Greenwell was beloved at Barcelona

Historical Football #14 – The Globetrotting Man From The North-East

Historical Football returns with a look at Englishman Jack Greenwell, a miner’s son from Crook in the North-East who went on to achieve glory around the world…

The differences between Crook Town and Barcelona could not be more apparent. One is a global brand, reaching far and wide with their collection of superstar talent and a philosophy and set-up that is the envy of nearly every club around the world. The other is a small club that is barely known outside of the North-East. However, they are linked by one man. A man born a miner’s son who would turn Barcelona from a small Catalan club into a force in Spanish football. That man is Jack Greenwell.

Born near Crook on the 2nd of January 1884, Greenwell developed an interest in football at a young age and made his debut for Crook Town in 1901. An accomplished wing half, Greenwell would help Crook win the English Northern League in his first season with Town and would also star as a guest when New Zealand’s West Auckland won the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy in 1909. He would remain in the North-East until 1912 when he decided to leave for Spain and young side FC Barcelona.

Greenwell’s spell as a Barcelona player would be relatively successful winning two Catalan championships in 1913 and 1916, striking up a very good partnership with a young forward named Paulino Alcantara. Greenwell would retire from football after the successful 1916 season and thought he would be gone for a little while. However, Barcelona’s manager, fellow Englishman John Barrow, managed to draw the ire of pretty much everyone at the club and was sacked towards the end of 1916. President Joan Gamper appointed Greenwell full time at the start of 1917 and the rest was history.

It wasn’t all glory for Greenwell though. He experimented with players out of position, notably Alcantara at the back, and results suffered as a result. With the expectant Catalan public demanding more he eventually returned Alcantara up front with deadly consequences. Barcelona’s side under Greenwell became a winning machine with the likes of Alcantara and Ricardo Zamora firing the club to five Catalan championships and two Copa del Reys. One of the key reasons of Greenwell’s success was his popularity with his players, many of whom were teammates of his and recommended him to Barcelona president Gamper. Alcantara was a close friend and his immense popularity saw him manage the club for seven successive seasons, second only to a certain Johann Cruyff, with Greenwell’s success often credited as the club’s first golden period.

Greenwell was beloved at Barcelona

Greenwell was beloved at Barcelona

Greenwell left Barcelona in 1923 to take charge of smaller clubs UE Sants and CD Castellon whom he turned from bottom feeders to teams pushing the top half of the table. He then had a spell at Barcelona’s great rivals Espanyol where he won a Catalan championship as well as the club’s first Copa del Rey. He left Espanyol in 1929 for a year in charge at Mallorca before returning to Barcelona in 1931.

Greenwell’s second spell in charge of Barcelona was nowhere near as successful as his first and he only won one Catalan championship in his two years back at the club. He left in 1933 to take over Valencia and, while La Liga form was patchy, he managed to win the regional championship and reach the final of the Copa del Rey where they lost 2-1 to Madrid CF (the forerunners to Real Madrid) who had a side containing old friend Ricardo Zamora in goal. He left after a year though and had a year spell with Sporting Gijon that ran until 1936.

Jack Greenwell’s life changed drastically in 1936. With the Spanish Civil War now raging in the country, Greenwell was considered a Catalan sympathiser where General Franco’s nationalists were unleashing terror. Inside a volatile and dangerous country with fear for his life, Greenwell left Spain to continue his management career in Turkey. There are barely scraps of information about Greenwell’s time in Turkey but it did not last very long. With Europe on edge as Nazi Germany moved into Poland in 1939, Greenwell left Europe all together with the impending war and headed to South America and more specifically Peru.

Greenwell’s decision to move to Peru may seem random but he had been in contact with the country previously. He was asked by the Peruvian FA to help then-national team coach Alberto Denegri with tactics ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where the Peruvians were controversially eliminated in the quarter finals. So when Greenwell arrived in the country in 1939 he was appointed manager of one of the nations biggest clubs Universitario and the national team. Greenwell would lead Universitario to the league title that year and would lead Peru to a historic Copa America (then South American Championships) win on home soil. It made Greenwell an instant legend in Peru and also made Greenwell the first Englishman to coach a side to an international championship and the first (and, to date, only) non South American to win the Copa America.

Greenwell helped Valencia to the Copa del Rey final

Greenwell helped Valencia to the Copa del Rey final

His success in Peru lead to Colombia asking Greenwell to take charge of the national team in 1940 ahead of the 1942 Central American and Caribbean Games (which were eventually cancelled due to the war). He left his post as national team manager in 1942 to take charge of club side Independiente Santa Fe whom he lead to the final of the Torneo de Cundinamarca where they lost to America de Cali. This would be Greenwell’s last major final as in late 1942, just two days after Independiente beat local rivals Deportivo Texas 10-3, Greenwell suffered a massive heart attack and died on his way home from a morning training session. He was just 58 years old.

