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Herbert Chapman 1912-19

The legendary Herbert Chapman, the first of the professional football managersHerbert Chapman is one of the greatest British football managers. His success, ideas and personality revolutionised the game; but he was, more than anything else, a builder of winning teams. Twice he created a side that was good enough to win the League Championship in three consecutive seasons - first Huddersfield (1924-26) and then Arsenal (1933-35). Liverpool (1982-4) and Manchester United (1999-2001) are the only other clubs to have managed this hat-trick. Strangely, Chapman was not at the helm for the third win at either club.

He was born in Kiveton Park, Sheffield, in 1878 and played inside-forward for Stalybridge, Rochdale, Grimsby, Swindon, Sheppey United and Worksop between 1897 and 1901 as an amateur, before turning professional with Northampton. He moved on to Sheffield United and in May 1903 a 300 move took him to Notts County before he joined Tottenham in March 1905. He was Spurs' leading scorer with 11 goals in the Southern League in 1905-06. He was not a great player and his moderate career was notable only for the flamboyant yellow boots he wore.

However, the Northampton directors recognised his tactical skills and brought him back as player-manager in 1907. He led the Cobblers to the Southern League championship in his second season before leaving for Leeds City in 1912.

After successfully canvassing for City's re-election to the Football League, he confidently predicted that he could take the club into Division One. Chapman understood the need for players of proven achievement, rather than the hopefuls collected by Scott-Walford. Accordingly, his signings included the Everton and Ireland goalkeeper Billy Scott, Scottish international full-back George Law, former England centre-half Evelyn Lintott, who came from Bradford City and who was soon joined by team mate and inside-left Jimmy Speirs, and inside-right Jimmy Robertson from Barrow.

Stalwarts such as Affleck, Croot and McLeod survived the Chapman revolution. His new combination was rocked by a 4-0 defeat at Fulham on the opening day of the 1912/13 season, but soon pulled itself together While the defence proved alarmingly porous on occasions, as in the 6-2 defeat at Hull on 2 November and when City lost 6-0 at Stockport County on 15 February, generally the team gave as good as it got. Battle honours included a 5-1 home win over champions Preston, which made the drubbing a week later at Stockport - who were to finish second from bottom - all the more unsatisfactory.

Despite its inconsistency, the verve with which Leeds City played drew spectators back to Elland Road. When Chapman's team finished sixth, the average attendance rose from below 8,000 in 1911/12 to more than 13,000 the following year, enabling the club to record a small profit, a remarkable turnaround from the Chapman was one of the most successful of all football managersfinancial problems of the previous season. 'Chapman ... has done a tremendous amount of good work for the club; he has gained the confidence of everybody,' wrote the Yorkshire Post.

The nearest he came to achieving the goal of promotion was in 1913/14 when City finished fourth. The club finished with six fewer points than champions Notts County, but only two behind runners up Bradford Park Avenue. 'Promotion has been denied them but taking into account the resources of the club, fourth place should be considered satisfactory,' said the Yorkshire Post. 'Not only have the club attained a higher position than ever before but receipts and attendances have outstripped any previous record.'

Much of the improvement could be attributed to Chapman's management style: he was a pioneer in introducing regular team talks and planned tactics in consultation with the players. He also believed it essential that they should relax, so introduced a weekly round of golf into the team's training routine.Despite the disappointment, the directors were pleased because gate receipts were well up and the club was able to record a 400 profit. City had been sixth in 1912-13 and hopes were high that 1914/15 would be the year they finally achieved promotion to the top division, but it was not be. They slumped back to a very disappointing 15th place.

During the War, Chapman worked at a local munitions factory and, although he returned in 1916, he was suspended as investigations went on into illegal payments to wartime guest players. He quit on 16 December 1919 and became industrial manager of an oil and coke firm in Selby, claiming he had been harshly dealt with by the FA Commission because he was not in office when the payments were allegedly made.

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Only after his appeal was upheld did he move back into management - this time with Huddersfield. When Chapman joined them in 1920, Huddersfield Town had little money, few resources and indifferent crowds in a town devoted to Rugby League. They had joined the League in 1910 and had spent their first six seasons in the Second Division before being promoted as runners-up to Tottenham in 1920 in the first season after World War I.

After taking over, Chapman led the club on an astonishing sequence of success, winning the Division One title in 1924 and 1925, and taking the FA Cup to Leeds Road in 1922. Chapman bought perceptively, welded his assets together astutely and soon sent out one of the most successful League sides of all time. It was stubborn, disciplined and highly mobile with Clem Stephenson, once of Aston Villa, at the heart of everything. He was a stocky tactician without much pace but his passes were as Chapman standing far left with his Huddersfield side in 1922sweet as stolen kisses.

