Henry Norris and Herbert Chapman 1925-27

Last updated: November 2008


I think I’d better say right now that I’ve put off writing this file for a long time; and even now I feel a great reluctance to get stuck in.  The history of Henry Norris’ relationship with Herbert Chapman between 1925 and 1927 doesn’t show either of them in a very good light. 


When I first began researching the life of Henry Norris I thought I’d be writing a very long piece about Herbert Chapman, possibly going back as far as his first manager’s job at Northampton Town.  Now, though, I think I won’t go over ground that’s been covered pretty well by the books below:


Herbert Chapman, Football Emperor: a Study in the Origins of Modern Soccer by Stephen Studd.  Souvenir Press; originally 1981, this reprint 1998.

Herbert Chapman, The First Great Manager by Simon Page.  Heroes Publishing 2006.  I have found some slight inaccuracies with dates, in this volume, but a lot of very interesting and informative data on Chapman’s family.


I think the books make the case for Chapman’s greatness beyond my needing to add my mite to it.  I will concentrate, therefore, on Chapman and Norris, as that’s where I can contribute something new, based on two documents now in the hands of Henry Norris’ grand-children: the one he presented to the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal, in August 1927; and the brief his lawyers prepared for the Norris v FA Limited libel trial in February 1929.  The documents contain a lot of information about the events that led to the FA investigation that hasn’t ever been published.  However, as I’ve said elsewhere in my Life of Henry Norris, they have two great draw-backs:


1) they represent Norris’ view of his actions as Arsenal’s chairman; solely and completely his view, not the slightest effort is made to understand anyone else’s; and

2) they are written with hindsight.  Everything seems so very obvious, with hindsight!


Despite these drawbacks, I have assumed that the documents are a largely accurate account of events; mostly because surely no man would build up so much evidence against himself if what he was saying wasn’t true.



As my starting point I will print below the full text of the advertisement which led to Herbert Chapman’s appointment as secretary-manager of Arsenal FC and Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited.  This is what appeared on page 8 of the Athletic News on Monday 11 May 1925:


“Arsenal Football Club is open to receive applications for the position of Team Manager.  He must be fully experienced and possess the highest qualifications for the post, both as to ability and personal character.


Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exorbitant transfer fees need not apply.


Applications (which will be treated as strictly confidential) stating fullest possible particulars, including salary expected, to be made in writing to Chairman, 24 Sheen Road, Richmond, Surrey.”


For me, researching the life of Henry Norris, the most significant aspect of the job advert is the address to which applications should be sent.  It’s Henry Norris’ home address.  In 1927 Norris told the FA that he had been “primarily responsible” for appointing Chapman.  Not that the other directors of Arsenal would have had any objections at all at the appointment of the man who had steered Huddersfield Town to two successive Division One titles; but my point is that they may not have been asked their views.  It seems that Norris didn’t even involve William Hall in the process.


Did Herbert Chapman have a job interview?  I don’t know.  It might have seemed superfluous to interview the man who was clearly the best-qualified candidate for the job.  However, if Henry Norris decided to waive that part of the application process I think he was mistaken; because a job interview is supposed to help the interviewer and the interviewee see whether they can get on  - whether they see eye to eye about how the work should be done. 


Several weeks passed between the job advert and the announcement of Chapman’s appointment.  Perhaps a job interview was fitted in, though I’m not sure when - Chapman was away on tour in Europe with Huddersfield Town for most of May.


If there was a job interview, perhaps it was Chapman who interviewed Henry Norris.  After all, Chapman was the one in demand: he could go anywhere he liked or stay where he was, at the top of the Football League.  Why he chose instead to try to make Arsenal FC’s sow’s ear into a silk purse, I don’t know and I’m not sure either of his biographers have got quite the right answer.  Simon Page does suggest that there were domestic reasons why Chapman was considering taking a better-paid job.  And Huddersfield Town’s small fan base meant that money for spending on team building was restricted.  Arsenal’s regular 20-30000 crowds must then have been a temptation to Chapman.  But I wonder if it was not just a touch of hubris that caused Chapman to make up his mind. 


