“Jack who?” I hear you ask? Well for the more educated of football fans, the name of Jack Reynolds is one they like to role off the tongue to prove their education of the beautiful game but for many it’s a name and a legacy that is often over looked, especially in a week where we are celebrating legends. I had only discovered his story when researching the roots of ‘Total Football’ which I assumed like many to be a Dutch revolution in the 1960s, but the English man in question had a huge part to play.
Manchester born Jack did not have a highly regarded playing career starting at the turn of the 20th century playing a few seasons at Burton United and Grimsby Town before becoming a coach at F.C. St.Gallen in Switerland in 1912. There are sources linking him to the coach of the German national side but the outbreak of World War 1 saw Reynolds move to Holland where his legacy began.
He became coach of Ajax Amsterdam, then a new and small club in the football world but Jack transformed them into a professional outfit even though the players were still unpaid. He made improvements to the club’s facilities and introduced training methods that progressed to players working on skill with the ball rather than the physical side of the game.
Over his 27 years with Ajax, Reynolds won the Eredivisie as many as 8 times and Ajax expert and author, Menno Pot speaks very highly of the legacy that Reynolds left at the club saying : “He was the man who came up with the idea that every player at Ajax should play the same system and the same formation.”
It sounds like a very similar system to what managers like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Pepe Guardiola at Barcelona use today.
The roots of Ajax and Holland’s “Total Football” are credited to Rinus Michels who was a former product of Reynold’s youth system in Amsterdam. Mr Pot believes that without Jack Reynolds, Ajax would never have become a force in European football and he is seen as one of the club’s founding fathers.
His reign at Ajax was also interrupted due to World War II where he was taken as a Prisoner of War by the Germans from 1940 to 1945. He made a return to football after the war was over and lifted his final trophy with Ajax in 1947 but decided to retire from the game.
Today, Ajax still recognise the contribution he made to their club and having previously had a stand named after him at their former ground, they now have the ‘Jack Reynolds Lobby’ at the Amsterdam Arena.
Reynolds spent his retirement in Amsterdam and his story is one of most remarkable and impressionable I have ever seen in the history of the game. His modern philosophies and actions on the game created a huge influence, not only on one club and a nation but also the football world, a true LEGEND.