Season 1913/14 Part 2
Brink of glory
To the immense satisfaction of their supporters, Leeds City entered 1914 among the favourites for promotion to the First Division. A strong run through the autumn months included a record win against Nottingham Forest and they had suffered just one defeat since the middle of October. The Yorkshire Evening Post sagely cautioned, 'Among the Leeds City supporters there is a very confident feeling regarding the future. It is too early yet to strive at any definite conclusions, for Leeds City have a formidable programme towards the end of the campaign, but nothing succeeds like success, and providing the team holds together they must continue to be strongly fancied for promotion. What the team themselves have to guard against is over confidence.'
The early signs were positive - City opened the New Year in fine style with a breathtaking destruction of Stockport County by five goals to one. They were three goals to the good within a quarter of an hour through efforts from Jimmy Speirs, John Jackson (his first for the club) and Billy McLeod. Jackson and Ivan Sharpe added further scores before the break. County managed a consolation effort mid way through the second period but by then the issue was long since settled. As the Leeds Mercury noted, 'The forwards did not exert themselves too much after the interval as they were evidently satisfied with the formidable lead they had gained in the first half.'
The following week brought FA Cup action. City's opponents were Gainsborough Trinity, who were drawn out of the hat as the home team. Trinity, who lost their Football League status in 1912, agreed to waive the right to stage the game at their Northolme ground when City guaranteed them a payment of £500 so to do, reasoning that a larger crowd would attend in Yorkshire. The move backfired financially for City, as the 14,000 crowd provided receipts of just £520.
City began as if they would simply brush Trinity aside and Jackson opened the scoring within three minutes with a fine drive from Jack Hampson's pass. George Law made it 2-0 from long range in the 17th minute after goalkeeper Heath had fisted away a shot from Sharpe. McLeod added another from close quarters on the half hour and Speirs then had an effort disallowed. At that stage it looked like the Peacocks might run riot.
However, they became complacent, giving Trinity the opportunity to rediscover their backbone. The Lincolnshire men pulled one back just before half time through centre-forward Harold Ibbotson. The same player added a second immediately after the resumption. The result was in some doubt until Jackson grabbed a second goal ten minutes from time. A fifth by McLeod was disallowed for offside.
City stumbled thereafter into a brief but very damaging loss of form; they lost three consecutive League matches and went down 2-0 to West Bromwich in the second round of the Cup.
The game with West Brom, on January 31, offered City the opportunity to avenge the Cup defeat they suffered at the hands of Albion two years earlier when losing out to a controversial late goal.
There was huge interest and speculation as to whether Leeds could spring a surprise against one of the finest sides in the country. Founder members of the Football League, Albion had won the FA Cup twice in the 1890s and were captained by England left-back Jesse Pennington.
Earlier in the season, Pennington had been involved in a match fixing controversy.
A man calling himself Sam Johnston, but who was later identified as Pascoe Bioletti, had visited Pennington's shop in Smethwick in November and asked him whether it would be possible to influence the outcome of Albion's match with Everton at the end of the month. He offered Pennington £55, or £5 for each player, in the event of a draw or an Albion defeat. Bioletti refused to pay until after the match, but agreed to formally document his commitment on a memorandum sheet. Pennington reported the details of the exchange to his club chairman and the police and showed them the memorandum.
On the day of the match, Bioletti called again at Pennington's shop and asked whether they had a deal. The player indicated he had not yet had a chance to speak to his team mates. It was agreed that Bioletti would attend the match and Pennington would signal to confirm whether the deal was on. Bioletti showed Pennington a money bag, 'and shook it, making the contents jingle'.
Pennington never said a word to any of the other players about the arrangement, but coincidentally the match ended with honours even. After wards Pennington met Bioletti, ostensibly to collect the pay off. When Bioletti duly handed over the cash, detectives moved in to arrest him. The police found a book of football betting slips for a £1,500 bet he had placed on the game.
Pennington was the chief prosecution witness at the trial, where Bioletti pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months' imprisonment. He also received a six months' sentence for trying to bribe Birmingham full-back Frank Womack in a similar incident.
It was later revealed that Bioletti was the father of William Alfred Bioletti, who 'carried on a most extensive football coupon betting business in Geneva under the name of White Fisher. That firm issued circulars by thousands, inviting unwary people to back certain teams, and offered most advantageous odds.'
