1930 And All That
Tomorrow sees us meet with Huddersfield Town in the F.A. Cup. With the possible exception of a North London derby, it is difficult to imagine a fixture more drenched in interlinking history. As you`ll no doubt be aware, the two sides in the 1930 F.A. Cup Final and find their between world war histories inextricably linked by the genius of Herbert Chapman, whose magic wand transformed both teams. (You may recall we played a memorial friendly with the Terriers in August 2008, my report for which can be found here). Any Arsenal fan worth their salt knows that Chapman turned Arsenal into the premier team of the 1930s, but fewer I suspect would be aware that he did much the same for the Yorkshire side in the 1920s. In the tradition of our current epoch making manager, Herbert Chapman enjoyed a modest playing career (he played for Spurs after all). Following a quietly impressive stint as player manager at Northampton Town at the turn of the century, Chapman attracted interest from Leeds City.
However, he met ignominy there when he was banned from football by the F.A. citing financial irregularities for payments made to players. Chapman took a job at a coke works in Selby during his ban and planned his appeal. Huddersfield Town were interested in bringing Chapman to their club as an assistant to Manager Ambrose Langley and agreed to help him with his appeal. Chapman pointed out to the appeals committee that he had been fighting in World War I when the illegal payments were made and therefore could not have known about them. He was absolved of all wrong doing by the F.A. and was allowed to join the Town`s coaching staff. (They wouldn`t be known by their current nickname of "The Terriers" until the late 1960s). Chapman served the 1920-21 season as assistant to Langley, but he was an ambitious, upwardly mobile man who would not play second fiddle for long. Langley resigned at the end of the campaign and Chapman took the reins. He didn`t just want to manage the team in the contemporary sense of the word. In his ground breaking book on tactics, Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson remarks, "He was- in Britain at least- the first modern manager. The first to take control of club from signings, to selection, to tactics." Legendary Arsenal full back Eddie Hapgood later remarked in his autobiography that Chapman also told his players how to dress and how to style their hair!
Chapman got straight to work with some eye catching signings. He took Clem Stephenson- the man who would succeed Chapman as Manager- from Aston Villa and 18 year old unknown striker George Brown. Brown is still Huddersfield`s record goal scorer as I write. But he also made off the pitch reforms, becoming the first ever British manager to employ full time physiotherapists and masseurs. It`s notable that, as with Ferguson today, a lot of Chapman`s protégés went into management themselves. I have already mentioned Clem Stephenson, but when he arrived at Arsenal in 1925, he appointed Tom Whittaker as physio- Whittaker also went onto manager Arsenal and, like Chapman, died in office. Herbert encouraged his players to reflect on their performances and often held team meetings to discuss tactics, practises that were an anathema to football in that day and age. Indeed, it was during a heated exchange with Arsenal striker Charlie Buchan in 1925 that they fell upon the WM formation idea that is now legion. He also encouraged his team to indulge in extra-curricular activities away from training, such as golf days, such was his belief in the importance of camaraderie amongst his charges. Again, such managerial manoeuvres are commonplace today but were looked upon with scorn and suspicion when Chapman introduced them.
He also took a leading role with Huddersfield`s reserve team, making sure they played the same counter attacking style as his first team. His reforms found instant success, winning the F.A. Cup in his first season in 1922. Huddersfield won the league in the 1923-24 season and repeated the trick in 1924-25. Arsenal had just finished 20th, yet when Henry Norris came calling, Chapman found the lure of the capital too strong to resist. "What a challenge there is in London! I would like to build a Newcastle United down there." During this time, the North very much had a hegemony on association football; the more affluent south was still very much beholden to rugby and cricket. Chapman saw the potential in the capital to build its first great football team. He saw Arsenal as an enticing project and told autocratic chairman Henry Norris that it would take five years for his reforms to bear the fruits of silverware. With the precision one would expect given his background in engineering, Chapman delivered on time. Meanwhile, the team he had built in his native Yorkshire, continued to flourish without him, securing a hat trick of league titles in 1926. Just as he did for Allison, Chapman left Clem Stephenson with a fine side that needed little drilling. However, it`s notable that his legacy proved to be a huge shadow at both Town and Arsenal. Huddersfield never recovered from the decline of the post war years, managing a third placed finish in Division 1 in 1953 was as good as it got after Stephenson`s rein. They slipped down the divisions and have stayed ensconced below the top flight. Arsenal managers found the strain of his legacy a difficult burden to bear, Tom Whittaker found the stresses of the job eventually contributed to his death whilst still in position as manager. The 1971 double team spoke of the crippling glare of the Jacob Epstein bust proving a huge psychological hurdle in the late 60s. It`s reported that Billy Wright used to shake his fist menacingly at Herbert upon his entrance to the Marble Halls.
