Herbert Chapman: The man who transformed Huddersfield Town

What if I told you that Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool weren’t the first clubs to have a trophy run? What if I told you that it was a club that most people outside of the town don’t speak of? And then, what if I told you that the club was Huddersfield Town? Unless you were born in the turn of the last century, which most people alive now aren’t, you wouldn’t know.

It started with a man who helped change the sport – Herbert Chapman. What was seen in those days was a stark contrast to the eye nowadays. The play on the field was dictated by the wings, which was frustrating to Chapman. He wanted to take on the defenders, and remove the slow build up play we see so often these days. It was built around quick passing and decisive movement.

Chapman instilled a counter attacking game, which helped bring in the massive success at Town. At the time, clubs were built around the players in that club, and all three levels of the club would play different styles. Sometimes styles would change from year to year. Chapman changed that at Huddersfield; he built his club to play the same style from top to bottom, youth level to senior level which, seems obvious today, but back then it wasn’t, and the continuity that came with that worked extremely well.

Chapman’s first full season in charge at Huddersfield was the 1921/22 season, in which he started to implement his changes. It was a rousing success. They won the FA Cup in 1922, which would be the only FA Cup the club would win under Chapman, being finalists in years 1919-1920, 1927-28, 1929-30, and 1937-38. Liverpool were champions of the Football League in 1921-22 and 1922-23, and those two would mark the last time for five years that Huddersfield wouldn’t occupy the top two spots. They would win three titles in 1923-24,1924-25 and 1925-26, which made them the first club to achieve such a feat. Huddersfield would be followed later in the 1900’s, and 2000’s by Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United (twice) in getting a hat trick of titles.

Before the start of Chapman’s last title with Huddersfield in 1924-25, he went on a shopping spree signing forward John Williams from Rotherham for £2,000 and goalkeeper Billy Mercer from Hull. Town set records that year; they won the league without letting in more than two goals in any match, which they were the first to do. Also, in a 4-0 win against Arsenal that season, Billy Smith scored a goal from a corner kick. The importance of that was it was the first goal scored straight from a corner.

Herbert Chapman would end up leaving at the end of the season for the bright lights, and the money, of London with Arsenal. Chapman then turned Arsenal into another title winning club, and became a legend there.

It’s very rare for a manager to become a legend at a club, but Herbert Chapman did it twice. So before you look at Huddersfield Town and think they’ve never done anything, have a look a their record books. As an interested American, I did.

By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @yellowcardSCB

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