It does seem that Chapman laid down some conditions for accepting the job.  I wonder whether Norris did as well?  Or did he not think to do so until the man had already started work?  One of Chapman’s conditions was a salary commensurate with his track-record, and surely Norris must have been prepared for this.  He agreed to a salary package including a wage he later described as “big” (£2000 per year) and the buying by the club of a newly-built house in Hendon for Chapman and his family to live in rent-free.  He also agreed a five-year contract for Chapman; I haven’t been able to find out how this compared with contracts for other secretary-managers, but it sounds a long one to me.


The other big demand made by Chapman probably caused Norris the greater anguish.  Chapman wanted Arsenal to sign Charles Buchan.  He wanted build a team around the great striker even though he was coming to the end of his career.  Buchan might be long in the tooth - not quite as quick as he had been - but a player of that calibre was still going to cost a fee that would make a public mockery of Norris’ one-club attempts to keep transfer fees down.  Norris bit the bullet, though, and opened negotiations with Sunderland FC at the AGM of the FA on 8 June 1925, before Chapman had confirmed that he would take the job.  He couldn’t stomach the £4000 demanded by Sunderland though.  Actually as a transfer fee it wasn’t especially big for 1925, but Norris couldn’t bring himself to pay it.  Instead he negotiated a fee of £2000 down plus £100 per goal scored: a deal that caused much amusement in the football world; cost Arsenal FC £100 more than the original £4000 though not all at once; and was regarded by the FL with such concern that at the AGM of 1926 all deals which put such pressure on the player were banned.


Chapman didn’t make the decision to accept Norris’ job offer lightly; and of course Huddersfield Town tried their very hardest to keep him.  He eventually let Henry Norris know that he would be taking the job in a dramatic, late-night telephone call on Wednesday 10 June 1925, after a long and emotional meeting with Town’s directors.  He began work on Monday 22 June 1925.  Very soon after this day, two - possibly three - important events took place; looking back on them from 1927 and even more from 1929, Norris felt that it all went wrong with Chapman from the time of these two (I don’t have a specific date for the third).  This is what I mean about hindsight. 


The first was the signing of Charles Buchan.  By the time Chapman agreed to become Arsenal manager, the two clubs seem to have reached agreement on the unique transfer fee.  However, the player had yet to be won over.  Charles Buchan - like all players, I suppose, in those days before agents - conducted his own wage negotiations.  However, he was not your average player in dealing with prospective employers: he was better educated than most footballers were, and - as Norris already knew to his cost - he knew his own worth and was going to hold out for it.  The sticking-point was Buchan’s sports-wear business in Sunderland which he knew depended on his presence in the city and in the team for a lot of its income.  He wanted compensation for that loss of income.  Henry Norris, William Hall, Herbert Chapman and Charles Buchan talked this over at two separate meetings, which ended with Norris agreeing to pay Buchan £250 per year in half-yearly instalments if he would join Arsenal - which Buchan duly did.


There was no doubt, even in Norris’ mind, that Buchan was a great signing for Arsenal.  Made club captain by Chapman, Buchan led the line and the team in an exemplary manner; he brought intelligence and subtlety to Arsenal’s forward line - quite unheard of characteristics!  He scored regularly and made openings for others to score.  And he had a tactical savvy that Chapman appreciated - see below.


Writing in 1929 about the agreement with Buchan, Norris said that he had intended to pay Buchan this extra £250 per year out of his own money.  However, on at least two occasions Buchan was paid out of Arsenal’s money; and the resulting gaps in the club’s accounts were found by the FA Commission of Inquiry in 1927.  It was not Chapman’s decision to pay Buchan out of Arsenal’s account: he was not allowed to make decisions of that sort.  It was Norris’ decision, and he did intend to make up the difference in Arsenal’s account later with money of his own.  But he forgot and nobody reminded him.  Peters, in fact, allowed him to continue to forget.  In 1929 Norris accused both Chapman and William Hall of knowing exactly what the money was for, in May 1926 when they signed a cheque on Arsenal’s bank account for £125 which Norris then passed to Buchan.  And he accused Chapman of expecting illegal payments to be made but not wanting to be involved in making them himself.  For example, Norris said that at the crucial point in the negotiations with Buchan, Chapman had got up and left the room, saying something like, “I had better be going along now” as if having insisted that whatever needed to be done should be done to get Buchan, he then had wanted to keep his hands lily-white when the rule-breaking began.


