William Garbutt

Football Pioneers: John Madden & William Garbutt

In the latest part of LCFC.com's Football Pioneers series, in partnership with De Montfort University, Professor Matt Taylor looks at two British coaches who helped shape the development of the game overseas.
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With the growth in popularity of European football from the early 20th century, there was an increasing drive to improve playing standards.

Because the culture of European football was largely rooted in educational establishments, coaching and learning the game were given greater emphasis than in Britain. Ironically, however, Europe initially looked to employ British coaches.

The migration of British footballers as soccer coaches was bound up with the broader process of cultural transfer and would form part of the second wave of British influence on European football.

Between 1901 and 1940 at least 100 British coaches had been employed by European clubs and associations – and this was probably the tip of the iceberg.

Some British coaches had a long-lasting impact on the development of football in a number of countries. John Madden (1865-1948), for example, was a former riveter in a Glasgow shipyard who was born in Dumbarton.

He played mainly for Celtic and had been capped twice by Scotland before moving to Czechoslovakia where he managed Slavia Prague from 1905 until the 1930s. Madden established the club as the leading force in Czech football.

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John Madden
John Madden

John Madden established Slavia Prague as the leading force in Czech football during the early 20th century.

Seven of the team represented the national team in the 1934 World Cup Final against Italy. He died and was buried in Prague, where a statue was erected in honour of his contribution to football in Czechoslovakia.

In Italian football, there is still a tradition amongst players to address the manager by the English term, ‘Mister’. This custom can be traced to William Garbutt (1883-1964) who invented the role of the football manager in Italy.

Garbutt, born in Stockport, was a typically peripatetic professional footballer who played a minor part in Blackburn Rovers' championship winning team in 1912. That year he accepted a position as coach at Genoa, then Italy’s premier team.

He was charged with bringing a more professional attitude to a club, which had just moved to a new 25,000 capacity stadium.

The Englishman worked for 25 seasons in the top Italian league, up to 1948 (he had one year, 1935/36, at Athletic Bilbao), spending 16 seasons at Genoa, six years in Naples, two at AS Roma and one at AC Milan.

He won the Italian league three times with Genoa (1915, 1923, 1924) and the Italian Cup in 1937. Garbutt was never approached by an English club and his involvement in Italian football also included links to the national team, including the 1924 Olympics, where he was co-manager alongside Vittorio Pozzo.

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William Garbutt
William Garbutt

William Garbutt won the Italian league three times in 16 seasons as manager of Genoa.

By then, he had become entrenched in the Italian culture. Initially, the Genoa players were mainly English amateurs, making integration into Italian life much easier.

After 1913, though, the football federation permitted only three foreigners in an Italian team, forcing Garbutt to adapt more rapidly.

He became renowned for his professionalism, innovative training and coaching skills, but more importantly, he developed a new professional identity for his role, which mixed coaching with managing players.

In 1948, Garbutt returned to Britain with his adopted daughter where he lived out his remaining years in anonymity in Leamington Spa.

For several seasons, Leicester City Football Club has worked with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture on various heritage projects. 

For more information about sports history at DMU please click HERE.

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