Continuing our exploration of Great Managers, see yesterdays post for part one in this series.
3. Tom Whittaker. 1947-1956
He was born at East Cavalry Barracks, Aldershot, Hampshire, but grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne. As a youth he spent his early football career in the North of England and at the same time he was training as a marine engineer. When he was called up to the British Army, he signed up for the Royal Garrison Artillery but later switched to the Royal Navy. He was demobilised in 1919.
In 1919, after serving his country in World War I, he joined Arsenal, under manager Leslie Knighton. He first played as centre-forward then as wing-half, signing as a professional in January 1920 and making his debut in a 1–0 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion.
He toured Australia as part of the FA side in 1925, but during the tour, in a match in Wollongong he broke his knee cap and was forced to retire from playing. Following his injury he joined Arsenal’s coaching staff and also studied to become a physiotherapist. He became Arsenal’s first team trainer under Herbert Chapman in 1927, at the time, he was younger than many of the players. He assisted Chapman in transforming the training and physiotherapy regime at the club, and played a major part in the club’s successes during the 1930s.
After Herbert Chapman passed away in 1934, he continued to serve under his successor, George Allison while also becoming a trainer for the English National Team. With the advent of WW11 he began to work as an ARP warden, before becoming a pilot in the Royal Air Force where he achieved the rank of Squadron Leader. For his service in missions on D-Day, he was awarded an MBE.
When George Allison retired in 1947, he became the club’s new manager; after winning the League in 1947-48 and 1952-53 and the FA Cup in 1949-50, the club’s success waned. He tried, in vain, to attract major stars to the club, one being Stanley Matthews who said later – “I felt there was nothing to be gained by moving south, however I was very happy and politely turned down the offer”. “Such an approach was against the rules at the time and, consequently, I couldn’t tell anyone about it, and I never have until now.”
Sadly Tom passed away from a heart attack in 1956, aged 58.
Tom Whittaker’s league record –
Games 378, Won 171, Drawn 101, Lost 106,
Goals for 677, Goals against 509,
Goals for per game 1.79, Goals against per game 1.35
Points won 58.6%.
Average League Position 5.22
Total # of trophies won – 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 Charity Shields.
4. Bertie Mee: 1966-1976
He was born in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire and played for both Derby County and Mansfield Town before his playing career was cut short by injury. Bertie joined the Royal Army Medical Corps where he trained as a physiotherapist and in six years he rose to the rank of Sergeant. After leaving, he worked for various football clubs as a physiotherapist, before joining Arsenal in 1960, succeeding Billy Milne.
Billy Wright was sacked in 1966 and the club asked Bertie to become manager, surprising a lot of people, including Bertie himself. He asked for a get-out clause in his contract allowing him to return to be the club physiotherapist, if it didn’t work out after twelve months. To make up for his own tactical deficiencies he recruited Dave Sexton and Don Howe as his assistants.
In 1970 he led Arsenal to the Fairs Cup Final against Anderlecht. After losing the first leg 3-1, Arsenal won the return match at Highbury 3-0, to claim a 4-3 aggregate victory. It ended a seventeen-year drought since the last major honour – the 1953 league title.
The following season Arsenal won the league and cup double, only the second time this had been accomplished in the twentieth century. Arsenal won the League Championship with a victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, then went on to beat Liverpool in extra time to seal the FA Cup at Wembley. Shortly afterwards one of his assistants, Don Howe, left Arsenal to manage West Bromwich Albion.
Arsenal had ambitions to retain their title the following season and signed Alan Ball from Everton but their league campaign faltered and their hopes of a trophy depended on the FA Cup, Arsenal reached the final again, where we lost 1-0 to Leeds. In the 1972-73 season Arsenal managed a serious championship challenge, at one point topping the table, but eventually finished runners-up. A run in the FA Cup was brought to an end by a semi final defeat to eventual winners Sunderland.
The Arsenal side than began to break up with first George Graham then Charlie George and Frank McLintock all leaving the club. A number of less impressive seasons saw Bertie being replaced in 1976, by Terry Neill.
He was made an OBE in 1984 for services to football.
He passed away in London in 2001, at the age of 82.
Bertie Mee’s league record –
Games 420, Won 181, Drawn 115, Lost 124,
Goals for 554, Goals against 444,
Goals for per game 1.32, Goals against per game 1.06
Points won 56.8%.
Average League Position 8.30
Total #of trophies won – 1 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 European Fairs Cup.
Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile