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Ken Aston Referee Society ~ Football Encyclopedia Bible
Football Managers: 1880-1918
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Early football clubs were run by committees. These management committees selected the team and purchased players. Sometimes these committees appointed secretary/managers to carry out these duties.

The first of these great football secretary/manager was Major William Sudell. He was the manager of a local factory, when he was appointed as secretary of Preston North End. Sudell decided to improve the quality of the team by importing top players from other areas. This included several players from Scotland.

Over the next few years players such as John Goodall, Jimmy Ross, Nick Ross, David Russell, John Gordon, John Graham, Robert Mills-Roberts, James Trainer, Samuel Thompson and George Drummond. He also recruited some outstanding local players, including Bob Holmes, Robert Howarth and Fred Dewhurst. As well as paying them money for playing for the team, Sudell also found them highly paid work in Preston.

In 1884 Tom Mitchell became secretary/manager of Blackburn Rovers. On 20th July, 1885, the FA announced that it was "in the interests of Association Football, to legalise the employment of professional football players, but only under certain restrictions". Clubs were allowed to pay players provided that they had either been born or had lived for two years within a six-mile radius of the ground.

Blackburn Rovers immediately registered as a professional club. Their accounts show that they spent a total of 615 on the payment of wages during the 1885-86 season. Tom Mitchell used a similar strategy to William Sudell at Preston North End and recruited several players from Scotland.

Blackburn Rovers began to dominate English football. They reached the 1885 FA Cup Final by beating Darwen Old Wanders (6-1), Staveley (7-1), Brentwood (3-1) and Swifts (2-1) Seven of the Blackburn Rovers team were appearing in their third successive final, whereas Fergie Suter, Hugh McIntyre, Jimmy Brown and Jimmy Douglas were playing in their fourth final in five season. The game against West Bromwich Albion at the Oval ended in a 0-0 draw.

The replay took place at the Racecourse Ground, Derby. A goal by Joe Sowerbutts gave Blackburn Rovers an early lead. In the second-half James Brown collected the ball in his own area, took the ball past several WBA players, ran the length of the field and scored one of the best goals scored in a FA Cup final. Blackburn Rovers now joined the Wanderers in achieving three successive cup final victories.

In March, 1888, William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa, circulated a letter suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season." The following month the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Preston North End, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley and Everton) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers). The main reason Sunderland was excluded was because the other clubs in the league objected to the costs of travelling to the North-East.

The first season of the Football League began in September, 1888. William Sudell and his Preston North End side won the first championship without losing a single match and acquired the name the "invincibles". Preston also beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 to win the 1889 FA Cup Final.

Preston North End won the league the following season but finished second to Everton (1890-91) and Sunderland (1892-93). Preston's top players were persuaded to sign for other clubs: John Goodall (Derby County), Jimmy Ross (Liverpool), David Russell (Nottingham Forest), Samuel Thompson (Wolverhampton Wanderers), whereas Bob Holmes, George Drummond, Robert Mills-Roberts, James Trainer and John Graham retired from full-time professional football.

At the beginning of the 1889-90 season Tom Mitchell, the club secretary of Blackburn Rovers, recruited four top players from Scotland: Tom Brandon, Johnny Forbes, George Dewar and Harry Campbell. That season Blackburn finished in 3rd place, six points behind Preston North End. They did even better in the FA Cup. On the way to the final they beat Sunderland (4-2), Grimsby Town (3-0), Bootle (7-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0).

Blackburn were odds-on favorites to win the cup against Sheffield Wednesday, who played in the Football Alliance league.

Blackburn took the lead in the 6th minute when a shot from Billy Townley was deflected past the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper. Harry Campbell hit the post before Nathan Walton converted a pass from Townley. Blackburn scored a third before half-time when James Southworth scored from another of Townley's dangerous crosses from the wing. Townley scored his second, and Blackburn's fourth goal in the 50th minute. Bennett got one back for the Sheffield side when Bennett headed past the advancing Horne. Townley completed his hat-trick when he converted a pass from Lofthouse. Ten minutes before the end of the game, Lofthouse completed the scoring and Blackburn had won the cup 6-1. As Philip Gibbons pointed out in his book Association Football in Victorian England: "The Blackburn side had given one of the finest exhibitions of attacking football in an FA Cup Final, with England internationals, Walton, Townley, Lofthouse and John Southworth at the peak of their form."

The following season Blackburn Rovers had another good run in the FA Cup and beat Middlesborough Ironopolis (3-0), Chester (7-0), Wolverhampton Wanderers (2-0), West Bromwich Albion (3-2) to reach their second successive final.

Notts County were their opponents. Blackburn Rovers put County under pressure from the beginning and in the 8th minute, centre-half George Dewar scored from a corner. Before the end of the first-half, James Southworth and Billy Townley added further goals. Jimmy Oswald of Notts County did score a late consolation goal but Blackburn finished comfortable 3-1 winners and won the FA Cup for the 5th time in 8 years.

The third great manager of this period was Ernest Mangnall who joined Manchester United in 1903. He was recruited from Burnley and as the authors of The Essential History of Manchester United pointed out: "Mangnall... preached a gospel of physical fitness and team spirit while maintaining that players should be given a ball only once a week".

