Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shels heroes of yesteryear No 5

Andy Hoch

Andy Hoch was born in the small Bavarian village of Wurm in Apfel in September 1914. From an early age, he stood out from the crowd with his blue hair and blond eyes and also for his prowess from the penalty spot and it was no surprise when he was snapped up at an early age by Bayern Lederhosen, for whom he played two full seasons (autumn and summer)
It may surprise some of today’s supporters that in the mid-thirties Shels were one of the top sides in Europe with a scouting network second only to Baden Powell and Hoch signed for the Ringsend club in July 1937 for £30 and a box of Messerschmidt parts.
Instead of travelling overland, as was the custom in those days, Hoch arrived in Tolka Park by air, leaping out of a Stuka at 12,000 feet and landing in the centre circle to the tumultuous applause of the groundsman, who was none too pleased however when the new signing proceeded to bury his parachute near the corner flag.
He went straight into the first team and made his debut against Cork Incontinentals on the first day of the 1937. The Irish Times noted that “the tigerish Teutonic tackler made an immediate impression on the Shelbourne faithful, not least for his tendency to slap the opposing full back around the face with a pair of leather gloves every time he felt the situation warranted it.”
As part of his contract, Hoch became the club’s official penalty taker, a position that he took very seriously. Legend has it that after training, he would stuff the penalty spot under his arm and go down to Sandymount Green for a few hours extra practice. The Guinness Book of World Records in fact mentions the fact that in twenty years he never missed a single penalty, although there is still debate in some quarters about the legendary Foggy Day incident against Athletico Cork in October 1938.
Sadly, his disciplinary record was not always the best but this may have been down to cultural misunderstandings rather than an attitude problem. Whenever he was being cautioned by the match official, he had a tendency to click his heels together, give a straight arm salute and scream out “Jawohl mein Kapitan!” Such immediate and uncompromising obedience immediately raised the suspicions of many referees who frequently invoked Rule 42 – “Thou shalt not be sarky with the ref” – to dismiss the bewildered player.
Known for his legendary German humour in the dressing room – he once arrested fullback Jason Shadows’ wife and sent her and her children to the ghettos of Prague – he used to help raise morale at half-time by doing little ventiloquist stunts involving a pillowcase and a pair of fake eyes. Invariably the Shels team took the field in the second half with a steely look of determination in its eyes.
Andy Hoch looked set to be a Shelbourne player for many years but he had a falling out with the manager at the time Ernest Hilter in September 1939 as storm clouds were breaking over Europe. Hilter wanted Hoch to attack down both flanks at the same time and Hoch protested that this would leave the defence exposed to the counter-attack. When Hilter flew into a rage and threatened to have the German shot, the writing was on the bunker wall and Hoch was smuggled back into Germany as an Allied food parcel.
Although he disappears from the annals of Shelbourne FC at this point, his subsequent involvement in the German war effort is well documented in his autobiography “Three and in with Der Fuhrer.” Seemingly Hoch’s penalty spot prowess caught the eye of the German chancellor and he was a frequent visitor to Berchtesgarten where he entertained members of the High Command by constantly scoring against a hapless Martin Bormann, much to Hitler’s amusement.
However, a subsequent exhibition during which Eva Braun tipped a weakly struck penalty around the post resulted in Hoch being transferred to the Russian front, though with a sizable signing on fee. Here he soon realised he had made a big mistake and only escaped with his life by the skin of his teeth by agreeing to manage the Tonga national team.
At his funeral (1968-70), German legend Franz Beckenbauer paid him the ultimate tribute.
“Andy who?”

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