Greenwell’s popularity in Catalunya was immense, his fluent Catalan and Spanish endearing him to the public and friends even more. His love for the game was incredible too as when he was asked why he went to Colombia who were not FIFA affiliated nor even had a national league he simply asked,

“did the people of Colombia not deserve the beautiful game just because FIFA deemed so?”

A man with a giant love for the game that took him for a small North East town to Spain to Turkey to Peru to trying to develop football in Colombia, Jack Greenwell was a man that took a chance on heading abroad to fulfill his passion and succeeded. That he is not as revered in England as he is in Catalunya or Peru is a tragedy and one that should really be actively pursued at being changed by the FA.

As for Greenwell, he will always be a man that lives in history and there is no more appropriate tribute to a man than that.

Further Reading


Steam Powered #7 – It’s Not Perfect

Back on track and with the goals flowing, Steam FC is steaming through the Conference South. It can’t all be perfection can it?

We played twelve games in November and December. We won them all bar a draw against Basingstoke. We had back-to-back 8-0s. Jordan Ferri won’t stop scoring long range screamers. Nearly everybody is playing superbly. We’ve tightened up at the back considerably. So, is this the perfect side?


Far from it.

Problem 1 – Sebastian Czapa is an appalling striker. Honestly the worst finisher I have seen in all my years in football. The boy couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. He turned down the Ekstraklasa to join us and I was excited by that. Oh, hindsight. He’ll be sold in January because I can’t take it anymore. He’s scored once all season – against a side in the league below us. And even then it was a struggle. Not my best signing.

Problem 2 – Anthony Stewart. Every single time he plays we concede. He can’t defend and this is someone who was a regular in League 2. I can see why Wycombe released him.

Problem 3 – Injuries. Where do I start with injuries? It seems no matter what I and the physios do, we always get some kind of injury in a game. Ryan Mason has had it the worst – groin strain, thigh strain, bruised shin – but we’ve also lost Jospeh Yobo to a bad hip injury for a couple of months, Jordan Richardson to a broken foot, Shane Ferguson to a number of injuries and so many more. The squad is starting to look a little threadbare.

We’ve even had to blood a couple of youngsters during international breaks because of the number of players we have that are starting to become international regulars at youth and senior level. Marnick Vermijl has just made his Belgium debut, Rafael Floro is a regular for Portugal’s U21s, Etien Velikonja has forced his way back into the Slovenia side while Kristian Kostrna is knocking on the door of Slovakia’s side. Add in the regular leavers – Jordan Ferri, Zak Bakkali, Kaspars Gorkss, Shane Ferguson – and we struggle to fill out a 16 man squad at times.

Still, we’re heading into January top of the league and in the FA Trophy with a second round tie against Conference Premier side Nuneaton which should be a good test.

As for transfer business, the key areas of improvement will be a cover full back and new cover striker because Sebastian Czapa is out of here. Neither major overhaul nor massive signings. We’ve got a good group here and I don’t want to rock the boat.

Especially since Seb wouldn’t hit water if I did…

If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

Catch up with the last part of Steam Powered here.


Lots and lots of money

Steam Powered #6 – Bouncebackability

Defeat at Bromley had left questions around Steam FC and whether all their money would guarantee success. Was this the start of a glorious implosion?

Midfield wise, we were being overrun by big, physical teams and while we had competent midfielders in Kayal, Rodden, Grimstead and Coley, there was something lacking. That’s why I went after Lyon’s Jordan Ferri. He has everything I want in a midfielder and does it all with a carefree swagger.

Still, we had to bounce back from defeat at Bromley and everything was going fine on Jordan’s debut right up to the point we conceded an 83rd minute equaliser. Yeah…

Another bollocking ensued and this one really hit the boys hard. Wealdstone were destroyed with ease but did manage to break Craig Rodden’s foot but it was win after win following that with the goals flowing.

Twenty five in five thanks in large part to a tweak in formation. With Rodden out for a while, the anchor man was gone so we pushed him forward into a more aggressive ball winner right in the heart of midfield. We were instantly more dominant and controlling and when I let the boys have a little more creative licence on the pitch, the results went through the roof.

6-1 at Concord Rangers.

5-3 against Staines

5-0 at Farnborough

5-2 against Bath

It was dominance like I’d never seen. Mr. Ferri was also proving to be a difference maker and was banging in goals like no tomorrow. And when I say banging, I mean from 25 yards. Every. Single. Time.

