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Herbert Chapman at Huddersfield Town

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Victory Through Harmony

By Tony Attwood

We play Huddersfield Town rarely, so now that we have one of those  moments it is worth, I think, having a look at the eternal link that binds the two clubs together: Herbert Chapman.   In this article I focus on the great man at Huddersfield.

When football was suspended during the first world war Herbert Chapman, who had been manager of Leeds City FC, left his post and worked as a manager of a munitions factory in Barnbow, near Leeds.  But just before football came to an end Herbert’s team played Arsenal in the form of second division league matches, first between Leeds City and Woolwich Arsenal and then the following season between Leeds City and The Arsenal.

Woolwich Arsenal ended their time at Plumstead with a dire season and relegation to division II.  But the following season was much better.  On December 6 Woolwich Arsenal beat Leeds City 1-0 at Highbury  in front of 18,000.  The return match on April 11 was a 0-0 draw with 22,000 in the crowd.   Arsenal played on April 10, 11 and 13th that Easter – winning one, drawing one and losing one.

The following season the clubs drew 2-2 away at Leeds (October 3, 12,000) and The Arsenal won at home 2-0 on February 6 in front of 10,000.  By this time war had been declared but the league continued until the end of the season.   When football resumed on August 30, 1919, Arsenal were in division one and Leeds City no longer existed – as we can see below.

In 1918 when the war concluded Herbert returned to Leeds City and resumed his work, but only a few months later (and with football just consisting of friendly games – the league not resuming until August 1919) he resigned, moved to Selby and apparently gave up football to become a superintendent at an oil and coke works.

Leeds City were subsequently reported by some former player of paying “guest” players who had appeared for them in war time friendlies – something that was outlawed.  But the case on both sides was dubious.

The League had no documentary proof save the say-so of the ex-players  – but then there was not likely to be any, as “guest” players who had been paid (if there were any) would have been paid cash and no records kept.   But Leeds City would not give the League their detailed financial records, and so in the arbitrary way that it often deals with these things, the Football League removed Leeds City from membership, and suspended five officials, for life.  After eight matches in the 1912-20 season Leeds City were expelled from the league, and their fixtures were taken over by Port Vale, who bizarrely were able to county the eight games Leeds City had played  (four wins two draws and two defeats) as their own!

Leeds City was wound up, the players sold, and out of the mists a new club appeared using the same ground: Leeds United.  They were admitted to the league for the 1920/21 season, replacing Grimsby in Division 2!  Hardly a victory for anyone.

For Herbert Chapman however matters went from bad to worse since in late December 1920 he was laid off from his job at the coke works.  He was unemployed, and banned for life from his main mode of activity.

Then he was approached by Huddersfield Town to be assistant to Ambrose Langley, who had played with Herbert Chapman’s brother Harry at The Wednesday (where Harry had made over 200 appearances).

Working with the support of Huddersfield, Herbert then appealed against his life ban, using the most obvious of cases that since he had been helping the nation’s war effort during much of the war, and had not been involved with the club, and since the League had no idea when any illicit activity had taken place (since it hadn’t seen the records) they couldn’t possibly know that there was a case against him.

Even a five year old child could see that the case against Herbert Chapman obviously had no basis, and after just a month’s unemployment he became an employee of Huddersfield Town on 1 February 1921, soon replacing the incumbent manager.

Huddersfield were formed in 1908 and had been members of the North Eastern League and Midland League in the years before joining the Football League in1910.  They had  remained in the second division, but in 1919/20 their form had exploded as they won promotion to Division I and were FA Cup finalists.

In 1921/22 (Herbert’s first full season in charge) they won their first ever trophy: the FA Cup and in 1923/24 they become 1st division champions – an astonishing rise, just 14 years after entering the league.  Thereafter they were champions of the first division three times running (the first two managed by Chapman) followed by two years as runners-up.   They were also finalists in 1927-28 and 1929-30.

Huddersfield League position Arsenal League position
1920/21 17 9
1921/2 14 17
1922/3 3 11
1923/4 1 19
1924/5 1 20
1925/6 1 2

Much of the football that Herbert installed at Huddersfield would be recognisable today: a counter-attacking game, quick passing, solid defence.  There was also the revolutionary insistence that the club played as a club, rather than building a club around the players available.  This meant that the second and third teams would play in the same style as the first team.

In 1924-5 Huddersfield also set up another record – by becoming the first team to win the league without letting in more than two goals in any game all season.

Herbert Chapman did not make Huddersfield’s success out of next to nothing in the way that he did at Arsenal, but rather he built on the promotion winning cup finalists and developed the club from there.  But Arsenal supporters owe a lot to Huddersfield for the generally forgotten story of rescuing him from unemployment and a banning order.  While many other clubs would have turned away from the man on the grounds that he had been found guilty by the league, Huddersfield had the foresight to see that the accusations against him were utterly untenable and that he would be the man to build on their earlier success.

That they lost him to Arsenal was probably just a matter of money.  It is said that Henry Norris wanted the best man for Arsenal, and clearly that was the man who had just delivered two league championships to the most unlikely of contenders.   Norris is reported in many quarters as having been very tight with him money, but it is also reported that he doubled Herbert Chapman’s salary to get him away from Huddersfield.

In his last season with Huddersfield Herbert’s team crushed Arsenal 4-0 and 5-0, the latter at Highbury.  In the following season (1925-6) with Herbert Chapman now at Arsenal, there was a 2-2 draw in Yorkshire, and a 3-1 for Arsenal at Highbury.

After the move there was an inevitable final twist.  In 1930 Chapman led Arsenal and Huddersfield onto the field in the FA Cup Final – as Arsenal won their first ever big time trophy.

There is one final twist in this match in January 2011 – Benik Afobe, who is on loan to Huddersfield and who has permission to play for the club in the cup match against Arsenal.  He has played 7 times for Huddersfield and made six sub appearances since joining in November.   Benik has won the Premier Academy League, having joined Arsenal age 9, and has played for England under 17s winning the Euro Championships with them last year.

Arsenal History….

The Index

Making the Arsenal – the story of 1910

The man who followed Chapman

Arsenal Today

Untold Arsenal

2 comments to Herbert Chapman at Huddersfield Town

  • Tony Attwood

    According to the BBC this evening Afobe can’t play because he was loaned as part of a youth loan scheme, which seemingly has different rules.

    I imagine the BBC is right on this, so my apologies for misleading you in the final section of the report.

  • Andy Kelly

    The 1930 FA Cup Final was the first that both teams were led out together.

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