Chapman led Huddersfield to their first two Championships but then, before they began their third great season, he surprised the football world by joining Arsenal - and Arsenal, who had only just avoided relegation the previous season, finished up as runners-up to Huddersfield. It was hardly a coincidence.

The year that Chapman left Huddersfield for Arsenal - 1925 - was also the year the offside law was changed. The number of opponents necessary to keep a player onside was reduced from three to two. Chapman, inevitably, was the first manager to face the challenge of adapting his tactics to work to the new law.

Arsenal plugged the holes in defence caused by the new law by using an extra defender. Their centre-half, instead of enjoying an attacking role in midfield, became a centre-back - the 'stopper' - and an inside-forward dropped back to make good the link between defence and attack. The day of the old 2-3-5 formation was over. Now it was 3-3-4. The shape of the game had changed.

The idea itself, however, came from Charlie Buchan and not Chapman. Chapman's first action as Arsenal manager had been to buy Buchan from Sunderland; and Buchan, that shrewdest of forwards, suggested before the first match of the 1925-26 season that Jack Butler, Arsenal's centre-half, should be used only as a defender. Chapman disagreed.

Buchan repeated his idea - without sucess - at every team meeting for the next five weeks. But in early October Arsenal were beaten 7-0 by Newcastle at St James's Park - and after the game Buchan said to Chapman: 'I want to go back to Sunderland. I'm not much use to Arsenal.' Chapman replied: 'Oh no, you're playing against West Ham on Monday. I know what you want and we'll have a special meeting to discuss it.'

Herbert Chapman had finally agreed to Charlie Buchan's request to discuss a new tactical approach to the game. The meeting took place immediately following Arsenal's 7-0 hiding by Newcastle at St James's Park in October 1925, in their Newcastle hotel; and Chapman, after a long discussion, agreed to experiment. Arsenal beat West Ham 4-0 at Upton Park two days later - and they were on their way to mighty deeds. It was Buchan's idea but it was Chapman who refined the system and made it work.

Arsenal's first major success was the FA Cup of 1930 and, in the final at Wembley, they beat Huddersfield 2-0 - Chapman's new creation getting the better of his old. Huddersfield were ageing while Arsenal were rising fast, and the following year they wonHerbert Chapman (centre) with two of his stars at Highbury - Bob John and Alex James the championship for the first time.

Buchan had retired by now, replaced by David Jack, a vital and elegant man who scored his goals with sharp-edged charm and even good manners; and the key role in midfield went to Alex James, an inside-forward of genius, an imp of a man with buttoned-down sleeves and famously baggy shorts. Jack of England moved from Bolton for 10,890, the first five-figure transfer fee, and James of Scotland from Preston for 9,000. The country raised its hands in horror at such extravagance. Chapman smiled at a couple of bargains. Chapman led his new Arsenal into the 1930's with huge and justified confidence.

Arsenal's almost complete dominance of the new decade went far beyond their magnetic accumulation of trophies. A country crippled by recession and shamed by its dole queues saw the club as a symbol of the prosperity and privileges of London.

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Herbert Chapman's team was loved by its own but cordially hated by just about everyone else. Arsenal were invincible, grandly untouchable and, always, the team to beat. Their success was even resented in other board-rooms where complacency and convention ruled; but this was just what the game needed. Envy became a stimulant. Arsenal's professionalism was studied and copied. The English game had a Highbury complex - and understandably so.

Arsenal were League Champions five times (1931, 1933-4-5 and 1938), runners-up in 1932 and third in 1937. They won the FA Cup in 1930 and 1936 and were beaten finalists in 1932. The first 38 championships had belonged to the north and midlands but when, at last, the monopoly was broken, Arsenal did the job properly.

There was no television then to flatter and project but Arsenal's players were household names. Alex James and David Jack, of course; Joe Hulme and Cliff 'Boy' Bastin, thunder and lightning on the wings; Herbie Roberts, the shy, red-headed giant who became Arsenal's principal stopper; and impeccable full-backs such as Tom Parker, George Male and Eddie Hapgood.

Some cost a lot of money, others were conjured out of minor football, but all became essential components of a side which was horribly mean in defence and cruel in counter-attack.

Arsenal's football was sometimes described as 'smash and grab' and often they were called 'Lucky Arsenal', but Chapman was pointing the way to the future. His feeling for things to come was remarkable.

Chapman once visited an old friend in Austria and returned to talk excitedly about a night match he had watched. The pitch had been lit by the headlamps of 40 cars. 'Do you realise," he asked, "that if the same number of lights were up on 40-foot poles we could play football as if it was daylight?' Not long after, the press were invited to watch an Arsenal practice match at night illuminated by dangling lanterns. Chapman got the publicity he wanted for an idea he was convinced would work. He later watched floodlit matches in Belgium and Holland - 'cricket with a white ball would have been possible,' he said. But authority was unimpressed, and it was nearly 20 years before the first official floodlit match was played in England.

