CHAPMAN, Herbert (1878-1934)
Plaque erected in 2005 by English Heritage at 6 Haslemere Avenue, Hendon, London, NW4 2PX, London Borough of Barnet
HERBERT CHAPMAN 1878-1934 Football Manager lived and died here
Herbert Chapman was the first person to be honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque for his contribution to football. As manager of Arsenal Football Club during the 1920s and 1930s, he was known as the ‘Napoleon of football’ for the way he inspired players and younger managers.
Herbert Chapman was born in a mining village near Sheffield. He trained as a mining engineer before turning his hobby into a career and signing up as a professional footballer for Northampton Town in 1901. He moved into football management by chance, accepting the position of player-manager of Northampton as a stop-gap measure in 1907. It was in this role that he first displayed the talents that would make him famous. After a spell as secretary-manager of Leeds City, Chapman became manager of Huddersfield Town, where he coached the club to an FA Cup victory and twice won the League Championship.
Chapman was appointed manager of Arsenal Football Club in 1925, and in 1926 he moved into the newly built house at 6 Haslemere Avenue, Hendon, just north of the North Circular Road. (Also living nearby at the same time was the music hall comedian Harry Relph, aka ‘Little Tich’.) It was while Chapman was living in Hendon that he achieved his greatest triumphs and became one of football’s most inspirational figures.
Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1929–30 and the League Championship in 1930–31 and 1932–3. Chapman was extremely well respected by his players and had an amazing ability to spot talent. At a time when the fortunes of football clubs were still largely under the control of chairmen and directors, Chapman revealed how much a talented manager – one who could offer tactical innovations, and who understood the importance of motivating players – could affect the standard of play.
He worked hard to increase the profile of Arsenal, increasing spectator comfort at their Highbury stadium and persuading London Transport to change the name of the closest underground station from Gillespie Road to Arsenal in 1932. Chapman was also a great innovator and introduced many simple but important changes such as floodlighting matches, using rubber studs on boots, and numbering players’ shirts. None of these ideas was accepted as standard until after the Second World War, but Chapman was instrumental in developing the high-profile sport we know today. It has been said that his life story ‘is largely the story of how English football came of age’.
Chapman died suddenly at 6 Haslemere Avenue on 6 January 1934, shortly before his 56th birthday, and was buried in the local cemetery. At the time of his death, Arsenal was at the head of the League Table and internationally famous.