It is true that before Chapman and Buchan had arrived at Arsenal FC, the club had not made any over-the-maximum wage payments to its players.  The only time Henry Norris had paid a player more than the maximum wage was his bizarre loan deal with H A White, which ran from 1919 to 1923.  The loan to White came from Norris’ own money; and he was expecting it all to be paid back.  At the time when the deal with Buchan was reached, however, Henry Norris was happy - well, not happy maybe, but willing - to pay the player the extra money he was demanding; it was only later that he came to feel that he’d been left holding the baby when the FA found out.


The second event that - for Norris - characterised the arrival of Herbert Chapman, didn’t involve money, it concerned staffing.  In particular, George Hardy.


It is commonplace now for a new manager to arrive accompanied by coaching and training staff with whom he has worked for years: clubs take on manager and staff as a group; and the group of staff surrounding the previous manager leaves with him.  That is a very recent development in manager-ship, however, and as far as I know Herbert Chapman brought no coaching staff with him in 1925.  Apart from Tom Ratcliff, who had moved to another job, Chapman was expected and expecting to work with the same coaching and training staff that Leslie Knighton had worked with.


George Hardy was the most senior and long-serving of these.  He had been William Hall and Henry Norris’ first appointment at Woolwich Arsenal FC.  He was hired as first-team trainer in 1910 and in 1925 he was still in the same job.  In 1927 Norris described Hardy as “a master of his job” and his players always in “the best possible condition...models of fitness”.  He went on to describe as Hardy very hard-working and dedicated; a rather serious man who found it difficult to take a joke (a description that does quite well for Norris himself).


Fit Hardy’s players might have been; but still Arsenal had spent most of the early 1920s trying to escape the relegation zone.  So I’d say there was something wrong with training at Arsenal; amongst other things.


Henry Norris’ own 1927 account of the dispute over Hardy says that very soon after Chapman arrived at the club - presumably in early August 1925 when the squad began training for season 1925/26.  Chapman told Norris that he was not satisfied with Hardy’s work as a trainer.  Chapman saw trainers as “the most valuable members of every club’s staff...almost like doctors” in their need to understand modern equipment and to work unpredictable hours if necessary; he also saw them as very unappreciated by the public.  I think that the job of trainer as done by Hardy when Chapman was appointed, as he himself and Norris saw it, was concerned with the players’ fitness - the sort of thing you do in the gym - rather than helping them with fending off injury and recovering from injuries received.  For example, Hardy didn’t use massage to keep players’ muscles relaxed.  Chapman asked Norris to sanction - not the sacking of Hardy but his demotion to second trainer.  Norris didn’t understand the difference between what Hardy did and what Chapman wanted his senior trainer to do - that’s quite clear from his response to Chapman’s request.  He refused to allow it.  He told Chapman he had to work with Hardy as senior trainer and make use of Punch McEwen and Joseph Shaw if he thought Hardy was lacking.  McEwen and Shaw were both ex-players; they probably had no more training in what Chapman wanted than Hardy did - because Norris didn’t believe it was necessary.   Looking back on this conversation from 1927, Norris commented, “In my opinion from that moment Hardy was doomed”.  This is hindsight; it’s not borne out by what happened at the time.  At the end of their discussion in 1925, Chapman accepted Norris’ dictat without further debate, and Hardy continued as first team trainer.  It rankled - that became clear in 1927 - but in 1925 Chapman made the best of it.


The third event isn’t exactly an event, it was a difference of viewpoint that must have surfaced very soon and illustrates my point about job interviews: scouts.  Chapman believed in using scouts; Simon Page suggests that he saw them as quite as important as players to a club’s success, because they could find talent before its price went up.  Chapman later described how one of his tasks on a Monday morning would be to read his scouts’ reports, from the matches they had watched on the Saturday.  One in a dozen of the matches they had watched might lead to a player being spotted who was worth following-up.  Put like this, scouting was a labour-intensive business and there was no way one man could do it all himself.  Henry Norris, however, had expected Leslie Knighton to do his own scouting, and wouldn’t allow him to employ anyone else to do the ground-work for him. 


In 1927 Henry Norris said, “I personally do not approve of one Club interfering with the players of another club and endeavouring to entice them away.  I know it is done, but that does not make it right.”  He was referring to what we’d call ‘tapping up’ rather than the sort of scouting that involves watching local youth league matches.   However, what he said does illustrate a point I’ve made elsewhere in this Life of Henry Norris: he saw football clubs as limited companies first and purveyors of  football to the public second, and when there was a clash of priorities, he opted for the financial side over the football side.  The evidence from 1927 indicates that despite his own reservations, Norris did allow Herbert Chapman to employ one scout at least, a man called Jim Whittle.  Joseph Shaw also went on scouting trips to watch particular players.  In Norris’ view, though, Whittle’s approach to scouting kept falling on the wrong side of the ‘tapping-up’ line; he and Chapman kept disagreeing about how the man did his job.  Did Norris and Chapman discuss the use of scouts at a job interview?  Or did Norris find himself facing a fait accompli when Chapman arrived?


The first few weeks of season 1925/26 were difficult, not just for Chapman and Arsenal: season 1925/26 found every club in Division One completely unprepared for the consequences of the change in the offside rule.  There were some quite amazing score-lines in those few weeks, and at the end of September 1925, the Athletic News commented that the season’s most noticeable feature so far was the complete inconsistency of every team, scoring lots of goals one week and being beaten by just as many the next.  Actually, Arsenal had made a very good start in all this chaos, winning four out of their first seven fixtures, but there was tension in the dressing-room, out of a sense that the team’s good form was fragile and could be blown apart at any moment (Chapman was working with more or less the same players that had only just avoided relegation the season before).  Charles Buchan was unhappy too though for different reasons.  He didn’t like the role he was being asked to play - and I must say that playing Buchan as a lone striker shows that even Herbert Chapman didn’t get it right every time.  The Times, the Athletic News and Arthur Bourke, reporting on Arsenal’s matches for the Islington Daily Gazette, all remarked in those few weeks that they had never seen Buchan so ineffective.  Bourke was particularly disappointed - after watching years of low-scoring Arsenal teams, he’d been looking forward to a goal-avalanche ever since Buchan’s transfer had been announced.


On Saturday 3 October 1925, Arsenal came apart at the seams.  Bourke had expected Arsenal to get a draw at Newcastle Utd, but instead they endured the half from hell and were 7-0 down after 50 minutes, goalkeeper Lewis making three important saves to spare them further misery.  When the game was finally over, Chapman and the team had one of those X-certificate team-meetings that tend to come after a debacle of that kind.  The big question was: what was it about United’s team formation that had enabled them to deal out such a hammering?  United had first lined-up that way three weeks before, after getting a similar hammering themselves.  The Athletic News found United’s new formation sufficiently interesting to show it to its readers in a diagram as part of its match report, on Monday 14 September 1925; and it looks very much like the W/M formation so closely associated with Herbert Chapman’s 1930s Arsenal side.  So Chapman didn’t invent it, though he’s often credited with doing so; but my goodness did he take it to the heights.


Buchan had been arguing for several weeks that Arsenal needed what we might think of as a defensive midfielder or Baresi-like sweeper to form a line of extra defence in front of the full-backs.  In Buchan’s account of the team meeting after the Newcastle game, he said that he offered to be that defensive midfielder himself.  Chapman admitted the need for a player in that position, but wouldn’t hear of Buchan doing the job.  In the games immediately after the team-meeting, Butler did it, though on Buchan’s recommendation Andy Neil from the reserve team took over the role long-term.  However, Buchan did get what he really needed.  In a second major tactical change, he was brought back from his lone-striker isolation to play behind a target striker (usually Brain in season 1925/26) like a Dennis Bergkamp to a Thierry Henry (though Brain was no Henry).  I’m not saying that the complete Chapman-Arsenal W/M formation leapt fully-armed and ready to rumble from this meeting, but the move towards making it the team’s normal formation, and towards training and buying players to play in it, began there.  The basic positional and tactical changes agreed then were tried out by the same players on the Monday (5 October 1925) at West Ham.  Arsenal won 0-4, the Buchan-behind-Brain combination cutting up the defence for three of them and causing a panicked own-goal for the fourth. In the second-half the defence came under a lot of pressure, but protected by the defensive midfielder, they didn’t buckle.  Liberated to play his usual game, Buchan at last started scoring, getting two that Bourke - happy at last - described as “glorious”. 


In the next few months, the team worked on the new team formation, and the new roles that it brought to several players, to great effect.  By 28 November 1925 Arthur Bourke was able to look on Arsenal v Sunderland as a top-of-the-table clash - he’d never been able to do that before!  50000 saw Arsenal beat Buchan’s old team 2-0 and go to the top of the division on goal difference.  They were not able to sustain that place at the top, alas.  An injury crisis in mid-winter rather exposed Arsenal’s lack of good reserves (sound familiar to anyone? - 20 November 2008).  They were knocked out of the FA Cup early on and by March Huddersfield Town had overtaken them at the top of Division One, on the way to their third (and last) Division One championship.  But for Arsenal FC to spend even a few weeks at the top of the league was unheard of in Henry Norris’ time at the club; I hope he enjoyed every minute.  He certainly didn’t complain about it, either at the time or later.  He also continued to pay transfer fees above what he’d been used to for the few players Chapman bought during the season to reinforce the squad.  He may have felt that the fee for goalkeeper William Harper (£4000 in November 1925) was a bit steep, especially when the player refused to sign a long-term contract.  Then Chapman required Joe Hulme to bring speed to Arsenal’s wings, for whom Norris had to pay nearly as much (£3500) in February 1926. The modest fee for Tom Parker (March 1926) could hardly have caused him annoyance though.  Both Hulme and Parker turned out to be cheap at the price; but when he was paying for them Norris won’t have known that, he was just willing to believe Chapman knew what he was doing.  And in May he was able to celebrate coming second-place in Division One; the highest Arsenal had finished since Norris had had anything to do with them.


Without the benefit of hindsight, it seems things were all  - not exactly sweetness and light because there were tensions under the surface waiting for a chance to get out - but certainly very liveable-with, at Arsenal in the close season 1926.  And it was probably at this stage that Henry Norris “penned a letter stating that although [Chapman] was being paid a big salary he was worth every penny of it”.   Into this situation Norris proceeded to drop the bomb of the way he dealt with the £170 cheque for the sale of the reserve team bus.  I’ve dealt with this incident at great length elsewhere so here I’ll just say repeat the aspects of it that mattered most to Chapman when he found out.  Norris signed Chapman’s name in his own writing while endorsing the cheque so that his wife could pay it into her bank account rather than it going where it should have gone, into Arsenal’s bank account.  Norris meant to settle up with Arsenal in due course, but by April 1927 the money was still not where it should have been.  Norris never gave an explanation that’s anywhere near adequate about why he forged Chapman’s signature while endorsing the cheque, rather than just signing his own name.  But mentioning the cheque now is ME using hindsight.  Chapman didn’t find out what had happened to the cheque until January 1927.  It seems that relations between Chapman and Norris did deteriorate during the autumn of 1926 but not because of the forged signature on the cheque, that just set the tin lid on the decline.


