Book of the week: The Life and Times of Herbert Chapman by Patrick Barclay

 

Is Herbert Chapman the greatest football manager this nation has seen? Patrick Barclay, while leaving the reader to decide for him(or her)self, mounts a very persuasive case for the Arsenal legend of the Twenties and Thirties who “scythed the path along which all British managers have walked”.

His management career started almost by accident. A journeyman League player, at nearly 30 in 1907 he was about to retire and make a career in engineering when a Spurs team-mate who had been appointed player/manager at Northampton changed his mind, telling Chapman: “You will have to take my place”.

He did, transforming the club’s fortunes over five years before moving to manage Leeds City. But in 1918 Leeds folded amid accusations of illicit player payments and he received a life ban from the FA. Yet this seems to have been quickly forgotten, as by 1921 he was managing Huddersfield Town.

There began his years of glory, as he led them to two League titles and an FA Cup win before moving to Arsenal four years later, where he repeated the feat before dying of pneumonia in 1934 aged only 55.

What made him so special? Barclay instances tactical genius, brilliant man-management, a keen eye for a player and the ability to impose an enduring structure on previously struggling outfits – both Huddersfield and Arsenal went on to win the League the season after his departure. He was also endlessly innovative: the first man to put numbers on shirts, a pioneer of artificial pitches and an early enthusiast of floodlights.

Anyone, Gooner or not, who gazes up at his statue standing in slightly paunchy, plus-foured glory in front of the Emirates stadium and desires to learn more about the Yorkshireman who first took Arsenal to the heights need look no further than this, surely definitive, biography.

Published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk