Book of the week: The Life and Times of Herbert Chapman by Patrick Barclay
Saturday 04 January 2014
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
Latest in Sport
Angel Di Maria reveals wish to return to Argentina - but don't worry Manchester United fans...
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Husain Abdullah penalised after celebrating a touchdown with a Muslim prayer - causing mass outrage among fans
Robin van Persie reveals Louis van Gaal wants Manchester United to 'be more Dutch and pull on the same rope'
Manchester United risk Uefa row over plan to play lucrative midweek friendlies
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so