Winner of 13 awards in Spain with Barcelona, Espanyol and Valencia, Peruvian champions with Universitario of Lima and triumphing in the Copa America with Peru before arriving in Colombia and coaching Independiente de Santa Fe in Bogotá, Jack Greenwell, of Crook Town, County Durham, is arguably the most successful English football coach to have ever plied his trade overseas.
This begs the question, why does he remain an almost forgotten footnote in the archives of international football? There is so little recorded about Jack Greenwell’s time in Bogotá, a mere two months, which perhaps makes the story even more enticing.
For me, the search into the latter years of Jack Greenwell’s life began with an innocuous mention on a U.K. radio football phone-in where it was suggested that Greenwell was killed during the infamous “Bogotazo” of 1948. He is listed as having been resident in the Pensión Centenario (Cra 8a with Calle 16), a downtown area of Bogotá that has clearly seen better days and, of course, was largely razed to the ground in the days post Gaitán’s murder.
But no, a swift visit to the Bogotá Archives was enough to prove that Jack Greenwell had passed away before this event, his name wedged between the Garcías and Guzmáns. To my surprise, the building where he lived survives while much around it was leveled in 1948. Of course its use has evolved from guesthouse to that of bedsits, bookshops and the ubiquitous chicken eatery.
Quiet end to an impressive career
By my reckoning, Jack Greenwell is absent from the football hall of fame due to the nature of his unceremonious demise in Bogotá on Oct. 7, 1942, just as he was making a name for himself in the capital, but before he could secure his place in the hall of fame of ‘Independiente de Santa Fe’ where he was coaching at the time.
Perhaps known only to a handful of die-hard Santa Fe hinchas (fans), John Richard Greenwell known to everyone as “Jack” was the very definition of a journeyman football coach. It would be doing this native of County Durham a disservice to try and liken him to any contemporary figures since in reality no one comes close. Who can claim to have played in England and Spain and coached in Spain, Turkey, Peru and Colombia? Who else has a record with Barcelona bettered only by Johan Cruyff ?
A coal miner’s son, he began his playing career in his hometown of Crook and then moved on to the Auckland Wanderers before making the amazing step of establishing himself with Barcelona where he made 88 appearances between 1912 and 1916 and scored 10 goals.
Witness to history
Greenwell had two stints as coach of Barcelona from 1917-1924 and 1931-1933. In between, he spent time with Castellon, Espanyol and Mallorca, and helped organize the Spanish national team for the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. After 1933, he coached Valencia and Sporting Gijón before leaving the country in 1936 for Turkey due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Little is known about Greenwell’s stint in Turkey, as the next time he turned up was in Lima coaching Universitario and preparing the Peruvian national side for the 1939 South American Championship in which they were victorious.