The activities of Jim Whittle, and other scouts whose names Norris doesn’t mention, became a source of strife in the autumn of 1926.  I’ve indicated above that Henry Norris had probably never been comfortable with Chapman’s use of scouts.  In September 1926 Whittle was busy in the West Midlands in pursuit of a sixteen-year-old striker called Smart.  Smart turned out to have just signed for West Bromwich Albion.  Undaunted, Whittle wrote Chapman a letter in which he described a plan he’d cooked up with Smart’s father, by which Smart Junior might be taken on by Arsenal, after which he would walk out on his contract with Albion.  When Norris found out what Whittle was suggesting he was very annoyed - it was definitely on the ‘tapping-up’ side of scouting.  When he wrote about the plot in August 1927 Norris didn’t say what happened about next but I take it from the general context in the document that he and Chapman had words about what Whittle was up to.  Norris does mention refusing to sign-off Chapman’s scouting expenses on several occasions; this was probably one of them.  And Smart never did play for Arsenal as far as I can tell.  The fact that nothing happened about Smart doesn’t seem to have put Whittle off, though: in January 1927 he was at it again, making two separate trips to Wales to talk to Swansea Town’s Leonard Thompson behind the club’s back.  That was too much: Whittle was hauled before the Arsenal board of directors and cross-examined by Norris on who had authorised his trips.  I think that by this time Norris may have been hoping to hear that Whittle had taken his orders from Chapman; so that he could discipline Chapman.  If so, he was disappointed: whether or not it was true, Whittle said that he’d gone to Swansea off his own bat.  However, Whittle told Norris that Chapman had subsequently paid his expenses; and Norris discovered that Chapman had sent Joseph Shaw to meet Thompson in Sheffield and have more formal discussions with him.  Again Norris doesn’t say what happened about Thompson immediately after the board meeting; I suppose Chapman was told in no uncertain manner that he must leave other clubs’ employees alone, and dropped the idea (if he had one) of signing him immediately.  Leonard Thompson was signed by Chapman, not during Norris’ time as chairman, but in 1928; he later became a scout himself.


Chapman’s scouts certainly helped sour relations between him and Henry Norris.  The Thompson episode made Norris feel that Chapman compounded the problem of scouts by not exercising enough control over what they were doing.  However, what made their relationship untenable was Chapman’s discovery of what Norris had done in July 1926 with the £170 cheque for the sale of the reserve team bus. 


The only account of what happened is in Henry Norris’ legal document of 1929; as far as I know Herbert Chapman never made a statement about it - which was not surprising, given that in July 1926 £125 of the £170 was used by Henry Norris to pay Charles Buchan his half-yearly top-up, which was against the FA rules.  However, Norris’ 1929 account originally contained a copy of a letter from Chapman to Fred Wall, written in July 1927 during the FA Commission of Inquiry’s investigation into Arsenal, so it is based on contemporary evidence.  The letter has since been lost, but Norris’ related the purport of it in his document of 1929.  In it, Chapman had told Wall that knew nothing about the £170 cheque from the time it was in Arsenal’s office in July 1926 until late January 1927, when rumours reached him that the cheque had “been improperly dealt with” (those are Norris’ words; I should imagine Chapman was much more forthright in his description).   According to Norris, the rumour Chapman heard was that he (Chapman) had endorsed the £170 himself with his signature, cashed it and pocketed the money.  Chapman took immediate steps to trace the rumour to its source, which was Fulham FC, where people whom Norris described as wishing him (Norris) ill showed him the cheque.  No doubt Chapman recognised at once that his supposed signature, endorsing it, was actually in Henry Norris’ hand-writing; and Henry Norris never denied it or ever came up with a logical explanation for why he had done it.  Chapman had the cheque photographed, and showed the photograph not to Norris, but to William Hall, leaving him to tackle Norris about it. 


In 1929 Henry Norris was very bitter that Chapman had not come straight to him when he had first heard the rumour about the £170 cheque.  I’ve discussed this with my partner Roger Wright and we had different ideas about what we would have done in Chapman’s place.  I’m not sure that I would have gone to Norris if I’d heard rumours like Chapman did.  But I think you can see the fact that he didn’t talk about the cheque to Norris at all in two ways, both of which might be true: firstly, they were not on good terms; secondly, given what the rumour was, news of it was better coming from someone who was closer to Norris and on better terms.  In 1929 Norris accused Chapman of being the person who told the Football League about what had happened to the cheque.  Norris didn’t produce any evidence to back up this claim and I’m not convinced myself.  It’s true that if the police investigated the cheque, unless he was able to prove it was not his handwriting, Chapman could have been facing criminal charges.  On the other hand, he would have wanted to keep from the football authorities evidence that Arsenal FC were making illegal payments to players: that might mean a suspension from football - and Chapman had already endured one of those.  So I’m not sure that it was Chapman that alerted the Football League about the cheque.  They found out anyway, of course.


