Herbert Chapman, the boss of the all-conquering Arsenal team of the 1930s, was the father of all football managers, arguably the greatest of all time and certainly the most imaginative. Much of the game's scenery, including floodlights and numbered shirts, was pioneered by Chapman. The legacy of his tactical approach also survives to this day: fast and lethal counter-attack was his invention.
As a player, a bustling attacker, Chapman was a relative journeyman. He moved into management at the age of 29 with Northampton Town, and from then it was a swift climb to remarkable eminence. At Huddersfield in the 1920s he built a team that was to win three consecutive League titles. When he left for Arsenal and the richer potential of the capital, his new club - which, like Huddersfield, had won nothing before his arrival - became the most famous in the world. Arsenal were champions in 1931 and two years later completed their own hat-trick of titles. Although the 55-year-old Chapman died prematurely before the second title was celebrated at Highbury, his bequest has proved immortal.
Patrick Barclay's perceptive and highly informed biography weaves Chapman's story into the momentous times through which he lived: the profound tragedy of the First World War into which several of his players were drawn, the subsequent General Strike and Depression, and the rise of Fascism. Among those influenced by his footballing legacy are such Arsenal successors as George Graham (who made a close study of his life) and Arsene Wenger, who was fully aware of Chapman's special place in the pantheon before taking over at Highbury in 1996. Chapman had the name of its nearest Tube station changed from Gillespie Road to Arsenal, but it was more than a club that he put on the map. As Sir Matt Busby, the builder of Manchester United, was to assert, Herbert Chapman changed the game of football.