Chapman was also one of the first men to insist on first-class facilities for spectators. He tried out numbered shirts five years before there was approval from the Football League (in 1939); he advocated white balls and all-weather pitches; he experimented with independent time-keeping and goal judges; and, the biggest tribute of all to his gift for persuasion, he had the name of the local underground station changed from Gillespie Road to Arsenal. Nothing about Chapman was grey or vague. He demanded power, loyalty, absolute obedience, punctuality at all times and devotion to the club and profession. In return he was scrupulously fair and true to his word.

Chapman died, suddenly, in January 1934. Despite a chill, and against advice, he insisted on watching his third team play in a cutting wind at Guildford. 'I haven't seen the boys for a week or so,' he said. Pneumonia set in and three days later he was gone. Arsenal still won the championship that season; and the season after. There is a knowing smile on the face of the bust of Chapman which now stands in the main entrance hall at Highbury.

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Herbert Chapman surrounded himself with intelligent footballers, such as James, Jack, and Buchan. Charles Buchan believed that the secret of Chapman's greatness was that he 'would always listen to other people and take advantage of their ideas if he thought they would improve the team in any way.' Chapman institutionalised his belief in shared discussion by setting up scheduled meetings for the Arsenal players at midday every Friday, when the team would discuss both the previous and the upcoming match. Chapman even had a magnetic model football pitch on a table so that he could show players exactly what he wanted them to do.

Chapman's penchant for tactical planning and ability to transfer his designs onto the pitch led to his teams earning the label `machine'. This was heard first in 1910, at Northampton and it was often repeated through the Arsenal years, where as Harding describes it 'though theHerbert Chapman (seated front) with his 1931 Arsenal league champions faces changed, the machine rolled on smoothly, sometimes more efficiently'.

In the final analysis, it was Herbert Chapman's boundless desire for progress that hallmarked his contribution to the development of English football. He would seemingly utilise any method, regardless of its origin, to effect the betterment of his teams. He experimented, but he did not do so blindly, for he possessed the vision and adaptability to incorporate innovations into his grand designs. History has employed many a superlative in the attempt to explain the central role of Herbert Chapman in the changes to the English game, and doubtless his significance will continue to provoke discussion. Unhappily, however, his influence is perhaps best illustrated by the events which followed his death. Nobody really took up Chapman's mantle - and English football stagnated as a result. Whilst the nation complained that the stopper had a negative impact upon the game, the Hungarians re-invented the role to momentous effect.

It is not inconceivable that Chapman would have been moving in a similar direction had he lived on. Firstly, he had always sought to keep abreast of tactical innovation, and there is no reason to assume he would have ceased doing so. Secondly, he kept a close eye on developments in the European game, and was a close friend of Hugo Meisl, Chairman of the Austrian FA.

Throughout his managerial career, Chapman had always borrowed ideas if he considered them worthy and Europe was no exception. His conviction that 'there is a great future for football by artificial light in England' was cemented after seeing floodlit matches in Belgium and Holland in 1930. Chapman had always backed his belief in the importance of learning from the continentals with actions. As early as 1909, he took his Northampton team to Germany to play Nuremburg FC and in April 1921 his Huddersfield side overcame the French Champions, Red Star, 2-0 in Paris. Chapman carried these excursionsHerbert Chapman was a football revolutionary who helped bring  enormous change to the game in England right through to his Arsenal days, but he believed that they were only a prelude to a Western European Cup involving the Champions of nations such as France, Spain, Germany, Scotland and England. Chapman saw such developments as crucial to the long-term success of English football, and he cared passionately about his nation's game. In fact, in 1933, despite objections from selectors, he acted as unofficial manager to the England team in Italy and Switzerland with considerable success. His tactical pre-match team talks helped effect a 4-0 victory over a strong Swiss team, and a 1-1 draw against Italy, in Rome. A year later the Italians were World Champions and seven Arsenal players were in the England team that proved what England could achieve, defeating the visitors 3-2 in `the Battle of Highbury'. Chapman's teams enjoyed considerable success against continental opposition.

The English game was at a crossroads when Chapman died. Despite its status as one of the most advanced footballing nations, other countries were catching and surpassing it in many areas. Though there were other progressive figures in the game, none of their voices carried half the weight that Chapman's did.

He had recognised the need for drastic change, and saw the way forward in the efficient running of the Italian and Austrian sides. But the English FA's refusal to learn from these examples and stubborn insistence upon choosing the national side with a selection committee, were typical of its unenlightened nature. Nearly a quarter of a century before they were humbled by the Hungarians at Wembley in 1953, Chapman had predicted a downturn in England's fortunes if they continued to ignore the advances being made in the European game. Perhaps it could be said that English football is still paying the price for not acting on his warning.

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