They were different, different times. Foreign players started appearing in English football in something approaching significant numbers in the late 1970s, but foreign managers remained anathema for more than a decade. There was, however, one notable exception – Viktor Boskovic of Danefield United. Boskovic was a true trailblazer, breaking down barriers that eased the way forward for the coaches that now dominate the English game. A unique motivator, he was part Nosferatu and part Brian Clough. Look into Alex Ferguson’s eyes, and can you see the spirit of Boskovic.
He arrived at Danefield United courtesy of Johnny Dexter. The former Danefield hard man had gone to Royal Granpala, who were under Boskovic’s tutelage. When Dexter returned to Danefield, Boskovic went with him, taking charge as manager. Boskovic’s team was packed with star names, with England international Kevin Taylor up front, goalkeeper Andy Watson and full-back Danny Churchill providing the spine of a strong, strong team. Boskovic was certainly eccentric. He was prone to fainting at moments of high excitement and kissing the players after good performances, but was equally capable of astonishing acts of petulance and rage when his team failed to perform.
One great example of Boskovic’s motivational skills came when Dexter briefly took over the running of an unsuccessful youth team, having seen them lose a match 10-0. His aggressive style of coaching, however, didn’t suit the team, leading to them losing their first match under his charge by a 14-0. Boskovic pushed him aside to coach them himself, leading to them winning their next match 2-0 but, when Dexter missed a golden opportunity in Danefield’s next league match, he summoned forth a torrent of abuse that led to Dexter openly wonderin where he had gone wrong. He didn’t have to wonder for too long. “There’s a time to be nasty and a time to be nice”, said Boskovic shortly afterwards, “I always get it right. That is why I am a winning manager, and why I am so successful”. Wise, wise words.
Boskovic left Danefield shortly after granting Johnny Dexter a strange free transfer to Fourth Division club Burnside, taking them to promotion at the end of the 1985/86 season. Nothing is known of what happened to him afterwards, it is suspected that he returned to his native Hungary. During his time in English football, however, he left his mark. He paved the way for the influx of foreign managers that would come in the 1990s, and his innovative coaching and motivational techniques (which included making the players train dressed as clown after defeats and tripping the floodlights out during a match and running onto the pitch dressed as a vampire) were a clear influence on twety-first century managers such as Rafael Benitez, who, with his stick-on goatee beard, has even gone as far as Boskovic in terms of dressing up. Viktor Boskovic was a true football character. We may not see his like again.