20 Dec 2015
JIMMY HILL OBE: A TRIBUTE FROM THE LEAGUE MANAGERS ASSOCIATION
Jimmy Hill, who has died aged 87, was a manager for just six years. Rarely has one individual asserted as much influence over the game as the greatest innovator of modern-day football.
It said much for his influence at Coventry City, where he was manager, managing director and later chairman, that shortly after news of his passing the wonderful statue of him outside City’s Ricoh Arena was adorned with flowers and scarves placed by grateful Sky Blues fans.
Howard Wilkinson, Chairman of the League Managers Association, said: “I do not think there is anybody who has made a greater impact on modern professional football than Jimmy.
“From the day he became chairman of the PFA in 1957 to his retirement his unrivalled ability to innovate, motivated by a burning desire to improve the popularity and entertainment value of the game proved irresistible. Jimmy Hill's legacy will never be matched."
Richard Bevan, CEO of the League Managers Association, added: “It’s very sad when the game loses someone of the stature of Jimmy Hill. His contribution was immense in practically every discipline of the game. Our thoughts are with his widow Bryony and all other members of his family.”
Jimmy’s influence on the game extended from playing to successfully campaigning to have the Football League’s £20 maximum wage scrapped during his tenure as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
In addition, he introduced the first all-seat stadium, first electric scoreboard and first all-colour match day programme, before later turning to television, becoming one of the most respected presenters in the history of the game.
Jimmy, who was fittingly appointed an OBE in 1985, even found himself running the line at a First Division game between Arsenal and Liverpool at Highbury in 1972 when an assistant referee was forced off with an injury, long before the days of fourth officials.
Born in Balham, South London, on 22 July 1928, he was a regular visitor to his local club, Crystal Palace, but after completing his National Service, he joined Brentford, where he played for three years.
Next stop for the lively forward was Fulham, an association that would last many years. Jimmy set a club record with five goals at Doncaster, in 1958, and helped the Cottagers win promotion to the First Division.
During his playing days at Craven Cottage Jimmy assumed his role at the PFA and following his successful campaign, team-mate Johnny Haynes became the first £100-a-week player.
In 1961 he retired, aged 33, and became manager at Coventry where he led great changes, including altering their kit to Sky Blue, coining the club’s new nickname and even writing a new club song. Instrumental in his appointment at Coventry was the club’s vice chairman John Camkin who later became the first Chief Executive of the League Managers Association.
After winning the Third Division championship, in 1964, he won the Division Two title in 1967 but quit shortly afterwards as the club prepared for life in the top division.
He then spread his talents into the world of broadcasting, becoming Head of Sport at London Weekend Television, from 1968 to 1972. He was briefly Deputy Controller of Programmes at LWT before moving to the BBC to present Match of the Day.
Jimmy’s knowledge of all aspects of the game proved invaluable and turned Match of the Day into the iconic programme it is today, fronting 600 editions of the programme.
In the summer of 1976 Jimmy was tasked by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to develop an infrastructure which would produce a national team capable of reaching the World Cup finals. He accepted the challenge and within four years the Saudi nation had a team to be proud of.
Jimmy then turned his attention to the North American Soccer League and was unfortunate to invest in a franchise in Detroit just as the recession in the USA hit the motor industry for six. Jimmy tried to retrieve the situation by taking over another franchise, this time in Washington but, despite having a successful side which included Trevor Francis, England’s first £1 million pound player, the investment didn’t pay off.
Jimmy returned to Coventry’s Highfield Road stadium as Managing Director in 1975 before becoming chairman. He also had a spell as chairman at Charlton Athletic before returning to Fulham, in 1987, in a similar role.
In 1999 he joined Sky Sports, featuring in Jimmy Hill’s Sunday Supplement, until 2007.
In 2011 Jimmy was awarded the LMA Service to Football award.
Jimmy’s role in football is unique; honest, truthful and always thoughtful of the people who mattered most in the game, the players and the fans, he will be sorely missed.
Photo: Jimmy receives his LMA Service to Football award at home from Coventry stalwarts George Curtis and John Sillett, with Olaf Dixon in attendance.
AS A PLAYER
1949-1952 Brentford Games: 83 Goals: 10
1952-1961 Fulham Games: 276 Goals: 41
AS A MANAGER
1961-1967 Coventry Games: 290 Won: 129 Drew: 83 Lost 78
Division Three Championship 1963-64Division Two Championship 1966-67