Season 1913/14 Part 1
A team to be feared
Herbert Chapman's appointment as secretary manager of Leeds City in 1912 breathed life into an ailing club. He led their re-election campaign, then steered them to sixth place in the Second Division, equalling their best ever finish.
The team struggled for consistency, but showed enough moments of class to hint that Chapman's promise of promotion was not an empty one.
By and large, the manager was content with the first team, but knew he needed to improve the pool's depth. He commenced the transformation of his squad by dispensing with the services of long-serving Stan Cubberley, Tom Morris and Hugh Roberts (with nearly 400 league games between them for City), along with Jimmy Robertson, one of his initial signings. The summer of 1913 saw the departure of several fringe players, including Joe Moran, Jock Ferguson, Andy Gibson, Harry Bridgett, George Fenwick, Tom Broughton and George Cunningham. Irishman Joe Enright followed them out of Elland Road in October.
By the end of September, a number of new men had signed up, mainly from junior clubs: Tommy Lamph, Spennymoor, half-back; John Dunn, Eccles Borough, full-back; Manus Divers, Cambuslang Rovers, left-back; David Davidson, Third Lanark, centre-forward; John McDonald, Croy Athletic, outside-right; Webb Richardson, Barnet and Alston, outside-right; James Johnson, Bedlington United, inside-right; and Neil Turner, Petershill, outside-right.
Four other recruits merited special mention.
19-year-old full-back Albert Urwin signed professional forms for City, rejecting overtures from Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Bristol City and Tottenham, all of the First Division. Urwin had played in the South Bank side that won the West Riding Junior Cup in 1912 and the Amateur Cup the following year. His signing was evidence of Chapman's drawing power.
Chapman signed two centre-halves: the rugged Jack Hampson, a future City captain, renewed his acquaintance with a man who had managed him at Northampton, while Harry Peart agreed to drop a division when leaving Bradford City.
The prize capture, though, was left winger Ivan Sharpe, 24. He won a gold medal with Great Britain at the Olympics in 1912 and still retained his amateur status. He worked as a professional football journalist and had played football with local clubs while working with newspapers in St Albans, Watford, Glossop and Derby. In 1912 he helped the Rams win the Second Division title with his wonderful centres to the goalscoring legend, Steve Bloomer. When Sharpe started working for the Yorkshire Evening News in the summer he was happy to make himself available for City.
The Chapman revolution was gathering pace and attracting interest.
For the most part, it was Chapman's team playing in Chapman's way that served City through the season. Tony Hogg, George Affleck, Mick Foley and Billy McLeod were links with earlier regimes, but the rest of the side were Chapman signings. Fred Croot made a handful of appearances, but he was forced to play second fiddle to Sharpe.
City supporters were optimistic as the campaign kicked off on 6 September 1913 with a home fixture against Glossop. Interest in the club had soared to such an extent that £2,000-worth of season tickets had been sold. Attendances had picked up the previous season, averaging a club record 13,356, and in 1913/14 soared to almost 17,000.
Hampson and Sharpe were given debuts at centre-half and outside-left respectively, but otherwise it was the same eleven that had gone largely unchanged through the spring: Hogg continued to be preferred to the experienced Billy Scott, while Charlie Copeland and Affleck renewed their full-back partnership. George Law was omitted to allow skipper Evelyn Lintott to shift to right-half with Irishman Foley completing the middle trio. The Yorkshire Post promised that, 'If Hampson realises expectations there should be the best half-back line the City have had for some years, for Foley made great strides towards the end of last season.' Among the forwards, Croot made way for Sharpe, but Simpson Bainbridge, Arthur Price, McLeod and Jimmy Speirs remained in situ.
City fulfilled all expectations against Glossop with a 3-0 victory, thanks to goals from Speirs and McLeod (2), though the Post counselled that 'it would be folly to build up hopes of promotion upon that one achievement.'
The home men dominated the first half, though they had to be content with a single goal from Speirs, nodded home from a smart lob from Sharpe. There should have been more, with Price missing badly and then hitting an upright, but Glossop enjoyed prolonged periods of pressure after the interval and came close to equalising. City made the points secure, though, with two goals in five minutes by McLeod.
Hampson was handicapped from early on with blood pouring out of an eye cut in a clash with Glossop's Moore. The Post complained: 'Much was hoped for from the introduction of Hampson, ... but, as things were, the half-back play of the team was sadly disappointing ... It is still matter for doubt whether he has qualifications which justify his displacement of Lintott ... The latter, though always preferred at left-half in his Bradford City days, has played so long in the centre as to have become unfitted for any other position, and on Saturday he was so completely out of his element as to become ineffective ... Criticism of the front line in general may be silenced by the flashes of brilliance which they have on occasion offered, and by the evidence of distinctive merit in the performance given by the amateur international Ivan Sharpe. With Sharpe as the left wing partner to Speirs, supporters of the club may hope that the City's attack will be brought up to a standard of excellence, which it has never previously attained.'
