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Herbert Chapman (January 19, 1878 – January 6, 1934) was an English association football player and manager, born in Kiveton Park, Sheffield. He is regarded as one of the most successful and influential managers in English football history.

Playing Career

Chapman started in non-league football, before turning professional in 1901 with Northampton Town. He played for a series of clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur, in an unremarkable career. He returned to Northampton as player-manager in 1907, and led the club to a Southern League title in 1909. His brother, Harry Chapman, was also a footballer, who played for Sheffield Wednesday.

Managerial Career

Leeds City

In 1912 he joined Leeds City as secretary. He successfully lobbied for the side's re-admission to the Football League. However, during World War I Leeds were involved in a series of financial irregularities, involving payments to 'guest' players during wartime matches, that resulted in the dissolution of the club in 1919 and several of its officials being banned from football for life. Chapman escaped a ban after appealing, claiming he had not been in direct control of the club (having quit to take charge of a munitions factory as part of the war effort) at the time.

Huddersfield Town

Chapman spent a brief spell as manager of a coking plant in Selby before returning to football, joining Huddersfield Town in September 1920 as club secretary, becoming full manager the following March. Between 1920 and 1925, Chapman led the most successful period in Huddersfield's history, winning the 1921 FA Cup, and the Football League in 1924 and 1925. After his departure for Arsenal, the team he had formed went on to win the 1926 championship as well, an unprecedented 'three in a row'.

Arsenal

After joining Arsenal in 1925, Chapman implemented a new strategy, originally suggested by player Charlie Buchan, that ruthlessly exploited a June 1925 change to the offside law. The change had reduced the number of opposition players that an attacker needed between himself and the goal-line from three to two. Buchan's idea was to move the centre half from a roaming position in midfield to a 'stopper' position in defence. With one forward brought back into midfield, this changed the usual formation from 2-3-5 to 3-3-4, or a "WM", so called after the shape it formed spelled out the letters. This meant the offside trap was no longer the responsibility of the two full-backs, but the single central defender, while the full backs were pushed wider to cover the wings.

Success was not immediate, but Chapman persevered and after several years, Arsenal became one of the most fearsome attacking sides in English football. He combined his revolutionary change in tactics with signing some of the biggest stars in British football, including Cliff Bastin, David Jack, Alex James and Eddie Hapgood. After losing the 1927 Cup final after a freak goalkeeping error, Chapman's Arsenal won the 1930 FA Cup (beating his old side, Huddersfield). This laid down the foundations for a decade in which Arsenal would be the dominant team; Arsenal picked up a First Division title in 1930-31, scoring a club record 127 goals, becoming the first team from the south of England to win the League. Two years later they followed it up with another title, this time scoring 118 League goals.

Chapman died suddenly in January 1934, at the age of 55. Reportedly, he had attended a reserves' match on a wet and windy day while nursing a heavy cold, against his doctor's advice; the cold worsened and soon became pneumonia, and Chapman quickly succumbed. By then, he had made Arsenal the undisputed best in England, and the team went on to win a third title that year and another title year after that. Arsenal were the second side to win three League titles in a row, and no team was to repeat the feat until Liverpool in 1982-4.

England

In 1933, Chapman became the first professional manager in charge of England for the first international against Italy in Rome. He did not have any input into the selection process, the team being determined by the FA's International Selection Committee. The result was a 1-1 draw.

Legacy

He was one of the first football managers in the modern sense of the word, taking full charge of the team, rather than letting board members pick the side. As well as his tactical innovations, Chapman was also a pioneer of physical fitness in football - he instituted a strict training regime and the use of physiotherapists. His innovative ideas spread beyond the training pitch. He was an early advocate of floodlights, white footballs and numbered shirts among many others, as well as reputedly being the driving force behind the renaming of London Underground's Gillespie Road station to Arsenal.

A bronze bust of Chapman stands in the entrance of the marble halls of Arsenal's home ground, Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, in tribute to his achievements at the club. He is the only former Arsenal manager to have been honoured this way. He is buried at Hendon Parish Church, north London.

 

Herbert Chapman, Football Emperor: A Study in the Origins of Modern Soccer by Stephen Studd Anyone with even a vague interest in football history, especially Arsenal fans, should read this well researched volume which unfolds the life and times of one of the most important individuals in the history of the game. Chapman was the most important figure of English football in the 1930's and this delightful read will explain to you just how and why that came about.

 

 

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