Slavia Prague

Slavia Prague

John Madden was first introduced to Prague in May 1904, when he toured with Celtic. He was 29 then. He had played in Celtic’s first game, in 1888. He was offered a coaching role with Slavia and returned to them in 1905. This started a link to the club, which continued for 25 years.

Why was Madden so important? John Madden was born in Dumbarton. His childhood was spent in an area which could rightfully claim to have the three best teams in the world, in the 1880s: Dumbarton, Renton and Vale of Leven. For most people, this claim to fame is that he was remember of Celtic’s first-ever team in 1888. He won three League championships with Celtic and the Scottish Cup in 1892. He was capped twice. In the 1893 game away to Wales, he scored four goals.

All this is statistically interesting and no more. He is one of the greatest Scotch Professors of all time, for the work he did as a footballing pioneer. He left Scotland in 1905 to manage Slavia Prague of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He knew of them, from Celtic’s 1904 tour of Austria-Hungary. Known as ‘Dedek’ (Grandad), he ran the club for 25 years.

At the time, it would seem that Czech players trained only with the ball. Madden added ‘athletic’ and ‘gymnastic’ training. Many of the clubs in Central Europe were multi-sports and included gymnastics as part of their activities. This Scotch Professor made Czech footballers ‘professional’. Madden insisted that they take the game seriously. He added serious training to an intellectual attitude as to how to play. It was a seven days a week job, to prepare for the weekend’s game.

These words are repeated, again and again throughout this book: new ideas. Like every Scotch Professor before and after him, he brought discipline, serious training and the scientific Combination game. Slavia Prague regard him as the spiritual father of Czech professional football. Under Madden, they became Czech champions in 1925, 29 and 30. They won the Bohemian Football Union championship in 1913.

Perhaps his greatest triumph came when he coached the Bohemia-Moravia team to victory in an amateur three country European tournament in 1911. Madden’s team beat France 4-1, then England, 2-1. The game suggests Madden’s footballing brilliance, under bizarre circumstances. After going 2-1 up, the English team apparently went from 2-3-5 to 2-1-7. Madden took his team from 2-3-5 to either a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 formation and saw the game out.

Has anyone ever told you how England invented football?
No? Good. Keep it that way.

Slavia 1910-madden-foto1

Slavia Prague 1910 with John Madden stood at the front left.

Giving History a Sporting Chance