City could not capitalise on that start and were defeated at Stockport. They went ahead when Price headed home a beautiful centre from Sharpe, but the Derbyshire men scored twice in the last twenty minutes to secure the points.
The Peacocks' form fluctuated erratically.
An ankle injury for Lintott gave Law the chance to come back at right-half and City thrashed undefeated Bradford Park Avenue 5-1 on September 20 with goals from Speirs, McLeod, Bainbridge (2) and Price. JRB enthused in the Leeds Mercury that 'I have witnessed many games at Elland Road, but I do not think I have seen a better League game than that of Saturday.' A week later, the same eleven were hammered 4-0 by Notts County.
It was generally reckoned that the score flattered Notts, as Yorkist reported in the Mercury. 'It must not be imagined they had a runaway victory. They scored twice in each half of the game, but it was only in the last fifteen minutes of each half that they got their goals, and there is not the least doubt that it was the manner in which they got their first goal that paved the way to their success.
'There was nothing to choose between the teams till the fateful goal came after half an hour's play. Bassett, the County outside-right, was in possession of the ball when he was bowled over by Hampson just inches inside the penalty area. It was a perfectly fair charge, but the referee thought otherwise, and, to the consternation of the Leeds players and their coterie of followers, he awarded a penalty, and Richards scored with a shot which hit the crossbar before entering the net.
'The referee was Mr J Pearson of Dudley, and it is no exaggeration to say that not one referee in twenty would have taken the view he did. All the pressmen ... were astonished at the decision of the referee in awarding a penalty ... Apart from this instance, Mr Pearson did not please by his handling of the game, as several of his callings were rather curious.
'The Leeds City players also strongly appealed against the third goal scored by Flint twelve minutes from time, on the ground that the County inside-right was offside, and the referee consulted first one linesman and then the other before confirming his decision. In fairness to Mr Pearson, however, it should be said that from the press seats this seemed a perfectly fair goal.'
City won three of the four games played in October. The other brought an inexplicable 2-1 defeat at home to Hull on the 18th of the month, but a week later they bounced back. The Evening Post: 'No result was so totally unexpected as that in which Leeds City inflicted upon Barnsley their first defeat of the season ... What a baffling business is the form of the Leeds City team. One week they win at Wolverhampton, the next week they slipped up at home before a very weak Hull City team, only to recover themselves again and startle the football world by running away with Barnsley to the extent of 4-1.
'Speirs, the City captain, was the best man on the field, and at a time when there is an agitation for the reinstatement of Lintott at centre-half, it is singular to have to report that the next best contributor to Leeds City's success was Hampson, who seldom went for the ball without securing it.'
The Yorkshire Post remarked on the part played by Speirs in guiding his men to victory: 'A change of tactics, organised by Speirs, enabled Leeds City in the end to win hands down. The winners played two distinct styles of football in the course of the game. They played Barnsley at their own game in the first half, and scored their first goal by means of long swinging passes from wing to wing, but it was in the deftness with which Speirs, McLeod and Price practised the short passing game that they excelled.
'Speirs was the best on the field. It is no more than his due to say that it was his individual cleverness, and genuine leadership, which brought triumph to his side.'
By the beginning of November, City had already lost three times, but had won enough matches to be fifth. The latest victory, on 1 November, came against leaders Bury. First half goals by Price and Speirs brought a deserved half time lead. Leeds had to fight hard to preserve their advantage after Peake pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but they did so safely enough.
A goal from debutant Neil Turner gave City the lead away to Huddersfield a week later, but Town equalised at the start of the second half and the game finished in a draw.
The Leeds Mercury reported, 'With Ivan Sharpe, Bainbridge and Copeland out of the team, it would have been no surprise if Leeds City had suffered defeat at Leeds Road ... Had either side won, the losers would have been thoroughly justified in lodging a protest, for the game was finished in darkness, and the surprising thing is that it was played to a finish. A mistake was made to begin with in fixing the time of starting for three o'clock, and to make matters worse, heavy rain and a thick mist prevailed practically all the afternoon. Even when Mr Pearson started the game several minutes before three, it looked odds against full time being played. In the last quarter of an hour it was impossible to see the ball or distinguish players from the stand, and the evening paper reporters had to light matches to get their copy finished.'
