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Dr Jozef Venglos: The man who broke the mould in English management

The Slovakian was the first boss from outside the UK and Ireland to manage a Division One club.

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Jozef Vengler has died at the age of 84 (PA).

Jozef Vengler has died at the age of 84 (PA).

Jozef Vengler has died at the age of 84 (PA).

Although not given credit for it at the time, Dr Jozef Venglos was a trailblazer for the high-profile foreign managers seen in the game today.

The Slovakian, who has died at the age of 84, is best known for making history as the first boss from outside the UK and Ireland to take charge of an English First Division club.

Although he did not enjoy a successful time with Aston Villa – his side flirted with relegation in his one season in charge in 1990-91 – Venglos’ spell in England had a wider significance as he helped pave the way for the influx of overseas managers in the Premier League.

He had earlier enjoyed spells with the Czechoslovakia national side as both a number one and a number two, winning the 1976 European Championships as assistant to Vaclav Jezek before taking the reins two years later and leading them to a third-placed finish at the next tournament. He also made the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup in a second spell in charge.

He later went on to manage Celtic, where he had mixed success in his one season, but his name will go down in history for his brief spell in the midlands in a career that spanned 36 years.

Although he had little success in his time in England – where the language was cited as a problem – the same cannot be said of earlier in his career from his days with the Czech side, and he later made more history, becoming the first manager of Slovakia after independence.

As a midfielder, his playing career was cut short by hepatitis at the age of 30 following a 12-year spell with Slovan Bratislava – whom he captained – but he took the opportunity to move into management and immediately moved abroad to Australia, where he managed New South Wales before taking charge of the national team in 1967.

He kept moving around before finally getting the job as assistant to Jezek for his country. He served for five years as a number two as Czechoslovakia won Euro 76, beating West Germany in the final, but failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup.

He then assumed the top job and was in charge for four years, although his reign ended in the disappointment of a group stage exit at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

He moved on to the likes of Sporting Lisbon and Malaysia before returning to the national team job for two years and then arriving at Villa Park in 1990, taking over from Graham Taylor, who had left to take the England job.

Taylor had led Villa to a second-placed finish behind Liverpool in his final season in charge, but under Venglos the following year they slumped to 17th and he was swiftly replaced by Ron Atkinson.

Venglos moved on to jobs with Fenerbahce, Slovakia and Oman before getting the top job at Celtic Park in 1998.

The highlight of his time in Glasgow was a 5-1 win over Rangers but he was ultimately unable to prevent Celtic’s Old Firm rivals from reclaiming their Premiership title and lifting the trophy for the 48th time.

Venglos took over from Wim Jansen, who had left the club in the summer of 1998, despite breaking Rangers’ nine-year hold on the Scottish title.

His appointment was a surprise one north of the border, with headlines such as ‘Celtic sign a blank Czech’ and ‘Dr Who?’ greeting his arrival.

And his reign started badly, with just five wins from his first 14 league games, but a thumping win over Rangers at Celtic Park helped spark an upturn in form.

Although they went on to finish the season without silverware and Venglos departed – he had previously hinted the job was damaging for his health – he left a legacy at the club in the shape of his successful transfer dealings, bringing the likes of Lubomir Moravcik, Johan Mjallby and Mark Viduka to the club.

After leaving Celtic at the age of 63, Venglos had one more venture into management with JEF United Chiba in Japan before moving out of the dugout.

He went on to take roles at the Slovakian Football Federation and on the FIFA and UEFA technical committees.

PA


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