That Chapman was furiously angry, and even afraid, about the £170 cheque is clear.  As I’ve said, he didn’t tackle Henry Norris directly about it - he left that to William Hall.  Instead, as often happens in these situations, Chapman’s anger festered until an occasion arose where he could let it loose on a long-standing bug-bear between him and Henry Norris.  Re-enter George Hardy, still in his job as first-team trainer despite Chapman’s dissatisfaction with him.  I’ve not found any mention at all of how Chapman and Hardy got on between Chapman’s request to have him demoted, and his discovery of what had happened to the £170 cheque.  I suppose, therefore, that whatever the relations between the two men, they were not sufficiently poor to attract the notice of the press, or of Henry Norris.  They managed, I suppose.  But during the FA Cup replay Arsenal v Port Vale on Wednesday 2 February 1927, Chapman’s patience snapped. 


Norris’ wife was ill and he didn’t go to the match; however, in August 1927 with the wound still raw, he gave a detailed account of what went on; I’m sure he’d got it from Hardy himself.  Arsenal were having a hard time during the match and Brain kept getting caught offside.  In an attempt to stop Brain wasting precious time and handing Port Vale the initiative, Hardy got up from the bench and started signalling to him to get back in line.  Chapman told Hardy to stop giving orders, Hardy said that he wasn’t doing any harm; Chapman was not in a mood to listen to excuses, especially from this man, and the exchange got very heated.  The two men did have the sense to go to the dressing-room to carry on their argument but in the end William Hall and Samuel Hill-Wood had to be called down from the directors’ box to intervene - which Hall did by leaving Chapman to deal with what Chapman clearly saw as Hardy’s stepping out of line.  No doubt Norris’ support of Hardy, whom Chapman saw as not up to his job, made Chapman’s anger the greater.  Although Hardy apologised for his part in the row, Chapman still demoted him to second-trainer until the end of the season and gave him a strong hint that he would be sacked when the season was over.   At the end of the match Chapman told Tom Whittaker he was going to be first-team trainer in Hardy’s place; he formally confirmed the appointment a few days later.


It was Chapman who told Norris about the row with Hardy and what had resulted.  Norris then lost his temper and told him that only the directors had the power to demote any employee.  I think Norris was telling the truth here: knowing Norris as I have come to, I can’t see him allowing any employee to make personnel decisions of this kind.  And of course, they had already been round this circuit once, soon after Chapman arrived, with Chapman bowing to Norris’ authority and leaving Hardy in his job.  I’m sure, too, that Norris was fully aware that there was more to a row between Chapman and Hardy than whose job it was to yell at Brain to keep onside.  However, in telling Chapman that he had exceeded his authority, Norris undermined William Hall’s decision to leave it to Chapman to sort the row out.  As a direct consequence of Norris’ refusal to back the decision of a fellow-director, William Hall resigned from the Arsenal board.  


I’m sure Herbert Chapman was very sorry about this unexpected outcome to his row with Hardy.  Hall’s departure robbed the Arsenal board-room of his calming influence (where it was sorely needed by all accounts); and in telling Hall about the £170 cheque, rather than Norris, I’m sure Chapman was going to the director he found easiest to deal with.  I’m not sure, though, that Hall could have done anything about the relationship between Chapman and Norris from that time onwards: it seems to have got pretty ugly.  Chapman sought legal advice about his position regarding the endorsement on the £170 cheque - from the Football League’s Charles Sutcliffe, whom Norris regarded as an ally of his own (he was mistaken, but not because of Chapman).  And George Hardy continued to be a source of aggravation even after he had left the club.  There was an incident over a letter of support for Hardy which Chapman accused Norris of having written himself.  Norris eventually discovered that the letter’s writer was a Mr Lewis, an Arsenal shareholder known to both him and Hardy; but I don’t suppose Chapman was pacified.  In August 1927 Norris said that he had been “openly and continuously insulted by Mr Chapman” during the past few months.  If Norris meant that Chapman had ceased to accord him the deference he felt he was due (and which everyone else gave him) as the main man at the club, I don’t find it surprising.  However, it wasn’t Chapman who asked the FA to investigate Arsenal’s finances; it was William Hall. 






Copyright Sally Davis November 2008