Pennington was not unduly disturbed by the episode and shook hands with Jimmy Speirs as the two captains tossed for choice of ends at the start of the City-Albion tie.
According to the report by Martin Jarred and Malcolm Macdonald on the game, 'Gates to the sixpenny entrances at Elland Road were shut tight 15 minutes before the kick off,' and 29,733 spectators (the best crowd of the season) flocked into Elland Road to witness the contest, paying receipts of £1,397.
With Evelyn Lintott making a rare appearance at right-half, it was City who showed best in the first half, after weathering early Albion pressure, and Speirs, Hampson and Jackson all went close to opening the scoring.
The Midlanders remained cool under pressure, with keeper Hubert Pearson in fine form, and their greater fitness told in the closing seconds, just as a replay seemed certain and spectators had started pouring out of the stadium.
With seconds remaining, right winger Claude Jephcott broke away down the flank and found Alf Bentley in space. The centre-forward trapped the ball and hammered it home left footed. According to the Yorkshire Post, 'Hogg made a desperate dive at the ball, but could not reach it, and it was only when he rose and picked the ball out of the net that the crowd realised that the Albion had scored.' In injury-time, Jephcott carved through City's tiring defence and added a second from close quarters. It was cruel reward for City's determined performance.
Yorkist in the Mercury: 'Those closing minutes can well be imagined. The match was finished in semi darkness, and a Bradford colleague made the remark, five minutes from the end, that it would be a great pity if either side was to snatch a goal in the gathering gloom. But it was the luck of the Albion to snatch two goals. Their big contingent of followers naturally went wild with delight, but the vast majority of the crowd, as they squeezed their way out of the ground, must have marvelled what a funny game football is.
'The game was to a great extent spoiled by a gusty wind which blew from the Elland Road end of the ground. The playing pitch was in excellent condition and it seemed a good omen for Leeds City when Speirs beat Pennington for the choice of ends, and thus gave Leeds City the assistance of the breeze in the first half.
'Leeds City did most of the pressing, but they were met by a magnificent defence, the work of the Albion half-backs and backs against the wind being really great. One of the features of this half was Sharpe's placing of corner kicks. He had four of these and each time he put the ball beautifully into goal. On the first three occasions Pearson punched the ball away, but on the fourth occasion, Hampson nearly scored with a header, the ball going just inches too high.'
Two of the other defeats suffered by City in their poor run were at the hands of promotion rivals Bradford Park Avenue and Notts County, though the most worrying reverse was the ultimate one at Leicester on 7 February, as reported by Yorkist.
'Soccer football is in a poor way at Leicester at present. Fosse have been doing badly, and in six League games since Christmas they had lost five and drawn one, losing at home to Blackpool and Woolwich Arsenal. As the club needed funds, they recently transferred Clay and Sparrow to Woolwich Arsenal, and this incensed the majority of the Fosse followers.
'The visit of Leeds City attracted no more than four thousand spectators. Fosse were expected to get another licking, but to the great delight of the crowd, the players gave one of their best displays of the season and won with ridiculous ease.
'It was a remarkable game in many respects, and the scoring was curious. Leeds City appeared to derive a great advantage by winning the toss, for there was a strong wind blowing almost straight from goal to goal. The Fosse, however, took the lead eight minutes after the start, and twenty minutes later they got two more in rapid succession, and thus made the issue practically certain.
'Leeds City never looked like saving the match. They reduced the lead of the Fosse fifteen minutes from the end, but Fosse fully held their own for the remainder of the game and scored two more goals in the last five minutes.
'The result flatters the Fosse considerably, for they are not a strong side. They are mostly young players and under ordinary circumstances Leeds City should have beaten them comfortably. But Leeds City are demoralised at present. They touched zero on Saturday and gave a very poor account of themselves.
'There was not one man on the side who played up to form with the possible exception of Croot, who filled the outside-left position through Ivan Sharpe being engaged in the amateur international at Plymouth. Croot played with plenty of dash, but all the other members of the team appeared to be demoralised and could do little right.
'It certainly seemed a risky experiment in playing Jackson at outside-right. He was never comfortable in that position and before half time he returned to his old place at inside-right, Price going on to the wing. The forward line was disjointed all through the piece.'
City still retained fifth place, but were six points off the promotion spots. Again, however, inconsistency was their watchword and they bounced back emphatically by defeating Wolves 5-0 on 14 February.