Mangnall made several new signings. Probably the most significant was Charlie Roberts, who cost a record transfer fee of 600. At the time Mangnall was criticized for paying such a large sum for such an inexperienced player. However, it proved to be an inspired decision and it was not long before Roberts established himself as the keystone of the Manchester United defense.

Other important signings by Ernest Mangnall included John Peddie, Charlie Sagar, George Wall, John Picken, Thomas Blackstock and Alec Bell.

In the 1905-06 season Manchester United won promotion to the First Division when they finished second to Bristol City. The club scored 90 goals in 38 games and top scorers were John Picken (20), John Peddie (18) and Charlie Sagar (16). Manchester United's defence was also impressive and only let in 28 goals that season.

Manchester United started off the 1907-08 season with three straight wins. They were then beaten 2-1 by Middlesbrough. However, this was followed by another ten wins and United quickly built up a good advantage over the rest of the First Division. Although Liverpool beat them 7-4 on 25th March, 1908, Manchester United went on to win the title by nine points. Top scorers were Sandy Turnbull (25), George Wall (19), Jimmy Turnbull (10) and Billy Meredith (10).

Ernest Mangnall had created an impressive team that was solid in defence and exciting in attack. The former Southampton player, Harry Moger, was a reliable goalkeeper who played in 38 league games that season. Dick Holden (26) or George Stacey (18) competed for the right-back position whereas Herbert Burgess (27) was the left-back. It has been argued that the half-back line of Dick Duckworth (35), Charlie Roberts (32) and Alec Bell (35) was the heart-beat of the side. Billy Meredith (37) and George Wall (36) were probably the best wingers playing in the Football League at the time and provided plenty of service for the inside trio of Sandy Turnbull (30), Jimmy Turnbull (26) and Jimmy Bannister (36). The championship winning team included four players purchased from Manchester City at an auction at the Queen's Hotel in October 1906.

The following season Manchester United enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup. They beat Brighton & Hove Albion (1-0), Everton (1-0), Blackburn Rovers (6-1), Burnley (3-2) and Newcastle United (1-0) to reach the final. Newcastle, who went onto win the league that season, was obviously disappointed by being prevented from winning the double. However, the whole of the Newcastle team waited for 15 minutes in torrential rain aboard an open coach so they could applaud their conquerors after the game.

Jimmy Turnbull (5), Harold Halse (4) and Sandy Turnbull (3) got the goals during the successful cup run that got them to the final at Crystal Palace against Bristol City. As both clubs usually wore red, Bristol played in blue whereas Manchester United played in white shirts with a deep red "V". The game was disappointing and Sandy Turnbull scored the only goal in the 22nd minute.

In June 1910 Ernest Mangnal purchased Enoch West from Nottingham Forest. He replaced Jimmy Turnbull in the attack and had a great season scoring 19 goals in 35 games. West formed a great partnership with Sandy Turnbull and together they scored more than half of the team's goals. On the last Saturday of the season Aston Villa led Manchester United by one point. United had to play third-place Sunderland at Old Trafford whereas Aston Villa had to go to Liverpool.

Manchester United won their game 5-1. Charlie Roberts told the Manchester Saturday Post what happened next: "At the end of the game our supporters rushed across the ground in front of the stand to wait for the final news from Liverpool. Suddenly a tremendous cheer rent the air and was renewed again and again and we knew we were the champions once again." Aston Villa had been beaten 3-1 and Ernest Mangnall and United had won their second championship in four years.

Jimmy Ruffell played for West Ham United between 1920 and 1937. The team was managed by Syd King but he claimed that it was Charlie Paynter who decided on the team's tactics: "Syd King was a good manager. But he left a lot of the day-to-day stuff to our trainer Charlie Paynter. It was Charlie that most of us talked to about anything. Syd King was more about doing deals to get players to play for West Ham."

Similar comments were made about Joe Smith who managed Blackpool between 1935-1956. Stanley Matthews argued that Smith: "Never a great tactician, or even a reasonable one, he was nevertheless the best manager I ever had the privilege to play for. Joe brought out the best in me because he allowed me to play my natural game. I will always be grateful for his support and belief, especially when I look back to those moments when situations contrived to make me doubt myself and my own ability... Joe was a great psychologist who could kid an average player into believing and performing as a good one, and a good player as a very good one. He signed some very good players, and that's the hardest part of a manager's job. Joe did it time and again. As I have said before, a manager doesn't have to tell good players what to do, they know."

Cyril Robinson played in the 1953 FA Cup Final for Blackpool against Bolton Wanderers. He later claimed that before the game all Smith said was "go out there and get them beat". According to Stanley Matthews he said: "Go out and enjoy yourselves. Be the players I know you are and we'll be all right."

Stan Mortensen also played under Joe Smith at Blackpool. He also admitted that Smith spent little time speaking about tactics leaving it up to Harry Johnson, the captain: "Joe has one great virtue outstanding among all his others - and they are many. He is just about the best loser and winner in football. If we win he is never up in the air and dreaming of championships; and if we lose, he is quick to give consolation, and never gets down in the mouth. Joe has been so long in the game as player and manager that he knows full well that one defeat doesn't mean relegation, any more than one win heralds the winning of the Cup or League."

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