Western Front. 

In 1919, he returned to Genoa and coached their youth team for a further 6 years. During that time he became a journalist by contributing to one of Italy's first soccer magazines in 1921. In 1928, he was appointed manager of Derthona 1908, a club based in Piedmont in north-west Italy. The club were then 20 years old, and were playing in the First Division. Coggins managed to guide them to a very good 4th place finish, but cruelly due to restructuring the next year, they were still relegated to the newly formed Serie B.

Coggins didn't stay, and Derthona would never again see the Italian top flight. They were last seen in Serie B in 1935 and now play in Serie D. His last forray into professional football was a brief spell in charge of old club Andrea Doria who he guided to 8th place in the 1937-38 Serie C.

By then however, Coggins' passion was Women's Field Hockey, and he pioneered the sport in Italy during the 1930s. During World War II he left Italy, but returned to Genoa, his adopted home, where he died in 1950. 

An obscure one indeed, Coggins is nonetheless remembered in Italy for his role in Garbutt's appointment at Genoa. An early Wild Goose.

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