I was recently given an article cut out of the Telegraph by my girlfriend that I found absolutely fascinating and I would like to share it with you all and before I start please no comments about me only reading the Sun or Mirror.
This is the story of Patrick O’Connell the Irishman that saved Barcelona. O’Connell was the first £1,000 player when he Joined Man Utd from Hull in 1914 and he was captain of the Irish team that won the home Championship in the same year.
After his playing career he went to live in Spain and in 1935 he became manager of Real Betis and steered them to their one and only La Liga title. Even in those days it was only Real Madrid or Barcelona who ever won anything so this was a superb achievement. He was a revolutionary as he put the players on diets and banned them from smoking making him the Arsene Wenger of his day.
So highly thought of he was poached by Barcelona however the timing was not good as Spain was now engulfed by civil war as General Franco sought to destroy Catalan independence. By 1937 Barca had their bank account frozen and were facing certain bankruptcy when their Irish manager came up with a plan to take the team to play in Mexico and America. It was such a successful tour that on their return to Spain they had enough money to stave off extinction.
Patrick stayed in Spain managing again at Betis, Santander and Seville before returning to Britain in 1950 where he thought his record would land him a top managers job. I’m afraid to say it did not and he finished up destitute and begging on the streets of London until his death where he was buried in an unmarked grave in Kilburn.
This tale might well have gone untold but for a group of Irish fans who formed a trust to raise money for a headstone with the first donation coming from Johan Cruyff.
The story has a somewhat happier ending as next week a bust of O’Connell is to be unveiled at the game between Real Betis and Real Sociedad with pomp and ceremony to this man who won Betis their only league title in their 109 year history. At last a fitting tribute to the man known in Spain as Don Patricio.
My Howies Hottie today goes in the 6.00 Newcastle on the horse that might have been named after me Green Howard. The gelding has dropped to a competitive mark and has run well over this track and trip in the past.
Menelik trainer D.Donovan – Went off to fast at Lingfield and can win with a more considerate ride.
The Warrior trainer Amanda Perett – Well handicapped on old form and ran well last time after a break.
Cruise Tothelimit trainer P.Morris – Front runner who is on a handy mark.
Pinzolo trainer I.Mohammed – Just beaten in the Winter Derby he can improve for stepping up in distance.
Back next Wednesday be lucky.