Revie apart, Billy Hampson held the post of Leeds United manager
for longer than anyone, 12 years. However, with that period spanning
the Second World War, he was only in charge for five seasons of
official peacetime football.
Born in Radcliffe on 26 August 1882, he was a late developer
as a footballer. He had already played at full back for Rochdale,
Bury and Norwich City, when, as a 31 year old, Newcastle United
signed him for £1,250 in January 1914. Later that year, war broke
out and Newcastle closed St James' Park for the duration. Hampson
wanted to carry on playing, and joined Leeds City as a guest player
during the war. He was a regular, turning out in 91 matches between
December 1916 and April 1919, helping them to win the nofficial
title of League Champions in 1918.
On a number of occasions he was joined in the team by brothers
Tommy (goalkeeper) and Walker (full-back).
He returned to Newcastle after the war aged 37, but had to play
second fiddle to the even older Tyneside legend Bill McCracken,
who is credited with getting the offside law changed in the 1920's.
McCracken became so adept at catching forwards offside that it
forced a change in the rules of the game.
Hampson soldiered on at Newcastle and when McCracken took over
as Hull City manager in early 1923, he finally secured a regular
spot in the first team. He went on to become the oldest FA Cup
finalist ever when he turned out in the No 2 shirt in the 1924
Final. Newcastle beat Aston Villa 2-0 - Hampson was 41 years eight
months old at the time.
He remained at St James' Park for another three years, before
moving to South Shields in September 1927, and went on playing
until March 1930 when he
finally retired at the age of 47. At that point he took over as
manager of Carlisle United, a side stuck in the bottom half of
the Third Division (Northern Section) following election to the
Football League in 1928. He didn't achieve much with the club,
apart from unearthing Bill Shankly and Bob Batey, whom he later
signed when he took over at Elland Road.
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When Dick Ray resigned as Leeds United
manager in March 1935 the Board sought out Hampson to replace
him. By this time he had moved on to the Newcastle side Ashington,
who had lost their Football League status in 1929. Hampson readily
accepted the offer to move to a club who were then struggling
in the bottom half of Division One.
After seeing United finish 18th
at the end of that first season, Hampson immediately sought
out experienced players to solve his problems, signing former
England internationals, goalkeeper Albert McInroy and forward
George Brown, in the summer. It didn't really help, but United
consolidated their First Division status in those few years before
the Second World War. They avoided relegation by just two points
in 1936-37, but Hampson was
building for the future. He relied on experience, but developed
a lot of young players, leading to United's only Central League
win that same season. He also signed three good young Irish players
in goalkeeper Jim Twomey (Newry Town), winger David Cochrane (Portadown)
and wing half Bobby Browne (Derry City). All three went on to
play for their country.
World War II came at the
wrong time for Hampson and his side. The younger players saw their
finest years go to waste and when peacetime football returned
in 1946-47 they were well
past their best. Hampson stood by many of his pre-war squad, but
it was a disastrous policy. United had a dreadful season, with
point taken away from Elland Road and only six victories all year.
They finished bottom with just 18 points, a massive fifteen points
away from safety.
With an ill starred combination of youth and experience, Leeds
plunged back into the second division and Billy Hampson resigned.
Some players felt he did not need to fall on his sword. Rookie
full back Jimmy Dunn, whom Hampson had brought to Leeds from Scotland,
said, 'He seemed a wonderful chap. It was a surprise when he went
At the beginning of April 1947, with Leeds already as good as
down, Hampson was replaced by former United player Willis
Edwards and demoted to chief scout. He only remained in that
role until the following October before going his own way and
later working as a coach for the Northumberland Schools FA.
Hampson died on 23 February 1966 at Congleton in Cheshire.
He had struggled with the financial difficulties that United
(and Leeds City before them) had faced throughout their history
and did well to maintain First Division status as long as he did.
Leeds did not have the resources to compete with the top clubs
for the best talent and were usually forced to sell their better
players, such as Wilf Copping
(who left for Highbury before Hampson's time, but returned to
Elland Road before the war) and right back Bert Sproston, whom
he sold to Tottenham for a near record £9,500 fee in June 1938.
The best that could be hoped for in the circumstances was to discover
enough raw young talent to be developed for sale to the bigger
clubs and to muddle by as best they could. Hampson managed that
well enough and built up a loyal and dedicated set of players,
who respected and liked him. But in the end, misplaced loyalty
to his proven players led to his downfall.
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