Huddersfield FanZoner Kyle Warwick pays tribute to the club's legendary manager Herbert Chapman, who passed away 80 years ago this week.
Eighty years ago this week, on the 6th of January 1934, a 55-year-old man passed away due to the onset of pneumonia. He was a man that had revolutionised the game of football during a managerial career that saw him win multiple league and FA Cup titles. That man was Herbert Chapman.
As a Huddersfield Town fan I have always been aware of the great Herbert Chapman. After all he was the man who took The Terriers to their first and only FA Cup triumph in 1922. This amazing feat was followed up with consecutive league titles in 1924 and 1925.
These achievements make him Huddersfield's most successful manager. Yet though Chapman's achievements at the club may be well remembered some of the details may have slipped out of memory. Chapman arrived at Huddersfield as assistant manager in February 1921 working under then manager Ambrose Langley. And when Ambrose resigned a month later to take up a job as manager of a public house, Chapman was promoted to manager.
Chapman's first order of business was to sign an on field leader for a team that he himself described as young and talented yet lacking "a general to lead them". That man was Aston Villa's two time FA Cup winner Clem Stephenson, who was signed for the princely sum of £4000. Whilst the fee was frowned upon by some at the time, Stephenson soon proved to be exactly what The Terriers needed. Signed in March 1921 by April 1922 Stephenson was captaining Huddersfield to their first FA Cup win, becoming the first man in the Twentieth century to win three FA Cup medals.
Further signings were to follow this success including current Huddersfield Town all time leading scorer George Brown. Brown was signed straight from his local pit team, as a 17-year-old, in 1921. Here Chapman showed his ability to not only sign established players for a set purpose, but also to spot talent in youngsters and help it thrive. Chapman used a scouting network to spot talent around the country and always insisted on seeing the man play a few times before entering into negotiations.
Chapman also changed the way the game was played at Huddersfield. Where most teams would play down the flanks and cross the ball from the byline, Chapman would encourage players to get the ball inside the field. Due to the tactics employed by most teams in this era of football this was a strategy that worked exceptionally for Huddersfield.
His visionary way of seeing football and its players was undoubtedly behind Huddersfield's success at the time. Following on from the FA Cup win of 1922 Huddersfield won the league title in 1924. At the time the local paper, The Huddersfield Examiner, eulogised about the effect Chapman had had on the team. Its reporter stated that "His have been the brains behind the team, his the directing skill that has paved the way to success. Town is on everyone's lips today and for the position which it occupies in public esteem it has very largely Mr. Chapman to thank".
That league success was to be followed by another in 1925 and, even though by that time Chapman had left the club for Arsenal, that league title was followed by a third successive title in 1926. This made Huddersfield Town the first team to achieve the feat in English football.
Herbert Chapman can be described in many ways, and has been in many other articles this week. For me he is a source of pride, the man who made the team I support something special. The man immortalised in The Terriers faithful's favourite song who came in and made Huddersfield Town Football Club great. For that I will always be grateful.
A present day club looking for their new manager to make an immediate impact are Huddersfield's opponents this weekend, Millwall FC. The Lions appointed the enigmatic Ian Holloway as manager this week in the hope he can turn their fortunes this season.
The new manager effect is well documented in football these days and Huddersfield will certainly have to be on their guard. Holloway is a manager who, despite the jokes, is able to get his teams playing with energy and confidence going forward. And considering that this is exactly what Millwall have struggled with this season I expect Huddersfield to be tested seriously. Certainly more so than they may have been expecting immediately after Millwall's FA Cup drubbing at the hands of League Two Southend.
Holloway's appointment could have lead some to worry in the Huddersfield camp. Yet once again this week the talk from Terriers manager Mark Robins has been admirable. Robins has stated the need for caution whilst, rightly, pointing out that, as the home side, Huddersfield must dictate terms whoever they face.
Whatever happens between the teams this weekend it seems both sides have managers to take them forward. Yet for Huddersfield, this week more than most, it is one to look back. A weekend when we can dream the impossible dream that one day soon we can be back in the pantheon of the greats of English football. Right where Herbert Chapman put us.
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