Arsenal, Huddersfield Town and Herbert Chapman: An FA Cup affair

Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie brings together two clubs with a historical connection

THERE was a time when a meeting between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town was a clash of the giants.

Back in the 1920s Huddersfield were the leading force in the game, the first club to win a hat-trick of league titles and also reaching three FA Cup finals, winning one.

That was a mantle they reluctantly had to pass over to the Gunners in the 1930 as Arsenal took over, winning four league titles in five years.

The reason for that transition of power was a simple one – in 1925, Arsenal sacked their manager Leslie Knighton, and appointed in his place Herbert Chapman, at that time the manager of Huddersfield Town.


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Chapman had already transformed the Yorkshire club, and he was employed, on double the money (�2,000 a year) to do the same for Arsenal. Without doubt, he succeeded.

The change in fortunes was not immediate, as Arsenal could only manage second place behind Huddersfield who won their third successive title in 1926.

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But Chapman had asked for five years to put his plans into place at Highbury and he was true to his word. In May 1930, Arsenal beat his old club Huddersfield 2-0 at Wembley to lift the FA Cup.

That was Arsenal’s first trophy, but there were many more to follow. The following season the Gunners became champions of England for the first time.

Chapman had brought players such as Cliff Bastin, David Jack and Eddie Hapgood to Highbury, and with the great Alex James at the peak of his powers, Arsenal scored 127 goals in that 1930-31 season, still a club record.

The next season saw Arsenal finish as runners-up in the league to Everton and also lose the FA Cup final to Newcastle, but Chapman was not deterred.

In 1932-33, despite a humiliating FA Cup exit to minnows Walsall, the title was regained with a thumping 5-0 success over Aston Villa in the decisive game.

Chapman had laid the groundwork for domination, and the second side he built were to emulate Huddersfield and go on to retain the title in 1934, and complete a hat-trick in 1935.

Sadly, Chapman was not there to see his hard work come to fruition at Highbury. In January 1934 he caught pneumonia and to the shock of everyone in the football world, died aged just 55.

While his team lived on at Arsenal and under the charge of Joe Shaw and then George Allison, Chapman will always be remembered at the club for so much more.

Just as Arsene Wenger has been credited with doing in his 14 years in charge, Chapman revolutionised the club, and the game as a whole. He introduced new formations, adopted tactics from the continental game, and even pioneered the use of floodlights.

He also left his mark on Highbury, overseeing the building of the Clock End, West Stand and, unforgettably, playing his part in getting the name of Gillespie Road tube station changed, simply, to ‘Arsenal’.

No stone was unturned by the most meticulous of managers, he even designed the stadium’s turnstiles and scoreboard and even Arsenal’s kit, introducing the now famous white sleeves. His bust still stands proudly in Highbury’s marble halls, with a replica in place at Emirates Stadium

For Huddersfield, the glory days of the Chapman era have never been revisited – the 1926 title remains their last trophy, excluding winning the old Division Two in 1970.

Arsenal, however, have never looked back, and have taken their place at the top echeleon of the game, just as Chapman dreamed they would.

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