Herbert 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
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
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.
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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 financial 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
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 sweet 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
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."
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