It was late summer 2013 and we were in the sitting room of a well-ordered flat, tucked away in the quiet Sussex town of Seaford. Jack and Moira Mansell had been retired on the south coast for more than twenty years. Thinking back, I can't recall exactly where I’d first read that Jack had coached Galatasaray during the 1974-75 season, or how I'd discovered that he should now be living on my bus route home. I'd arrived a little late, rushing as I made my way through the early evening traffic yet Moira was as amiable answering the door as she'd been when we spoke on the telephone a few days before. Thinking back I wish I hadn’t been so slow leaving work; I'm always so slow.
Entering through their front door there was nothing to suggest what had been before, how they’d lived their lives. As it turned out they'd managed in seven different countries across three continents over nearly a quarter of a century, and when they spoke it was always we, they took on each new role together, wherever they went. I'd brought a little tape recorder and a jumble of questions for Jack, yet it's strange how things turn out sometimes. We talked about football certainly, but mostly about their life together in Istanbul beyond the dugout. Istanbul that most alluring, enigmatic of cities.
Despite his Lancashire roots, as a player Jack Mansell spent the majority of his career on the south coast of England, initially with Brighton & Hove Albion and later with Portsmouth. It was during those early years at Brighton that he took his first coaching steps, attending the fledgling FA summer courses at Lilleshall. Established by Walter Winterbottom in his new role as the Football Association’s Director of Coaching, these courses were intended to encourage and develop the concept of coaching, and offered participants the opportunity to obtain full FA badges. Over time Winterbottom would create a body of FA staff coaches who would not only run the courses but represent the organisation around the world.
Jack had opened a coaching school whilst at Brighton working with local children and operating in the basement of the King Alfred Centre on Hove seafront. As a player he would often stay on after training to work with team-mates, and management just seemed like a natural step. “It was something I seemed to enjoy doing when I was playing”, he recalled, “it wasn’t a question of intending to, I just went into it”. Then appendicitis brought his time at Pompey to a premature close. Taking up a player-manager role at semi-pro Eastbourne United in the Metropolitan League, and now with two young children, he moved his family back to Sussex.
Moira seemed to recall that at some point they had requested details from the FA of available positions abroad. At that time clubs from all over the world would contact the English FA requesting assistance with coaching or filling managerial vacancies. Jack by that point had experience of coaching overseas, having travelled during previous close seasons to South Africa and Bermuda, and, by that stage a trusted staff coach, was now in a position to take advantage of these opportunities. “I think we were pretty adventurous”, says Jack, “anything that came up, we looked at it and if it sounded interesting we went”. This sense of adventure led to spells in Holland, the United States and Greece; punctuated by periods in charge of Rotherham United and Reading. “We've moved house about thirty-seven times”, recalled Moira smiling as we flicked through the pages of a scrapbook. “I'm just not a settler”.
It was during the close season of 1974 that Alan Wade, then FA Director of Coaching, contacted Jack about the role in Turkey. He recalls that following their spell in Greece he'd been put forward by the FA, probably in response to a request for candidates from Galatasaray; “to be recommended by the Football Association of England was quite important”, he suggested, adding with a smile, “didn’t matter whether you were any good or not”. Another Englishman and fellow Salford lad Brian Birch had just been relieved of the role following a successful four years in charge; is tenure ended by a late season loss to city rivals Fenerbahçe, ever fatal to any Galatasaray coach at that time. I was disappointed to learn that neither Jack nor Moira could remember much about the interview process. Moira wondered whether there had even been a formal interview although Jack was convinced there must have been. It clearly hadn't been especially eventful as try as they might the memories had vanished.
I asked briefly about their children. The whole family had gone to Holland and then again to Boston in the late 60s, their two sons Steve and Nick, as well as the cat. Their eldest Steve, in his late teens by that stage, enrolled at university and would stay in the US when Jack took up his next role at Reading. Nick the youngest, traveled on the subsequent overseas move to Greece, but stayed behind when his parents left for Istanbul, enrolling as a boarder at Lancing College.
The couple arrived into a city in the midst of profound change, its traditional Eastern soul in conflict with a creeping European modernity. As I was writing, a national news piece by the academic John McManus beautifully described the 'central paradox in Turkish life'; Europe as the 'epitome of civilisation and wealth, to be emulated at all costs', yet resisted as a 'cultural, political and religious “other” that cannot be trusted'. Themselves conspicuous examples of European influence, it seemed apt that the club would initially accommodate the Mansells at the Hilton Hotel, a gleaming symbol of the new Istanbul. The novelist Orhan Pamuk has described how many Western innovations made their first appearance at the hotel during this period, recalling his first taste of “this amazing thing called a hamburger” and how his mother would use the in-house dry cleaners. Many of the city’s newspapers would even assign it a dedicated correspondent. Moira thought it was wonderful and laughed as she remembered feeling a little sad when the club eventually found them an apartment of their own.
