Hagan was born in the North-East into a footballing family, his
father Alf having played for Newcastle, Cardiff and Tranmere after the
First World War, and from his early days both his love of the game and
his fiercely independent character were evident. Indeed, he gave up
the chance to attend his local grammar school because football was not
played there, and despite living between the soccer strongholds of
Newcastle and Sunderland he signed amateur forms with Liverpool, then
Derby County, with whom he turned professional in 1935.
Hagan had won England honours at schoolboy level, excelling as a
scheming inside- forward, so much was expected of him. However, he
could not agree with the manager George Jobey and in November 1938 he
was sold to Sheffield United for pounds 2,500.
At Bramall Lane he blossomed, his fluent distribution, magnetic
control and shrewd positional play inspiring the Blades to clinch
promotion to the top flight at the end of his first season. Then came
the Second World War, which devastated many soccer careers, but not
Hagan's. He was picked for England in 16 wartime internationals (which
didn't qualify for full caps) and he performed brilliantly alongside
stars such as Stanley Matthews, Tommy Lawton and Raich Carter.
After the conflict, when he rose to the rank of major in the Army's
Physical Training Corps, Hagan was unfortunate that the likes of
Carter, Wilf Mannion and Len Shackleton provided white-hot competition
for England inside-forward berths, but still it was surprising that he
was limited to one outing, a goalless draw against Denmark in
Nevertheless he continued so majestically at club level that United
were accused of being a one-man team, one photographer mocking up a
picture of the Blades with 11 Jimmy Hagan heads, which rankled with
some of his colleagues. Having collected a Second Division title medal
with the club in 1953, as well as suffering demotion from the top
flight in both 1949 and 1956, Hagan finished playing in 1958 who became the
manager of Peterborough United.
The Posh, a dominant power in the Midland League, had long deserved
elevation to Football League ranks, and they made it under Hagan in
1960. The rookie boss led them to the Fourth Division title at their
first attempt, notching a League record of 134 goals that still stands
today. Creditable consolidation in the Third followed, but Hagan was
sacked in October 1962 after a bitter dispute with players, a scenario
which would be echoed later.
In April 1963 he took over at First Division West Brom-wich Albion.
He adhered to old-style puritanical virtues which did not sit easily
with a new breed of footballer, recently freed from the iniquitous
strictures of the archaic maximum wage system. Soon the players, led
by the future England coach and Arsenal manager Don Howe, rebelled
against what they claimed were boring training methods and a harsh,
unapproachable attitude. It came to a head when 10 of his squad
refused to train without tracksuit bottoms on a freezing day.
Meanwhile he was assembling an enterprising side which in 1965/66
finished sixth in the First Division and won the League Cup in a
two-legged final against West Ham. However, after Albion lost the
1966/67 final to Third Division Queen's Park Rangers, he was
There followed spells of working in a driving school and scouting
for Manchester City before Hagan embarked on his greatest challenge.
Benfica, one of the world's leading clubs, had hit a slump and wanted
a tough English taskmaster and organiser. After being turned down by
Sir Alf Ramsey, in March 1970 they astonished many observers by
turning to Hagan.
It seemed like a desperate measure; in fact it was a stroke of
inspiration. After provoking a minor revolution with his rigorous
regime, he transformed the Eagles, leading them to title triumph in
each of his three campaigns in Lisbon. Typically, he left after a
dispute in 1973, going on to coach in Kuwait for two years before
completing his career in Portugal. - The Independent obituary