Scots footballer hailed for taking game to Europe

Madden played for Celtic in their inaugural match in 1888. Picture: John Devlin
Madden played for Celtic in their inaugural match in 1888. Picture: John Devlin
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HE was a Celtic stalwart who helped bring Scottish-style football to continental Europe.

A book celebrating the most influential figures in the early years of British football reveals the pioneering role played by one of the first Scottish football managers to work abroad.

John Madden, a Scotland international revered during his playing days for his ferocious shot, became a legendary figure in the former region of Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, having introduced unheard of methods such as dietary regimes, gymnastic sessions and alcohol bans.

The manager also outlawed smoking among his players at Slavia Prague in the early 20th century, while puffing on his chibouk, as he gave pre-match and half-time instructions.

The story of Madden’s life and career is told in Fathers of Football, a new book that recalls British players and managers who left their homeland before the First World War to shape the game abroad.

Author Keith Baker, who traced Madden’s journey to Europe, believes he made an “outstanding contribution” to football in the former Czechoslovakia. Even today, wreaths in club colours are laid at Madden’s grave in Olshanxsky cemetery on the anniversary of his death.

A riveter to trade, Madden was born in Dumbarton in 1865, one of nine children. He played for Celtic in their inaugural match on 28 May 1888, the start of a playing relationship with the Glasgow club that would last until 1897 and secure Madden and his team-mates several league championships and cups.

He went on to play for 
Dundee and Tottenham Hotspur before retiring in 1898. Seven years later, he resurfaced at 
Slavia Prague.

Madden won three league championships during his time at Prague, but continued to live in the city after retiring at the age of 66. He also coached the Bohemian national side and helped the Czechoslovakian squad during the 1924 Paris 

In the years before his death in 1948 at the age of 83, he would continue to watch Slavia’s games from his wheelchair and was known to fans as “Grandpa”.

Mr Baker said: “In recent years Slavia have rather struggled on and off the field, especially with financial pressure. However, embedded deep in the popular consciousness of what is now the Czech Republic is the memory of Johnny Madden’s outstanding contribution to football in his adopted country.”

In the book, which also explores the legacy of other Scottish football figures such as Alexander Hutton, Mr Baker points out that many of those who popularised football around the world used the Scottish style of play as their blueprint, with an emphasis on close control and swift, accurate passing.

l Fathers of Football: Great Britons Who Took Football to the World is published by Pitch Publishing.