McLeod's late header was enough to beat Lincoln City at Elland Road on 15 November and Leeds were unlucky to return from a trip to Blackpool a week later with only a 2-2 draw.
The Seasiders opened the scoring from a controversial penalty. The Leeds Mercury: 'Why was the penalty kick given against Leeds City? Everyone was asking the question ... The referee's explanation is, I believe, that Affleck butted, or attempted to butt, a man in the back, but what grounds he had for coming to this decision appears to be known to himself alone. Of course, the referee is in a better position to see things than the spectators, but not one solitary supporter of the Blackpool team did I hear express the opinion that there had been any infringement.'
City were twice behind and had to show fighting spirit to earn the draw, the goals from Hampson and Croot coming from spectacular drives.
Billy McLeod enhanced his reputation with a spectacular display against lowly Nottingham Forest on 29 November. McLeod struck four times as City ran riot, achieving a record 8-0 victory that left them in third place.
The following week, the Peacocks faced a difficult trip to Woolwich Arsenal. The Gunners had been relegated from the First Division at the end of the previous season and were intent on an immediate return. They were a couple of places below City in the table, though still trying to recover from a 6-1 mauling at Fulham on 8 November.
The Arsenal had just relocated to Highbury Stadium and it was a first visit to the scene for Herbert Chapman. Stephen Studd: 'When Leeds City arrived for their meeting with the Gunners on 6 December 1913, the Highbury ground was still only half finished, and a wooden stand on the east side, designed for 9,000 spectators, was still being built. Chapman was particularly struck by the fact that the ground was just across the road from Gillespie Road Underground station, and could thus be reached easily from most parts of London. This observation was to bear fruit in later years.'
City understandably stuck by the eleven that did so well against Forest, persisting with their experiment of using Arthur Price and Jimmy Speirs in unaccustomed positions.
The game, watched by almost 20,000 spectators, kicked off at 2.30 and there was a suspicion that the inclement weather might lead to play being concluded in darkness.
Speirs won the toss and City began the game the stronger. They went about their work with a will and forced four corners in the first ten minutes. They couldn't convert any of them but certainly caused Arsenal keeper Lievesley some moments of high anxiety.
Shortly afterwards, though, the home men had a goal disallowed. Referee J E Hall of Birmingham had whistled for a foul against the Peacocks, just as Arsenal inside-right Hardinge hammered the ball past Tony Hogg. The referee, amidst a 'chorus of hooting', disallowed the goal and ordered a free kick for a foul by City earlier in the movement. Hardinge wasted the opportunity, firing the ball wildly over the bar.
Both teams had opportunities, though neither could open the scoring. Bainbridge had aggravated a recent injury and was a limping passenger as the game reached its interval.
The Arsenal wingers, Rutherford and Lewis, troubled the City defence in the second half and the decisive moment came after one raid by the latter. Referee Hall decided that Charlie Copeland had deliberately tripped the winger and awarded a penalty, though the decision was hotly disputed by the City players. When the protests had subsided, full-back Benson hammered the spot kick past Hogg, though the keeper managed to get his hand to the effort.
The goal drove the home side on to greater efforts and they pressed City hotly after that, though they could not add to their total. Leeds rallied toward the end of the match without hinting at an equaliser.
Cockney in the Leeds Mercury wrote, 'On the general run of play they had been quite the equal of their opponents in points of skill, and a goalless draw would have much better represented the teams.
'It was a hard game from beginning to end, and one of the best features of the play was the remarkable pace that was maintained. The forwards, it is true, failed to make the most of many fine opportunities that were given them in front of goal. That was their only fault, however, and it is seldom that such fine, open attacking is so unsuccessful. There was no great attempt to combine by either line of forwards ... Nothing tangible happened simply because the play of the full-backs was of such a vigorous character that an incoming forward was bundled off the ball without ceremony, and what they failed to accomplish, the goalkeepers, Lievesley and Hogg, did in a convincing manner.
'One of the best efforts in the first half came from the visitors, and it was Bainbridge who made the running. He directed his centre admirably, and Price fired in a powerful shot that was magnificently saved by Lievesley. That was the nearest approach to scoring accomplished by the City, although they made many other fine attempts.
'The City showed better form than the Arsenal, but the play of the home inside-forwards was certainly more convincing than the Leeds trio, of which Speirs was the best. McLeod was always a great worker, but he was closely shadowed by Sands, who was none too particular in which way he stopped the City's pivot.
'If we were to judge the teams by the form which they showed on Saturday, it is easy to fancy either for a high place in the League table, and the promotion prospects seem decidedly promising.'
