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Frank Grey, 1945: Chapman, the greatest

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-05-04 16:49:17

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Frank Grey | 04/01/1945

Herbert Chapman did more than any man between the two wars to make football popular. He brought added interest to the game when the public were looking around for something new." So said a famous footballer to me when we were recently discussing the merits of managers. There can be no doubt that Herbert Chapman, the good footballer, became the greatest manager of all time.
When a young man he played for Swindon Town, Sheppy United, and Tottenham Hotspur. It was, while with the Spurs, that he first seriously thought of becoming a manager. As a matter of fact, by sheer chance the opportunity to take an interest in the managerial side of the game was put in his way.
After the last reserve game of the season at White Hart Lane, Tottenham, Chapman was in the bath, talking to a colleague, Walter Bull, when the latter remarked: “I've been offered the managership of Northampton Town, Herbert, but I'm not very keen on it. Why don't you apply?"
Chapman realised that he had but a few more years of football ahead of him, so he applied to the “Cobblers" and received preference over several more distinguished players. The Northampton Town directors saw in the small but big-hearted Herbert Chapman a man of vision; an administrator who looked far beyond current problems.
At once Herbert commenced to build for Northampton, then languishing at the foot of the Southern League, a team capable of taking them to the top. He did; the “Cobblers,” on gates never averaging more than £100, beating their more famous opponents.
Later, Herbert Chapman moved on "for experience,” as he once said to Leeds City, and then Huddersfield Town. At Huddersfield he first made his great reputation, by clever "buys," and the discovery of a great deal of amateur talent; took his team right to the top in League and Cup.
While with Huddersfield he secured from Aston Villa the transfer of Clem Stephenson. The Villa at the time considered that Clem had passed his best; but Chapman, planning to build a great team, saw in Stephenson the very man around whom the team he visioned would function.
Again his foresight paid super-dividends. Great sums of money passed into the Huddersfield coffers; honours were won. And all the time, behind the scenes, Herbert Chapman was planning for the future.
When he left Huddersfield Town for Arsenal the London club's fortunes were at a low ebb! Few people know this, but when they left South London for Highbury they only had £19 in the bank!
It did not take the shrewd manager long to see that something more than a football team was needed to make Highbury a profitable move. A super-team, complete with a super-ground, plus glamour, became his aim.
First of all he cast his eyes around for men around whom he could build a great team. At Huddersfield, Clem Stephenson was his choice. At Arsenal, Alex James, of Preston and Scotland, and David Jack, of Bolton and England, were selected. But such stars cost money — and Arsenal were reported at the time to be in debt. Chapman found a way round the difficulty, however, and James, in return for £9,000, and Jack, when a £10,340 cheque changed hands, packed their bag and moved to London, Arsenal, and even greater fame.
David Halliday (£6,500), from Sunderland, Wilf Copping (Leeds), £8,000, and Charlie Buchan, whom Arsenal paid, in addition to the fee, £100 extra for every goal he scored in a specified number of months, are others who laid the foundation for the success of “modern” Arsenal.
Chapman, who sensed the value of the Press in putting over his team, also went carefully into the explanation of everything associated with the Arsenal. For instance, he made Herbert Roberts his centre-half, into a "policeman pivot,” or, as he put it himself, a "third-back."
Alex James, who had been scoring many goals for Preston, took over the centre-half's duties in mid-field, and thus rarely became a scorer. This fact was seized upon by Chapman. His foresight brought out the qualities of Clifford Bastin, a lad from Exeter, who had won every big honour of football before he reached his twenty-first brithday.
Chapman, who sensed the value of the dramatic, was a great sportsman. No man played for his team who did not live up to the true spirit of sportsmanship. Chapman preached on this subject in a local chapel, and himself always showed that understanding which stamps the gentleman and sportsman.
For instance, after the Arsenal had been beaten by Walsall in a now historic match, he was in the Walsall Board — room, when someone from another club delighted at Arsenal's defeat, grinned: "Well, Chapman, what have you got to say about to-day?" Keeping his temper, the Arsenal manager replied: "Walsall played grandly. There is no excuse. They deserved their win."
Only a sportsman could have given such an answer to one who was trying hard to goad him into an argument.
Chapman, prince of Soccer managers, made Arsenal the team everyone went to see. The club followers in the North did not like to see the Londoners always winning — but they paid to see them! In this way they helped football by bringing more money.
Chapman knew the football public. That's why he never failed. When he died, at the all-too-early age of 55, League football lost a great man.