Yet away from the world of the Hilton, Istanbul was largely a poor city in a country still dominated by tradition. The Turkish Republic was secular yet much of the country still held Islam in their hearts. Islamic tradition would have been visible everywhere to the Western visitor; ancient mosques breaking the cluttered rhythm of the rooftops, minarets reaching skywards, their calls to prayer melding with the bustle of the city below. During the annual Feast of the Sacrifice tens of thousands of lambs were sacrificed in every neighbourhood; from poor backstreet lots to the wealthiest avenues. Pamuk described how Istanbul could resemble a slaughterhouse with sidewalks and cobblestones covered in blood. Economically, Turkey had undergone rapid industrialisation since the 1960s as the big cities swelled with the shanty towns of newly arrived Anatolian peasants. Moira was struck by a sparsity of food stuff in the shops and they both remember being shocked by the seemingly overwhelming number of street beggars, particularly around Taksim Square. Jack unintentionally used a football analogy when he described Istanbul at that time as a city “of two halves”; money & deep poverty with seemingly nothing in between.
Within a few weeks of the couple's arrival, in July of 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek sponsored coup d'etat. They remembered a tense atmosphere in Istanbul and Moira in particular was able to recall the city blackouts ordered for the evening of the initial invasion. Many feared an escalation in the crisis and the potential for all out conflict. The city was certainly familiar with political violence on its streets during this period, bookended by military coups in 1971 and 1980, yet, with Greek troops mobilising near the border and their naval fleets moving into position in the eastern Aegean, there was a palpable sense of looming catastrophe. Ironically, Jack had been managing in Greece the previous year at the time of the overthrow of President Papadopoulos, an act that had precipitated events in Cyprus, and four years later they would be working in Israel during the invasion of Lebanon. With crisis seemingly in their wake, Jack remembered joking in later years with a former colleague at Reading who was concerned to know when the couple were due home and whether he should prepare for trouble back in the UK.
On the pitch things would start a lot more smoothly. The club were playing their home games at the İnönü Stadium during this period, sharing with city rivals Fenerbahçe and traditional tenants Beşiktaş, and Jack was taken early on to view the facilities, recalling a huge bowl-like arena with a pitch that appeared to sink into its dusty depths. As an assistant, the club had paired Jack with Tamer Kaptan, an amiable English speaking former player with Istanbul club Kasımpaşa. As the club's coach, Jack was responsible for team matters and responding to the press immediately after matches, with day to day off field matters being addressed by the club manager. This role was occupied by Metin Oktay, an important figure in the history of Galatasaray who was crowned the country's top scorer on a record 6 occasions. Tragically killed in a car crash in 1991 the Uncrowned King's career scoring record of 642 goals remains unsurpassed. His name adorns the club's training facilities to this day.
I asked Jack how he approached a new role overseas but his philosophy was uncomplicated; he always started with the players. In looking to construct a team there was clearly an assessment of technical ability, yet equally he was “interested in the qualities a player had in his own life”. Experience had shown him that “you knew what you were looking for in terms of a player's standards, the way he looks, the way he lives, the way he seems”. The new coach certainly inherited a talented squad, retaining the spine of a team that had won a domestic double in 1972/73. A few spoke some English. Yasin Özdenak, a fine goalkeeper who would later play with and briefly coach the New York Cosmos, marshalled an experienced defensive unit including the likes of Tuncay Temeller, Muzaffer Sipahi and Ekrem Günalp. They were joined by a 20 year old, Fatih Terim, signed during the close season from southern club Adana Demirspor. Mehmet Oğuz had been an ever present along with Aydın Güleş in midfield, with Metin Kurt, Gökmen Özdenak, and Mehmet Özgül the main source of goals. The local press were preoccupied with formations, yet he quickly made clear his disdain for such talk preferring to emphasise his belief in tactical simplicity.
Leading the team out for their first league game Jack recalled being halted as a lamb was sacrificed at the mouth of the tunnel. Faced with a wall of noise, the blood flowed under their feet as they crossed the threshold. Whether this pious act contributed to a 2-0 win against Giresunspor was not for any of us to say but it preceded a positive start that would see the club unbeaten in its first ten games, conceding a paltry two goals. Stadiums were always full and Moira remembered even she sometimes had a job finding a seat at home games. With these early successes Jack was feted by the club's supporters and for the first time experienced a degree of celebrity they'd not encountered previously. They'd certainly had success before but had learnt to accept the plaudits with equanimity. Moira told me how Jack had been "lauded to the sky" in his early days at Reading, only to be sacked just over a season later. Yet the intensity of the reaction in Istanbul was on another scale. They recalled one instance when a man stopped them in the city and tried to kiss Jack's feet. Yet this wasn't necessarily something that the couple were entirely comfortable with and quickly realised that it was difficult to escape. “It got on your nerves after a while”, they both agreed; Perhaps a novelty at first but in time it became intrusive.