We hit November top of the league having dropped just the five points when I received an email from Mr. Sawyer personally regarding finances…

Lots and lots of money

Mr. Sawyer likes to refer to himself in the third person

Just a small jump there then…

If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

Catch up with the last part of Steam Powered here.


Bromley 4-2 Steam FC

Steam Powered #5 – Something Needs To Change

Opening day away day navigated, Steam FC were now on a long and difficult journey up the football ladder but all was not immediately well in their debut season…

It had been coming.

There was something not quite clicking for the team. We were streets ahead in terms of spending, talent and experience but the wins were not quite as easy as they should be. Eastbourne Boro were comfortably dispatched in the first home game of the season with young Jordan Richardson making an encouraging scoring impact from the bench but it was the next game at Ebbsfleet that started to plant seeds of doubt in  my mind.

Shane Ferguson got a first minute goal but from then on we were sloppy on the ball and even sloppier in front of goal. Ebbsfleet were very much in it until the last few minutes when they had a man sent off. They’d booted us off the park, injuring Ryan Mason for a few days in the process, but I’d blamed our deficiencies on complacency which led to a good old fashioned bollocking in the dressing room.

It sort of worked. Hayes and Yeading and Bishop’s Stortford were seen off eventually but the ease of the opening couple of games of the season was gone and we were starting to become overrun in midfield and, worse, sloppy at the back. Hayes actually scored the first goal we’d conceded but August had passed with us unbeaten at the top of the league.

Then September appeared on the calendar. A trip to Bromley was up first and signaled the end of our formation as we knew it. We took the lead early on through Zak Bakkali but conceded twice in quick succession to go in 2-1 down at half time. Marnick Vermijl got us level just before the hour mark but the entire game changed in the 67th minute. Pierre Joseph-Dubois lost young Sam Magri in the box and headed home to end our second half dominance and put Bromely ahead. Chasing the game, Bromley picked us off with Adam Birchall making it 4-2 and a humbling experience for everyone involved with Steam FC.

How do you fix the problem?

A strong bollocking.

And by throwing big money at a new player.

Enter all £9.75 million of Jordan Ferri…

Bromley 4-2 Steam FC

If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

Catch up with the last part of Steam Powered here.


Chelmsford 0-4 Steam FC

Steam Powered #4 – Game Time

It’s the big day. Nick Sawyer is here and Steam FC are ready to play their first official game at the Chelmsford Sport and Athletics Centre in front of a bumper crowd of 3,000…

  1. Ben Amos
  2. Marnick Vermijl
  3. Sam Magri
  4. Joseph Yobo (c)
  5. Rafael Floro
  6. Etien Velikonja
  7. Reggie Grimstead
  8. Beram Kayal
  9. Ryan Mason
  10. Scott Wagstaff
  11. Zakaria Bakkali

These eleven men have their place assured in history forever. This is the first starting eleven in Steam FC history.

The nerves were there. Of course they were. But there was something else too. A sense. A feeling that we were embarking on something special.

Mr. Sawyer arrived in the dressing room about an hour before kick-off and spoke to every member of the starting eleven individually, driving home what this club means to him.

The warm-up was quick, intense and sharp. The boys were up for it. They knew they were in for a battle and had to strike hard and fast.

One last message from me, “Stay calm boys. You’re better than them technically and that will show. Don’t panic. I believe in you all. Play your game and you will win.”

And that was it. All the preparation. All the work. For this ninety minutes. It was game time.

The boys were being harried straight away but within seconds Mason had found Wagstaff in behind but his effort was straight at the keeper. It didn’t take long to make the breakthrough though.

20 minutes in and Velikonja’s strike is parried back into danger by the keeper where Wagstaff is there to smash home from eight yards. The relief and joy was there for everyone. I was buried under Charlie and the other coaches jumping on me straight away. It was bedlam.

The boys had their tails and five minutes later, Mason found Wagstaff in behind and he crossed for Velikonja to head home. We were flying and Chelmsford were struggling to keep up with us.

Mason was brought down minutes later in the area and young Sam Magri stepped up to slot home with ease. 3-0 at half-time and we were cruising. I told the guys to keep it up and keep control and to their credit they did. Velikonja had a goal ruled out for offside before Mason worked a bit of space and smashed an absolute worldie in from 20 yards. It was a fitting finale to a wonderful performance and we were up and running.

This could be fun…

Chelmsford 0-4 Steam FC

If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

Catch up with the last part of Steam Powered here.


How we're lining up in pre-season

Steam Powered #3 – Pre-Season

With a constant stream of players coming in and a squad taking shape, pre-season would be the key time to sort out how Steam FC were going to play…

“Pass and move!”

“Keep the ball!”