The Yorkshire Post reported, 'Seldom have the Leeds forwards been seen to greater advantage this season.' City were a single goal ahead at half-time, through McLeod, but the centre-forward completed his hat trick in the second period and Speirs and Sharpe added others to complete the rout.
Elsewhere that day, though pacesetters Notts County won at Glossop, all City's other rivals had setbacks. Woolwich Arsenal, Bradford, Hull and Bury were defeated while Fulham were held to a draw at Blackpool, considerably lifting the mood at Elland Road.
During the week that followed, City addressed one long standing concern. They had been seeking defensive reinforcements for some time and even tabled a record fee to one club, though their offer was rejected. Now though, Herbert Chapman got his man after persuading Huddersfield Town to release their 30-year-old right-back and captain. Fred Blackman was described by the Leeds Mercury as 'one of the best full-backs in the Second Division'. The Yorkshire Post was even more positive, calling him 'possibly the most stylish and polished back in the Second Division' with 'few equals as a tackler'.
Blackman, who began his career at Woolwich Arsenal, had joined Huddersfield from Brighton and Hove Albion a couple of years previously. He had been a mainstay of the Sussex club's rearguard, playing in the Brighton team that beat Leeds in the Cup in 1911. The fee was not disclosed, though it was confirmed as being 'upwards of £1,000'.
Days later the Elland Road club was rocked by the tragic news of chairman Norris Hepworth's death after a brief illness. Hepworth had been chairman of the board and chief benefactor since the club's formation and his generosity was legendary.
In March 1912, Hepworth appointed the Leeds accountant Tom Coombs as the club's official receiver. When the announcement was made, it was confirmed that at the start of that season the club's indebtedness to Hepworth stood at £10,733, out of a total debt of £13,297. A month later, at a public general meeting it was revealed that he had spent a total of £15,000 in trying to keep City going. At the time of his death the club's debt to Hepworth had risen to close on £18,000.
The Yorkshire Evening Post mused, 'Exactly how Mr Hepworth's death will affect the position of the Leeds City club can only be conjectured, but it may be supposed for the time being that the executors will not interfere with the running of the club which is in the hands of Mr Tom Coombs as Receiver.'
Hepworth, 57, was buried a week later at Lawnswood cemetery. Among the hundreds of mourners were City directors J W Bromley, J C Whiteman and A W Pullin, manager Herbert Chapman and Billy McLeod, Fred Croot, Jimmy Speirs and George Law from the playing staff. Tom Coombs and his wife were in attendance along with representatives from the J Hepworth and Son clothing firm and a multitude of sporting clubs and associations.
The next day a sombre Leeds eleven lost by a single goal at Hull City. Blackman made his debut in place of Charlie Copeland and the Mercury's Yorkist reported that he was 'the outstanding man on the Leeds City side ... He showed us on Saturday that he never gets flurried no matter how tight the corner he gets into. There is no force about him, and no hurry. He is one of the coolest backs in the country at the present time ... It may have been Blackman's influence, and it is a fact that Affleck played a fine game on Saturday.'
Yorkist claimed that 'City were desperately unlucky to lose.' Affleck and Hampson got in each other's way as they jumped for the ball, allowing Stevens to score off the post.
When City hosted Barnsley on 28 February, three England selectors were in the 20,000 crowd to take a look at Billy McLeod. He had a fine game, opening the scoring after half an hour when he prodded the ball home after Jackson failed to connect with a corner. Barnsley claimed offside, but the referee confirmed the goal after consulting a linesman. Ivan Sharpe added two further efforts, one from the penalty spot, to wrap up a comprehensive 3-0 victory.
The win left City fourth. Notts County had pulled well clear of the pack at the top, but the Peacocks were still defiantly battling with Woolwich Arsenal, Hull City and Bradford Park Avenue for second spot, with a host of clubs a couple of points further back.
On 2 March, Leeds faced one of that chasing pack, Clapton Orient, at Homerton in one of their games in hand; it turned out to be a controversial engagement.
The Clapton management arranged for the Monday afternoon fixture to kick off at 4.30pm in an attempt to maximise gate receipts, though only 7,000 people turned up. Floodlights were as yet not widely available, and it was inevitable that the game would finish in semi-darkness.
