Spring 17. The modern-day professional football manager has never been more visible or culturally relevant. Guardiola, Mourinho, Zidane, Simeone, Conte, Ancelotti are all highly recognisable, successful and stylish modern day managers.
Before these managers came Patrick O’ Connell, an Irishman who managed Real Betis to win it’s sole La Liga title in 1935. Perhaps more notably he managed FC Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War where he won several cup titles up until General Franco’s troops declared war on Catalunya and repeatedly bombed Barcelona’s ground. Recognising the severity and potential destruction of the club O’Connell organised an exhibition tour to the U.S and Mexico taking the players out of war-torn Spain as well as raising much-needed funds to keep Barcelona afloat.
A politically-minded man of distinguished appearance, Patrick was known as “El Mister” a colloquial term unique to Spanish football culture. To this day players in Spain refer to their managers as “Mister.”
He was also the first Irishman to play for Manchester United, joining in 1914 for a fee of 1,ooo pounds.
He died homeless in London in 1959 only recently having a gravestone erected. A bust commemorating Real Betis’s league title in 1935 was erected at the Betis stadium in 2017.