Our conversation turned happily to life away from the pitch and Moira made no secret of how much fun they'd had in Istanbul. She remembered that they "always had a house-full" and it was a cosmopolitan crowd, though many of the faces had faded. An Italian named Renzo worked as a pianist at the Hilton and the couple struck up a relationship with him from their earliest days. There was an American accent at many of their gatherings; a group of U.S. Airforce personnel stationed in the city were always around, as were a number of Turks that had spent time living and working over there. Occasionally they would dine with club officials and they took tea from time to time with a local journalist and his English wife. The couple were clearly fond of Tamer Kaptan and he was the only member of the playing or coaching staff they remembered socially. They ate out at restaurants as often as they could and described how welcoming owners would invite them into their kitchens, proudly displaying their fresh fish and seafood. Some memories stubbornly refused to return however, and a number of previously lost characters returned to them, their names the only lingering thread to the present; We laughed as Moira desperately tried to place a man known between them only as 'Pirelli tyre man' who lived upstairs.
I was keen to know whether they had ever missed family and friends. Moira smiled as Jack told me about 'Mansell's Holiday Club', his affectionate name for the steady stream of friends and family that had visited them in Turkey. Their son Nick arrived during the school holidays, amusing his parents by managing to sell his denim jacket to a young guy in the street outside the city's famous Pudding Shop. Visiting friends actually enabled Moira to explore their new city beyond the familiar streets of the local neighbourhood, enjoying time as a tourist exploring the major sites and crossing to the Asian side. She would even spend a few days in the city of İzmir on the Aegean coast. In fact although covering fewer miles, in reality she probably saw more of Turkey than Jack. Football took him across the country, but he saw very little from the windows of the tiny planes that so unnerved him and the coaches that shuttled them between airport and stadium.
Within those stadia things began to unravel in a sporting sense. Though the club's first taste of defeat in the league didn't arrive until December, criticism in the media was quick to follow. Positive early results had muted the questioning of tactics but this soon resurfaced on all fronts. A narrative emerged of an inflexible hard pressing 4-2-4 formation that by-passed the midfield and relied too heavily on direct forward passing. Fans and media alike bemoaned the lack of numbers in the middle of the pitch and insisted that the club didn't have the requisite players for the system, longing hopelessly for someone in the mould of an Alan Clarke.
To compound these tactical failings there were accusations that the team lacked physical conditioning. It was noted that success under Brian Birch had been built on his team's fitness and their ability to win games at the expense of tiring opponents. Under Jack it was felt the players had become lazy on the pitch and ill-disciplined off it, though the latter accusation seems at odds with his recollections. Perhaps there was a cultural aspect to this contrast in perception but Jack remembered an extremely willing and well-mannered group of footballers; The club even insisted on confining both the management and players in a hotel over the weekend, even when the team was playing in Istanbul. Whatever the reality Jack Mansell's Galatasaray was deemed unable to maintain its performance level in the later stages of matches and suffered its inevitable fate as a result.
A spell of six matches without a win during February and early March brought many of these issues to a head. The club's quarter final exit from the Turkish cup during this period resulted in the club bringing in Doğan Koloğlu to oversee both Mansell and Oktay; The latter being unable to accept the change, immediately resigned. On 23 March 1975, the new management team fielded a Galatasaray side to face local rivals Fenerbahçe in what had become the decisive match of the league season. Jack's side emerged looking to play on the counter attack although their ambition appeared to be limited. Fenerbahçe, under the great Brazilian Didi, tried their best to coax the home side out of its shell but Galatasaray retreated into their own half almost completely for the final twenty minutes of the match. As if reading faithfully from the media script, Jack's players tired badly in the muddy conditions and the killer blow arrived in the eighty-sixth minute, Arif Aydın Çelik with the decisive strike that effectively won Fenerbahçe the title. Galatasaray began the search for a new coach behind the scenes, but Jack would remain in his role until after the penultimate game of the season, departing shortly before the final match. He told me that you always knew which way the wind was blowing well before the end; The changing manner and body language of club officials always betraying their intentions. “Well”, he said philosophically in his kindly Lancashire accent, “if you're not winning games you're in the tom-tit”.
And so Jack and Moira moved on. Their next role would be in Bahrain, before an extended spell in Israel where, in addition to various club roles, Jack would take charge of the national team, leading them through their unsuccessful qualification for the 1982 World Cup. After Israel they returned to the UK and to Sussex. Moira smiled as she told me she wished he had carried on, she loved the adventures and clarified something she'd said to me earlier. “I could settle in any country”, she laughed, “the only place I found it difficult to settle was England”. She then told me that the only place she'd ever cried when they left was Istanbul. Since that meeting in Seaford back in 2013 I've tried so many times to finish a piece on Jack and Moira. One thing after another always seemed to get in the way.
Thinking back I wish I hadn’t been so slow; I'm always so slow. Sitting at work one afternoon I read that Jack had passed away on the 18 March 2016, aged 88. My thoughts immediately turned to Moira and their family. I regretted that I'd never managed to finish anything worth showing them. Then I remembered one of the last things we'd talked about. As conversations across the generations have a habit of doing we got to chatting about life more generally. Moira told me they certainly had no regrets, although they'd probably made a few mistakes over the years, to which Jack replied jokingly, “I made mistakes every Saturday”. They laughed together, and Moira finished by saying to her husband, “we've enjoyed life though haven't we”.
My thanks to Aydin Kulak for his kind and invaluable advice on Jack's time in Turkey and no small amount of translation.
Steve is @steve_ringwood.