The Speirs-Price experiment was proclaimed a failure; before the home game with Grimsby, the Mercury reported, 'The City directors have deemed it expedient to rearrange the forward line. Speirs goes from inside-right to his old place at inside-left as partner to Ivan Sharpe, and this should be an improvement. It seems a pity that the Speirs-Sharpe partnership was ever disturbed.' John Johnson was given his debut in place of the injured Bainbridge, and it was reported that he played well.
The numbers attending were impacted adversely by an early start and a tram service restricted by a strike by Leeds municipal employees, though there was still a goodly crowd. City played into a strong wind but created a hatful of opportunities, all of which went to waste. Quin gave Grimsby a half time lead with a farcical goal. Hogg stopped a shot from Gregson, but when Affleck tried to hammer the ball clear it struck Quin in the chest and rebounded into the net.
City's paucity owed something to the lengthy absence of Jack Hampson, who went off with a leg injury. When he returned he had still not fully recovered.
City adapted their tactics for the second period and found fresh vigour. Within twelve minutes of the restart McLeod equalised after receiving a well judged pass from Hampson. A minute later the centre-half gave them the lead and McLeod added his second after a further sixty seconds. It was remarkable that even when so hampered, Hampson was involved in the game's vital moments.
There was an understandable lull for a while thereafter with Hampson going to outside-right because of his injury. Johnson moved to inside-left and Speirs filled in at centre-half. Before the end Price ran in a fourth goal to complete an emphatic victory.
It was already absolutely clear that Herbert Chapman had found a rare combination in Jimmy Speirs and Ivan Sharpe. They were two individual gems who as a pairing made the left flank a source of real quality. Countless goals had stemmed from the centres of Sharpe and the intelligent scheming of Speirs.
Their quality, however, put the displays of the other wing into stark relief. 18-year-old Simpson Bainbridge was the baby of the side, and though he possessed an abundance of skill and talent, his contributions were constrained by his inexperience, a lack of application leading to inconsistency. His performances veered wildly from the brilliant to the mundane, often in the space of a single 90 minutes. It was a cause for some dissatisfaction and his inside-forward partner, Arthur Price, had neither the guile nor the craft to coax the best out of the wide man.
As the Yorkshire Post reported in October, "In Speirs and Ivan Sharpe Leeds have the best left wing pair they have ever possessed; on the right wing Price and Bainbridge are not developing as fully as their earlier promise led one to expect. It is easy, of course, to point out weaknesses; the means of remedying them is quite another matter. Money will have to be laid down but with the great possibilities before League football in Leeds, it may with confidence be stated that such money well spent will prove a good investment."
One option available to Herbert Chapman was to switch Sharpe to the right wing and draft Fred Croot in on the left, but even though the amateur could play on the right, he was never as comfortable, productive or incisive as he was in his customary berth.
It was a real conundrum for the manager.
By the time of the following game, away to Birmingham on December 20, Chapman had an alternative at his disposal. City, while still suffering financial difficulties, had regular money coming in via healthy takings at the turnstiles and Chapman persuaded receiver Tom Coombs to free up some funds. £1,000 was found for the signature of the 23-year-old Scottish inside-right, John Jackson, from Clyde. The Leeds Mercury described Jackson as "a player who was in considerable demand recently, several First League clubs being anxious to induce him to put his name to a document on their behalf."
Jackson went straight into the team, starting at inside-right with Price outside him at Birmingham, while Evelyn Lintott was recalled at centre-half to deputise for Hampson.
According to the Mercury, Jackson 'was not an overpowering success, but that was largely due to the fact ... that he suffered from being insufficiently fed. Very few openings were made for him, in fact, and he did not get many chances of shining. Neither did he show conspicuous ability in making his own openings; but then he was new to the side, and too much cannot be expected from a man in a strange environment. Jackson did some smart things towards the close, and he showed that he can manipulate the ball; he must at least have a good trial before one's mind can be made up as to whether he is going to be a striking success or not.'
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported, 'Jackson could not be expected to settle down to the robustness of English League football all in a moment, and possibly he suffered on Saturday from a want of understanding on the part of Price, who was to some extent at sea in the unaccustomed position as winger. Presuming that Jackson and Price will be played together for a time as the right wing pair, there is promise of good results in their association, and that is the most that one is justified in saying at this juncture. The other wing, upheld by Speirs and Ivan Sharpe, was undoubtedly the more effective, and whilst speaking of Speirs as the most successful schemer of the match, it will be pleasing to Sharpe's friends to know that the goal which he scored was the crowning point of an excellent afternoon's work.'
Birmingham's customary inability to convert possession into goals was clearly in evidence; in contrast, City were clinical. McLeod opened the scoring from a fine centre by Price and then Sharpe seized on another Price cross to net the second with the Midlanders unable to find even a consolation score.