City protested. Stephen Studd in Herbert Chapman: Football Emperor: 'After some argument they agreed to 4.20, but the referee and linesmen arrived late. The game was further delayed when the referee ordered Leeds goalkeeper Scott to change his jersey, in keeping with the League rule of 1909 that keepers must wear distinctive colours. By the time Scott had changed his blue jersey for something less like the blue and gold of his colleagues, the ten minutes' grace had been swallowed up. By half time it was obvious the rest of the game would continue in darkness, and to save time the referee ordered the players to stay on the field for an interval of two minutes only.'
'By a quarter to six,' the Yorkshire Post reported, 'it was practically impossible to distinguish players in midfield ... The referee asked the linesmen if they could follow the ball and, receiving an affirmative reply, the game was allowed to proceed. It was quite certain, however, that the players themselves could not follow the ball.'
City had taken the lead, but as the gloom thickened they conceded three goals in quick succession. Billy Scott, playing only his second game of the season in the absence of the injured Hogg, claimed he was unable to see the last two shots.
Studd: 'The result stood because the referee, after consulting his linesmen, decided that Scott could have seen the ball coming at him. A furious Chapman regarded the affair as an outrage, and assured the referee he would lodge an appeal against "this insult" ... The incident goes a long way to explaining Chapman's later enthusiasm for floodlit football.'
The outcome of City's appeal was recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Football League Management Committee on 17 March: 'On behalf of Leeds City it was urged that Clapton Orient fixed the kick off at the unreasonably late hour of 4.30, notwithstanding a protest by the visiting club that it was too late; that on arriving at the ground they were asked by Clapton Orient to kick off at 4.20, to which they agreed, but the game did not commence until 4.29; that though no interval was taken the game did not finish until 6-7 pm; that during the second half Leeds City players claimed that the light was too bad for football; that the referee himself had considerable doubt as to the light some time before the end of the game, as he consulted the linesmen; and that it was so dark that when the last two goals were scored by Clapton Orient the goalkeeper and full-backs of Leeds City did not see the ball.
'"The Committee decided that there was no rule or precedent entitling them to interfere with the result, and the match therefore must stand.
'The Committee were further of opinion that the time fixed for the kick off was unduly late, and that in consequence the game was played in a bad light during the closing minutes. Further, it was clear that Clapton Orient realised that the light was not likely to hold out and shortly before the match suggested an earlier kick off. Such was contrary to the decisions of the Management Committee, and the action of the Clapton Orient club in fixing the kick off so late accounted for all the trouble.
'The Clapton Orient Club were, therefore, fined 25 guineas out of which the expenses of Leeds City and the referee and linesmen will be paid.'
The findings were of scant consolation to City, who had missed out on vital League points, and they dropped another when drawing 1-1 at Bury on 7 March.
Hogg was back in goal, but Speirs was out through injury. Price moved to inside-left to cover and Sharpe onto the right wing to allow Croot to come in at No 11.
The changes didn't adversely affect City and they played well, coming close to scoring twice in the first ten minutes. Bury were denied a penalty when the referee refuted claims that Affleck had handled in the area, but almost immediately the Gigg Lane side were successful with a second appeal after Foley was adjudged to have handled. Perry netted from the spot.
Within fifteen minutes, City were level. Foley, as if to atone for his sins, put Jackson through. He played a one two with Sharpe and scored from the return pass.
McLeod had an off day, but was on fire a week later, netting a hat trick against Huddersfield as City won 5-1. Town took the lead after ten minutes and dominated the first half hour. Hampson headed home a Croot corner in the 30th minute to bring the sides level and McLeod edged City ahead a minute before the break. From then on it was all Leeds and they secured an emphatic victory.
Defeat by a single goal the following week away to struggling Lincoln City was a grim wake up call. The Evening Post: 'Leeds City were a sadly disappointing team at Lincoln ... They were extremely lucky in escaping with such a narrow margin of defeat, for Lincoln City failed to convert a penalty and one of their forwards missed an open goal. The visitors ... were accompanied by nearly a thousand supporters, who could not restrain their disgust at the tame and listless display which their favourites gave.'
The Leeds Mercury lamented, 'It is now practically certain that Leeds City are not to get promotion this season.' The epitaph was somewhat premature, and when City beat Blackpool 2-1 on March 28 they were suddenly back in with a chance as Hull and Woolwich Arsenal lost and Bradford drew at home to Barnsley. The Yorkshire Post piped up, 'Leeds ... are not the only team among the candidates suffering from staleness just now.'