Chapman implemented his WM formation at Arsenal, where an extra defender was deployed in response to fluctuations in offside legislation and it took his side a while to adjust. But progress was evident and in the summer of 1929, he pulled off the two signings that completed the puzzle. He wanted a quick transition counter attacking game, which relied on a canny passer and a fleet footed winger. Having secured Cliff Bastin`s signature from Exeter City, Chapman then swooped for Scottish wizard Alex James from Preston North End. Though the Gunners finished 11th in the First Division in 1929-30, they did reach the F.A. Cup Final. A contentious semi final replay win over Hull City giving them another shot at a showpiece final after 'keeper Dan Lewis` misfortune in the 1927 Cup final defeat to Cardiff City. Fittingly enough, Arsenal met Huddersfield Town. Ever the pioneer, Chapman asked that both sides walk out together side by side. This of course, is now a custom that persists to this day. Arsenal started the game well and found themselves in the lead on 17 minutes. Bastin and James reportedly had a discussion on the coach to Wembley that revolved around their set piece plans. James told Bastin that if Arsenal won a free kick on the left, he would play it quickly to Bastin. Bastin was to draw the defender and then nudge the ball back to James. Naturally, this is exactly how the first goal came about. Bastin was fouled by Town full back Goodall, James quickly pushed the ball to Bastin who set the trap. Goodall took the bait, deserting his post to attend to Bastin. Bastin then played the ball back to James, who took a touch before lashing a shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Huddersfield spent much of the rest of the game laying siege on Arsenal`s goal, but Chapman had the Arsenal defence, marshalled by captain Tom Parker, well drilled. Goalkeeper Bill Preedy played a virtual sweeper role in the game, causing Bastin to later remark in his autobiography, "His daring antics nearly caused heart failure amongst his colleagues." Arsenal played as the snake in the grass, lying idle and compact for long period, before striking quickly with venom. The match has passed into folklore due to an non paying spectator. The German airship Graf Zeppelin hovered menacingly low over the 92,499 crowd. The Graf Zeppelin was, at the time, the largest airship ever made at a gargantuan 776 feet long. It was also the first airship to breach a million miles on the clock prior to its retirement in 1937. On 83 minutes, with Huddersfield committing all their resources to attack, Arsenal killed the game off with military precision. James pounced on a loose ball inside his own half, before playing a sailing pass to the halfway line for Jack Lambert. Lambert bore down on Turner`s goal and buried his chance with aplomb. In keeping with his spirit de corps, Chapman broke another tradition and invited the Huddersfield players to dine with his Arsenal team that evening- an invitation graciously accepted.
Arsenal had won their first ever major trophy (Woolwich Arsenal had won a Kent Senior Cup) and opened the floodgates for an era of dominance, winning the league title in the next season. The game is still noted for the generous spirit it was played in (it is thought that there were less than ten fouls in the whole match), possibly a consequence of the respect that the teams had for one another in reverence to Chapman. Town manager that day Clem Stephenson I remind you, was Chapman`s captain at Huddersfield. The Yorkshire side never recaptured the decorations of that era, save for a fitting second placed finish to Arsenal in 1934 just four months after Chapman`s untimely death. Arsenal remain one of English football`s behemoths thanks eternally to Chapman. Huddersfield will travel to London tomorrow two leagues and several major trophies behind us, but the game should serve as a reminder that our histories are interlinked forever. If Chapman`s legacy teaches us anything, it is that Huddersfield also arrive as equals, even if it was more than 80 years ago that Chapman elevated them above us.LD.
The teams in the 1930 Final were as follows:
Arsenal: 1.Preedy, 2.Parker(c), 3.Hapgood, 4.Baker, 5.Seddon, 6.John, 7.Hulme, 8.Jack, 9.Lambert, 10.James, 11.Bastin.
Huddersfield Town: 1.Turner, 2.Goodall, 3.Spence, 4.Naylor, 5.Wilson(c), 6.Campbell, 7.Jackson, 8.Kelly, 9.Davies, 10.Raw, 11.Smith.
Arsenal`s Bill Seddon was the last surviving member of either team, before he died in January 1993 at the age of 91.
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