Simple instructions yet ones so difficult for my hastily assembled squad to get to grips with.

Pre-season was always going to be about tactical understanding rather than any great set of results. I left the running of the team in friendlies to Charlie, preferring to sit myself in the stands and watch the play from afar to pick holes in my preferred system – a 4-2-3-1 with one specialised defensive midfielder protecting the back four. Ball retention and pressing were key especially heading into the Conference South where sides won’t be as well drilled physically.

How we're lining up in pre-season

How we’re lining up in pre-season

It didn’t work.

A tour of China organised to try and entice foreign fans saw us open with two defeats. The first was a tame 1-0 loss to Jiangsu where we only had 40% possession before a more spirited 3-2 defeat to Fuli where we came from 2 down after 20 minutes to throw it away in the second half. Shane Ferguson scored both and was brilliantly direct on the left hand side which offered promise but defensively there were a couple of issues. The final game of the tour saw us demolish Liaoning 5-1 with Ferguson getting another brace and goals from Diouf, Mason and Wagstaff.

Our final game was another money trip abroad to France where we played out a good 0-0 draw against a Montpellier side that dominated us for most of the game. Spirit and solid defending gave me hope but we were pretty toothless up front at times and lacked creativity.

The more pressing concern however was the system. Most sides were playing either two or three orthodox central midfielders and we were being overrun by sides that should have been no match for us in China.

Still, we surely couldn’t be touched in the Conference South…

If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

The previous edition of Steam Powered is here.


The men that will lead Steam FC to Conference South glory...

Steam Powered #2 – Seriously Mr. Sawyer?!

Everything was set. Manager in place. First few players signed. Now it was time to bring in the rest to make up a full squad. Which caused a problem…

How do you spend £80 million in the sixth tier of English football?

Where do you start?

Who do you realistically think you can get?

Most players as it turned out because Mr. Sawyer had caused such a commotion launching Steam FC that we were known worldwide with a curious set of new fans. So I set about building the squad that would take us up.

Firstly I began by looking for experience, especially at the back. Latvian Kaspars Gorkss has been a solid Championship defender for a number of years and would be able to comfortably navigate the Conference South. Joseph Yobo was the main target however simply because he had seen and done pretty much everything in the game and would be the perfect mentor for the young core I was looking to build.

The key man in that young core was centre back Sam Magri whose big move to QPR had flopped badly and left him without a club. We snapped him up as quick as possible along with Anthony  Stewart, a regular in the last few seasons at Wycombe despite being just 21. Midfielders Archie Love and Craig Roddan added extra depth. Slovakian full back Kristian Kostrna was a solid full back while the Polish duo of goalkeeper Mateusz Taudul and striker Sebastian Czapa (who actually turned down a move to the Ekstraklasa to join) would add more depth. It was a good set of free young players who would be the base of the squad.

Then it was on to the extra talent that was going to set us back money. I had decided I wanted to target those who were no longer wanted by their clubs and needed an escape route when nobody was offering them one. So in came Manchester United pair Ben Amos and Marnick Vermijl for a combined £700,000; striker Etien Velikonja from Cardiff for £425,000; winger Scott Wagstaff for £275,000 from Bristol City; Newcastle’s Shane Ferguson set us back £875,000 while Israeli midfielder Beram Kayal cost us £300,000 from Celtic. The best piece of business from the transfer list was also the most expensive piece of business – Tottenham’s Ryan Mason set us back £3.8 million but it was entirely worth it for a player that would tear apart the Championship. Portuguese left back Rafael Floro also looked like a steal at just £110,000 from Sheffield Wednesday.

All in all, an exciting couple of weeks and I’d achieved my aim of getting a skeleton of a squad together by the end of July to ready them in enough time for the season opener. We’d got quality and pulled off some real coups in the process (Mason and Kayal mainly) yet Mr. Sawyer was not entirely happy.

It turns out that in the process of giving me millions upon millions of pounds, Mr. Sawyer wanted me to go out and buy flashy big name players. He’d mentioned this when I arrived but in my haste to build the squad that would get us into league football, I’d forgotten about it totally.

The frantic search began then for a player who would not only join us but also satisfy Mr. Sawyer. Attempts for Barcelona starlets Alex Grimaldo, Rafinha and Munir all failed because they didn’t want to play in the Conference South (understandably). Quickly a solution was found in the form of a young Belgian winger named Zakaria Bakkali at PSV. £8 million later and we had our big name.

The men that will lead Steam FC to Conference South glory...

The men that will lead Steam FC to Conference South glory…

Not big enough for Mr. Sawyer though.


If you want to do this challenge yourself on Football Manager, the link to the Steam workshop is here.

The previous part is here if you missed it.