The following week they faced struggling Nottingham Forest, whom they had thrashed 8-0 in November. It was astonishing, therefore, that City should slip up once more, losing 2-1.
The Mercury: 'Woolwich and Bradford again failed to get on the winning side, but Leeds City lost ... Thus have they again greatly jeopardised their chance of promotion ... It is perfectly true that they had a certain amount of bad luck inasmuch as Hampson and Croot each hit the crossbar, but it cannot be said that they were unfortunate to lose.'
While the team were having such a wretched time in the East Midlands, Elland Road was the scene of a high profile occasion.
Despite the memory of disastrous outcomes when the stadium had previously staged prestigious FA Cup-ties, the Football Association chose Elland Road to host the Amateur Cup final that same afternoon, 4 April.
In March 1910, the FA selected Elland Road as the venue for the semi final between Barnsley and Everton. The occasion was ruined by inept administration. Club officials claimed that the stadium could comfortably house 50,000 spectators. The gates were closed an hour before kick off with less than 40,000 inside as fans swarmed towards the site from all directions.
Undeterred by the farcical scenes, two years later the FA opted for Elland Road again when a neutral venue was required for a replay after Bradford City and Barnsley drew in the fourth round. Again, the stadium was swamped and club officials locked the turnstiles with thousands outside. The move prompted a riot and an angry mob stormed the ground, causing a spill over onto the pitch. They were ushered off eventually, but trespassed again at half time and with play impossible, the referee abandoned the match.
In 1914, thankfully, the occasion went off without incident as Bishop Auckland beat Northern Nomads 1-0. When the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Edward Brotherton, had presented the trophy and medals after the game, he spoke of the great enjoyment he had had from watching the game. The outcome was something of a vindication for City's management, even though the attendance was much more in keeping with the stadium's practical capacity.
The Easter programme had arrived, with the concentrated fixture list expected to provide its customary clarification of key issues.
Leaders Notts County were without a fixture on Good Friday, April 10, but the other teams were in action. City faced a stiff test at Bristol City, a team with only defeat at home all season. They had conceded just eight goals in11 games at Ashton Gate.
Leeds welcomed back Speirs after five matches out with a knee injury. They played well and took the lead after eighteen minutes through McLeod. Foley was left free from a throw in and sent over a beautiful cross to find McLeod in the goal area. The centre-forward shot well but goalkeeper Ware parried the ball. McLeod reacted quickest and slammed the loose ball into the roof of the net. Within five minutes Bristol had equalised, though there was a suspicion that goalscorer Brown used his hands in the process. The Citizens persuaded the referee to consult the linesman, but the score was allowed. There were no further goals and the outcome was a creditable draw.
The big game the following day brought Woolwich Arsenal to Elland Road, third against fourth, with the losers likely to see their promotion hopes at an end.
City were once again missing Speirs, whose knee had given way against Bristol. The Yorkshire Post: 'A strong wind made the task of controlling the ball difficult, and for this reason a good many promising movements on each side came to nothing. The City had to face the wind to commence with, but they showed much the better form in the first quarter of an hour. McLeod sent in a hot shot in the first half minute, and later there were scoring efforts by the same player and Price, while on one occasion Hampson made a desperate attempt to head the ball into the net. Gradually the Arsenal rallied, and, aided by the wind, they gave the City defence some anxious moments.
'The second period of play, which ran greatly in Leeds City's favour was also unproductive, though the City thought they were unlucky in not being allowed two claims for goals. In the one case, about a quarter of an hour from the resumption, Sharpe sent across an excellently judged flag kick. The ball bobbed about in front of goal until finally Hampson jumped at it and headed it into the net. There was the usual hand shaking at this success, but while the City players were congratulating themselves on having scored, the referee was pointing to the goal line and ordering a free kick for the Arsenal goalkeeper having been impeded.
'The other disallowed claims came in the last two or three minutes. There had been a melee near the corner of the Arsenal goal, and Sharpe hooked the ball away from Lievesley's reach. Benson ... rushed up and kicked the ball out as the City men were appealing for the ball being in goal; and the referee signalled for play to proceed.'
The goalless draw served as a benefit match for long serving winger Fred Croot. He had been guaranteed £250, and with an attendance of 22,500 producing receipts of £743, he eventually received £450, a fitting reward for an outstanding servant.
