Herbert Chapman on: The Lack of Personalities

From Herbert Chapman on Football, a posthumous collection of his Sunday Express articles published in his memory in 1934.

Football today lacks the personalities of twenty or thirty years ago. This, I think, is true of all games, and the reason for it is a fine psychological study. The life which we live is so different: the pace, the excitement, and the sensationalism which we crave are new factors which have had a disturbing influence. They have upset the old balance mentally as well as physically, and they have made football different to play as well as to watch. And they have set up new values. The change has, in fact, been so violent that I do not think the past, the players and the game, can fairly be compared with the present.

It is sometimes said that, if the old players were to come back, they would show up the limitations of today. But there is no coming back. I know how boldly and confidently the old-timers speak of their prowess, and how they are inclined to belittle present players. To support their arguments they point to the difficulty of the selectors in trying to build up a stable international side. England teams come and go. From one season to another they can scarcely be recognised. They have, unfortunately, to be altered from match to match. Men good one day fail the next. They do not even play consistently in their club form. This is one tell-tale piece of evidence of how football has changed. In the old days the right of six or seven men to be picked was not questioned, and they never let the side down. Because of this, team selection was a comparatively easy matter.

I am not prepared to depreciate the men of today, being fully conscious of the many matters which have added to their difficulties. Competition has heightened enormously, and it is no longer possible for men or teams to play as they like. Thirty years ago, men went out with the fullest licence to display their arts and crafts. To-day they have to make their contribution to a system. Individuality has had to be subordinated to teamwork. Players have to take part in many more matches and the strain on their physical resources has greatly increased. The strain, too, has been intensified by the demands of the public. This is a point which I am afraid is only slightly appreciated.

1 Reply to “Herbert Chapman on: The Lack of Personalities”

  1. Some things presumably don’t change. I read a piece by Martin Corry the other day, explaining the difference between playing Number 8 and Second Row. I could have written it word-for-word 30 years ago, and I didn’t play at anywhere near his standard. Richie Benaud and Boycs keep telling us that some aspects of cricket are unchanging. But neither rugby nor cricket has the huge flows of money and publicity of football; does that cause profound differences?

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