Login Register
Logout

Johan Cruyff and Fulham FC: How this man connects the two

If Cruyff was the father of Total Football, Vic Buckingham was seen as it's godfather

Ponderous: Vic Buckingham in 1967

Johan Cruyff is rightly lauded as the father of Total Football – but could Fulham have benefited from the system which still resonates through Barcelona's tiki-taka long before the brilliant Dutch national team of the 1970s brought it to the world's attention?

Cruyff, who passed away yesterday following a battle with cancer, was at the forefront of the revolutionary football movement which led to Ajax dominating European football in the early 70s, and the Netherlands reaching successive World Cup finals. He later brought his philosophy to Barcelona, introducing a playing style which still forms the cornerstone of the Catalan giant's culture today.

But where does the Fulham link come in? Cruyff was handed his first team debut at Ajax in 1964 by an Englishman called Vic Buckingham, who was in his second spell in charge of the Amsterdam side.

Net gain: Buckingham watches Steve Earle doing light training

That season, Ajax finished in thir lowest position since professional football had been introduced in the Netherlands a decade earlier, and although Buckingham was replaced by Rinus Michels, he had laid the foundations upon which Michels and Cruyff went to dominate the continent with club and country.

Buckingham's view of the way the game should be played certainly fitted in with the vision of Cruyff. He had been hugely influenced by the way the magical Magyars of Hungary had used brains over brawn to destroy England at Wembley in 1953.

He preached against traditional man-marking and encouraged his players to be comfortable in any position on the pitch. As a player, he was part of the 1950s Spurs team which won back to back Division Two and Division One titles playing a revolutionary push and run style which put an emphasis on keeping possession and short passes.

Pointing the way: Buckingham puts Fulham players through their paces

After leaving Ajax for the last time in 1965, Buckingham ended up at Craven Cottage, where he took charge of a Fulham side struggling to retain their top flight status with little cash and a chairman in Tommy Trinder who revelled in his club's status as a music hall joke.

After three scrapes with relegation, Buckingham was replaced by Bobby Robson – one of many of his former players who would later become a manager, and who would, by chance, manage Barcelona three decades later – but not even he could prevent Fulham's relegation.

Buckingham's time in west London was characterised by what were seen as unorthodox training methods and fall-outs with players like the mercurial Rodney Marsh. Attempts to install a continetal style which helped put Ajax on the road to glory – with teams playing the same system from youth level up to first team – failed at Craven Cottage.

Legend: Johan Cruyff was handed his pro debut by Vic Buckingham

Would Fulham have become pioneers of a new way of playing football had Buckingham been given more of a chance? We'll never know, but it wasn't until Mohamed Al Fayed arrived with his millions 30 years later that they would taste top flight football again.

Fulham would prove to be Buckingham's last job in England, but among the clubs he went on to manage abroad were Barcelona, with whom he won the Spanish Cup before being replaced, in an echo of Ajax a decade earlier, by Michels.

Interestingly, Gusztav Sebes, the manager of that Hungarian side of the 1950s which so influenced Buckingham with their early form of Total Football, credited his own major influence as British football pioneer Jimmy Hogan - who also had spells with Fulham as both player and manager.

Visionary: Jimmy Hogan

Comments

Premier League News

Journalists

Salina Patel
Hounslow
Katherine Clementine
Uxbridge
David Rivers
Ealing
Goolistan Cooper
Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster
Ryan O'Donovan
Harrow and Brent
Robert Cumber
Hounslow
Emily Chudy
What's On Reporter
Matt Lewis
Sports Reporter
Tom Moore
Sports Reporter
Tim Street
Deputy Sports Editor
Paul Warburton
Sports Reporter