DAVE BACUZZI, who died last Tuesday in Dublin, aged 79, was to Cork Hibernians in the early 1970s what Jack Charlton became for the Republic of Ireland 18 years later. Like Charlton, he inherited a talented bunch of players and helped them achieve their full potential.
Londoner Bacuzzi had a great football pedigree. His father Joe played more than 300 games for Fulham and won 13 wartime caps for England. Dave came under the guidance of Ron Greenwood at Eastbourne United and followed him to Arsenal. He made almost 50 first team appearances before signing for Manchester City, helping them win promotion to the First Division.
He had completed four seasons at Reading when Hibs came calling. They had already been turned down by Maurice Setters before Bacuzzi, who had agreed terms with Bruges but hadn't yet signed, was wooed to Cork.
In four years, he led them to their first League title and their first two FAI Cup triumphs. When he failed to win a major trophy in season 1973-4, the directors, on a split vote, decided not to renew his contract. Not surprisingly, the Hibs' fans reacted badly, turning out in huge numbers to protest on the streets of Cork against this injustice, but the directors weren't for turning.
Bacuzzi wasn't long out of work, being hired by amateurs Home Farm. It was a major sacrifice on his part as it meant retiring to the sideline at the age of 34, for Home Farm's rules didn't permit them to play professionals. "I probably would have had a few more years in the League of Ireland," he recalled, "but I think I made the right decision." It was the challenge to his coaching ability that won him over.
At Hibs, Bacuzzi's success was built on shrewd signings like Tony Marsden who came on a free transfer from Doncaster after Lawrie McMenemy deemed him surplus to requirements when his team went out of the FA Cup. Marsden's goals helped Hibs clinch their first League title in 1971 and their first FAI Cup in 1972, and his total of 56 goals in 98 games, achieved in two and a half seasons, is the fifth highest in Hibs' history.
Another key to Bacuzzi's success was the improved skill and confidence he brought to his players, and this was most notable in flying forward Miah Dennehy. From a winger with a low goals tally, he turned him into a goal-machine, who finished top scorer with 29 goals in 1971-72, including an historic hat-trick in the Cup final - the first player to achieve that.
With no access to the transfer market, amateurs Home Farm were a different proposition but Bacuzzi still managed to produce a winning team in the FAI Cup, the first amateurs to win that trophy in 40 years. Of course, the price of that success was the loss, over the next few seasons, of seven of those Cup-winners to the professional ranks. His days of winning major trophies may have ended, but Bacuzzi stayed at the helm in Home Farm for 10 years, aiding the development of future internationals Ronnie Whelan, Ken De Mange and Brian Mooney.
He also managed the League of Ireland XI during the qualifiers for the Olympic Games in 1976 and 1980 and the Irish amateur team that qualified for the 1978 Uefa Amateur Cup in Greece, where they lost the third place play-off to West Germany.
Bacuzzi, who had retired from the travel business some years ago, had been in poor health, and his death was related to Covid-19.
He is survived by his wife Eithne, children Melissa, David and Anne.