The same day Notts County's 2-0 defeat of Bury confirmed both their promotion and the title, while Bradford won and Hull lost at Wolverhampton.
The Easter Monday programme saw Bradford lose at Forest to undermine their challenge. Previously, they had looked odds on to join Notts County in the First Division, but now they were right back in the thick of things, especially when Woolwich Arsenal's 4-0 hammering of Stockport was confirmed.
City's chances looked tenuous, but all they could do was win their games and hope that other results would go in their favour. The Peacocks faced Bristol City at Elland Road on Easter Monday without both Speirs and Hampson, missing for only the second time since his arrival at the club. Neil Turner was called up from the reserves to allow Ivan Sharpe to appear in his favoured left wing role and centre-half Harry Peart made his debut.
Turner scored the only goal of the game after twenty-five minutes, allowing City to secure both points, despite McLeod being a limping passenger in the second half. He was kicked by Bristol keeper Ware, resulting in a penalty for Leeds, but Sharpe's kick was saved by the custodian.
The hectic programme went on for City, as they faced Clapton Orient at Elland Road the following day, their fourth game in five days. Victory would take them above Woolwich Arsenal into third, just a point behind second placed Bradford.
They welcomed back Hampson, but Speirs was still unfit and Leeds now had to contend with the absence of Billy McLeod. Joe Dougherty, signed from Darlington Forge in February, was consequently given his debut.
Much of the creative burden fell upon Ivan Sharpe. He played well enough and City enjoyed most of the play, but they were clearly tired. With Orient defenders spending the last twenty minutes obsessively hoofing the ball out of play to waste time, City could not find a way through and the game ended goalless.
In memory of the earlier contentious game between the two sides, wags in the crowd offered candles and matches to Orient goalkeeper Bower to ensure he would be able to see the ball!
The draw left Leeds fourth, two points behind Bradford and one shy of Arsenal, with two games left to play. Promotion was now very much an outside bet for the Peacocks.
Luck was with them in the next fixture, away to Grimsby on April 18, with Tommy Lamph making his debut at left-half. The wind diverted a centre by Arthur Price into the net for the only goal of the contest.
The same afternoon, Bradford won 3-0 at Lincoln, but the Arsenal had to be content with a draw against Clapton. This allowed City to rise to third, but when the Gunners won their game in hand in midweek against Grimsby the two teams alternated positions. Leeds had 45 points, both their rivals 47, and all had one match remaining, on their home soil, on April 25. City had the most favourable goal average but would need to beat Birmingham, and pray that Arsenal and Bradford both lost, to Grimsby and Blackpool respectively. It was a very tall order.
There was no miracle. The Peacocks, with Speirs finally restored to their ranks, beat Birmingham 3-2, but both of their rivals enjoyed emphatic victories, with Bradford's superior goal average taking them up.
City took the lead after ten minutes when Price shot home from a McLeod pass. Birmingham equalised, but then the home men went ahead again when Stanton conceded an own goal as he attempted to clear. Birmingham levelled once more just before the break from a free kick. Leeds regained the lead almost from the restart when Hauser could not hold a fiery drive by Sharpe, allowing McLeod to tap home the rebound. There were no further scores.
News was filtering through that their rivals were winning, and there was an understandable lack of vigour in a typical end of the season match. The points were secured, but there was little celebration, though the fourth place finish earned each player a £10 bonus.
Too many things had gone against City after Christmas: their poor run in January, the controversial defeat in the darkness at Clapton, the capitulation at Forest and Lincoln, and the loss of Speirs' intelligence and creativity for nine crucial games during the run in, when they won just eleven points.
Leeds City finished with six points fewer than champions Notts County, but only two less than Bradford and Arsenal. '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.'
Herbert Chapman recognised the lack of reserve strength as a key weakness, with the second string finishing bottom of their league. In March, in a bid to remedy matters, he recruited John Chaplin, a former Spurs, Manchester City and Dundee player, to serve as assistant trainer with special responsibility for improving the reserves.
There had been an astonishing turnaround in the two seasons since Chapman had arrived at the club. City had gone from begging for survival to a place among the Second Division's elite. They were a formidable outfit at Elland Road, where they lost two games and conceded 16 goals. Their away form was also more robust.
After such a promising season, the supporters could anticipate 1914/15 with real hope and enthusiasm, but the summer's events were to bring a sudden and devastating halt to any further progress.