Those goals left City as the division's leading scorers, a status consolidated on Christmas Day when they beat Fulham 2-1 at Elland Road. The victory took them up to third, two points behind leaders Notts County, as Bradford Park Avenue surrendered second spot after losing 3-2 at home to Woolwich Arsenal. Hull City remained very much in the mix with a 3-0 victory at Huddersfield.
Elland Road was heaving for the Fulham fixture. The Yorkshire Post reported, 'A big holiday crowd assembled, the stand accommodation for once being totally inadequate for the number of persons wishing to avail themselves of the same, and it was computed that close upon 30,000 spectators must have been present. Many witnessed the play from difficult positions, while some saw but little of the game. All present, however, took the situation in good part, and although the railings gave way in one portion of the field, the match was carried through without interruption.'
Ivan Sharpe had a field day, his 'runs and centres from the left wing being very telling and gratifying to a large portion of the crowd'. It was one of the winger's crosses that led to the opening goal after twenty-two minutes. Billy McLeod set off on a run but when he was blocked off by Fulham defenders he fed Sharpe on the flank. Speirs missed the chance when the cross came over, but it reached Price on the other wing and McLeod slipped the ball into an empty net when the ball was sent back in.
Five minutes before the break City went further ahead. They forced a series of corners and Hampson scored from one as he tumbled to the floor.
Just before the half time whistle, City had the opportunity for a third, after Marshall handled in the area, but Fulham keeper McDonald showed good anticipation in saving Sharpe's low spot kick.
Fulham pulled one goal back in the 64th minute when Pearce beat a number of City defenders before firing from distance past Hogg.
There were no further goals, though in the second half one marvellous centre by Sharpe, fired in almost from the corner flag, grazed the bar. City emerged victorious by two goals to one.
Colin reported for the Mercury, 'Leeds City fully deserved the points. They were smarter, and had a far better conception of combination forward than had Fulham ... McLeod was admirable in the first half, but later seemed inclined to take matters easy. Price and Jackson had plenty of opportunity to show their skill in the second half, and formed a useful, if not brilliant, right wing. Price got in one or two spirited runs but Jackson requires to infuse a little more dash into his efforts if his wing is to be as penetrative as the other. We can, however, expect this when he is better acquainted with his colleagues and his new surroundings. The half-back line was, perhaps, the most consistently sound department of the City team ... Law, Hampson and Foley were especially strong and reliable, and also judicious in their feeding, the latter player being one of the outstanding men on the field. Affleck and Foley so effectively quelled the Fulham right wing that the full-back had time to materially assist his colleagues. Hogg could hardly have been expected to save Pearce's shot, but on the whole he had a quiet time.'
City captured second spot on Boxing Day when they won the return at Fulham's Craven Cottage. McLeod got the only goal, heading home a splendid Sharpe centre with nineteen minutes remaining.
The onfield battles with the Londoners also gave rise to some conflict off the pitch.
City could not immediately pay Fulham their cut of the receipts from the Christmas Day encounter, and the London club retaliated by withholding money from the return game. The two clubs complained to the Football League Management Committee which passed judgement in February.
City reported that there had been a tram strike and that as a consequence many supporters had been delayed. There were no police to stop them rushing into the ground and as a result the club had to take admission money on account. The Committee were satisfied that City had acted in good faith and the club were let off with a verbal warning for not taking money on the gate. Fulham were ordered to pay the £20 4s 5d owed to City from the Boxing Day gate, plus three guineas expenses.
According to the minutes of the meeting, 'The Committee desire it to be known that while approving the course adopted by the Leeds City Club, under the exceptional circumstances, they do not approve of money being taken except through the regular and usual turnstiles and in the usual manner. Any departure from this course must be regarded with suspicion whether the gate is being pooled or not, and clubs in their own interests as well as evidence of honesty ought not to be parties thereto.'
The day after the Craven Cottage clash, City concluded their holiday programme with a game at Glossop. The match was spoiled by the conditions, with the pitch inches deep in mud, and a hailstorm and stiff wind making for an unpleasant afternoon's work.
The Peacocks fell behind in the first half, but equalised around the hour mark when Bainbridge accepted a short pass from Speirs to drive the ball home.
Leeds had been expected to win, but in the end were grateful to return home with a point following a Glossop performance that made a mockery of their lowly ranking. City were disappointed to slip to fourth, but they were only a point shy of Hull City, Notts County and Woolwich Arsenal and had games in hand on all three teams.
As the year ended, it was clear that City had their best chance yet of securing the promotion that they coveted so jealously.
Other Football Highlights from 1913/14