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on 29 January 2014
I bought this book because I wanted to learn more about Herbert Chapman, who was Britain’s most successful football manager of the first half of the 20th century. At Huddersfield Town, which was one of England’s smallest First Division clubs with low attendances in a rugby league stronghold, he built a team that won Division One three times in succession – although he left in 1925, before the third title had been won, attracted by the greater rewards available at Arsenal. He was not an overnight success at Arsenal, who stayed in mid-table for several years while he rebuilt the team, but in 1931 he led them to be the first Southern club to win Division One, and they went on to be champions four times in five years – although Chapman died of pneumonia in 1934, midway through this run of success. Chapman is also credited with popularising the use of a ‘back three’, introducing a 3-2-2-3 formation instead of the previous 2-3-5.
This book is entitled ‘the life and times of Herbert Chapman’, and I was frustrated that it contained too much general history and not enough about the teams Chapman built. Some of the additional material about early 20th century football was fascinating – I was interested to read about some of the footballers who served in the First World War, and was particularly interested to read about the 1915 match-fixing scandal which led to Division One being expanded from 20 to 22 clubs. But I already have a reasonable knowledge of more general British history, and I could have done without some of Barclay’s more remote dissertations – for example, those about Elgar, Oscar Wilde and Sir Oswald Mosley. Instead of wasting space on these three non-footballing figures, I would have preferred him to have devoted more space to the story of how Chapman’s teams won their Division One titles (and possibly to what happened to the players in later life). Additionally, although Barclay is keen to praise Chapman for introducing a third defender, he glosses over the way that Chapman’s system was superseded in the 1960s when most teams began playing with a back four. The use of two central defenders, with two other defenders playing wider to mark any wingers, is effectively a reversion to the pre-Chapman system whereby the two full-backs stayed in the centre of the defence and the two wing-halves marked the opposing wingers.
This is quite an interesting book, but it could have been so much better if Barclay had not been so self-indulgent in going off on quite so many tangents.
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on 9 March 2014
I was expecting great things from this book about a great football innovator by a respected football journalist.
As a chronological record I can believe it is 100% accurate. Sadly it includes many diversions into the lives of Edward VII, Oscar Wilde and more.
But the biggest omission is the lack of analysis. I could not find any real analysis of the systems Chapman used and the way he organised his teams. This book does not explain HOW Chapman revolutionised English football, it merely describes what Chapman achieved.
A great opportunity missed.
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on 27 April 2014
I purchased this book in order to learn about Herbert Chapman and his influence on modern football. What was it that made him successful and how did the various innovations claimed for him come about. I'm left with no real answers to these questions and too much writing about the social and economic history of the time. Also too much information about other teams and players of the time and matches which do not appear to have any relevance to Herbert's life. This is an interesting area but more appropriate for a general history of football at that time but not here. Of course the background against which Chapman lived is relevant but I think Patrick Barclay has veered off track too many times. At times I felt that may there were not too many facts about Chapman's life especially his football brain available to Patrick Barclay so he 'padded' out the back with too much general background.
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on 15 June 2015
The title says it all, really. This is “the life” of Herbert Chapman, most famous for winning the league title and FA Cup as manager of Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. But it is often glossed over in favour of “the times” of Herbert Chapman – the author doesn’t leave any opportunity for a digression or diversion from his main subject. We are told about the formation of the Football League, footballers in the First World War, we are given a potted biography of many characters that we stumble across. But we are also told about many things which are irrelevant to the life of Herbert Chapman: the political career of Oswald Moseley and the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde to name but two. They may be interesting, but the many digressions divert attention away from Herbert Chapman, which is a shame.
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on 26 August 2015
Its well written and contains lots of information from the time, but it doesn't tell you much about the man himself or his tactics or man management and half way through the book I started to lose interest. Its just, well, boring.
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on 12 January 2015
It was okay. I expected a little bit more.
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on 3 March 2014
My husband loves it he hadn't put it down he is a arsenal season ticket holder very passionate about his football

Herbert chapman book
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on 28 March 2014
The ideal gift for the 'historic' football fan. One of the great managers from the past, an early version of Brian Clough. Great insights.
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on 5 April 2014
Well written and an easy read especially for Arsenal fan but generally a good football book that should appeal to a wider audience.
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on 29 April 2014
I ordered this as a birthday present for my husband. He is a fiendish Arsenal supporter and thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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