Tag Archives: chapman

Recognising Tom Whittaker

We are blessed to support Arsenal.

Not many clubs can boast such a rich history as ours. This doesn’t just mean trophies and titles. It can mean the players we had, the difference we made to the game itself, and proud records that stand the test of time.

When you think of our rich tapestry, most recall Herbert Chapman, and rightly so. The visionary that joined from Huddersfield Town dragged Arsenal – and the game – up from its haunches and the amends he suggested are still part of the fabric of the game we know now.

Chapman deservedly dominates thought, but I am here to say that there is another who deserves the same level of adulation – and that while I was aware of his name previously, I had no scope of the measure of the man until I was told about it.

So here I am trying to make sure as many Gooners are aware of this extraordinary man, his feats and above all – how he put Arsenal above all. Just like I was made aware.

We may be blessed to be Gooners, but it is people like Tom Whittaker that have made it so.

Mr Whittaker devoted his entire working life to Arsenal, giving an entirely new definition to a ‘one-club man.’ From his playing days he moved into a physio role, then moving up to become a coach and finally, the manager. Such is the strength of his presence that Arsenal didn’t win a single trophy without him in some capacity until 1970. Seeing as he played for the club in the ‘20’s, that’s quite the stretch.

Whittaker began his coaching career under Chapman, while still younger than some of the players. His broken kneecap suffered during his playing career had forced his hand and Whittaker wanted to continue in the sport in some capacity, so studied to become a physio, and went on to make major changes in the way the club maintained the fitness of the squad.

He was at a forward thinking club under Chapman, and his methods were recognised by England, who appointed him to become one of their trainers. After George Allison – Chapman’s successor – retired in 1947, it would be Whittaker who would take the reins, completing a remarkable career transformation – all under the umbrella of one club.

Whittaker was overseeing the slow demise of Arsenal as the powerhouse of English football, so his title-winning triumphs of 1947/48 and 1952/53, as well as the FA Cup in 1950, were all the more remarkable and added to the lustre of Whittaker’s reputation.

Herbert Chapman’s reverence isn’t just down to the fact he made the club what it is today. He sacrificed his life for Arsenal – something that Tom Whittaker also gave us. Whittaker even referenced Chapman’s ultimate sacrifice when he took over as manager, saying “Herbert Chapman worked himself to death for this club and if that is my fate, then I am happy to accept it.


Image credit – Arsenal History

He passed away in 1956 while still in the role of Manager. He had worked for Arsenal for nearly four decades. This is not referenced enough. Before finding this info out (thanks to Tim Stillman), I had known of Whittaker, but not of the magnitude of his heroics.

Whittaker IS Arsenal, just as much as Herbert Chapman is Arsenal. It is  criminal how underappreciated he is, and I feel almost guilty for not recognising him for the cornerstone of Arsenal that he is.

This is why I hope even one person reads this and it sticks in their mind. I want Gooners to know that while the present day is pressing, the reason we can enjoy supporting Arsenal is down to Chapman AND Whittaker.

We were blessed to have two men who went above and beyond, and word needs to be spread.

Making The Emirates A Home

A home ground is more than a mere location to play. It is meant to hold significant meaning to supporters who take their seats each week, it is meant to be as much of a home to us as when we all return back to our own domain.

Intrinsically linked through symbology and memory, the home ground is supposed to be partizan not only through the reception visiting teams get when on the pitch, but also before they even set foot inside the building.

At this present moment in time though, our home, The Emirates, holds no bearing on away teams nor their kin. It is also the same for the majority of our own fans.

Speaking personally, I adore The Emirates. Its modern lines are a sign we are keeping up with the relentless pace of the modern game. The icons who stand arm in arm with their legendary brethren on the facade of the ground recall amazing visions and inspire hope and fervour. Inside, there is no gap between the pitch and the stands, which can be a killer for modern stadia.

The Emirates is a great place to play football – but it is not quite home yet.

We were spoiled with Highbury. The amazing night games which packed just over 38,000 fans into it were the stuff of goosebumps and wild celebration. The inside and out represented Arsenal and our values down to an art-deco T. It was perfect. Marble halls and floors, memories and heroes.

No one wanted to see Highbury consigned to the past. If we could have stretched the capacity of the ground, then it surely would have been a better bet than the financial shackles we would have to endure. However, this was never an option that was on the table.

The thing that makes a ground a home is triumph under floodlights, trophies held aloft by your captain, players performing amazing things on the way to glory. Memories make the place. Trophies do too.

Winning the FA Cup’s recently have helped inch us toward adoration, but we are not there yet, by any stretch. Players who have illuminated games with their skill in our shirt have also gone a fair way to securing our love, but Highbury casts a large shadow over our new ground, larger than it should be given the difference in size.

It was necessity that we moved grounds. To compete at the highest level, a higher attendance was absolutely necessary. 

Now we must concentrate on forging a past that pushes the future. 

We had all of our 13 title wins at Highbury, and ten of our FA Cup wins. We had two European trophies in our trophy cupboards in those Marble Halls. We had the birth of our ethos there too.

Herbert Chapman. Ian Wright. Cliff Bastin. Alex James. George Graham. Arsene Wenger. George Male. Bob Wilson.  Liam Brady. George Armstrong. Peter Storey. David O’Leary. The best back 5 ever to grace English football. Dennis Bergkamp. Thierry Henry. The Invincibles.

They are tied to Highbury, they are tied to the best moments which personify Arsenal and being a Gooner.

Until we lift a title at The Emirates, then the link between our ground and us will be weaker than it should. Liverpool will go through the same thing when they depart Anfield, and Chelsea too with Stamford Bridge – the same rule doesn’t apply to tottenham as they have not exactly got much to hark back to….

Statues of titans who wore our shirt outside the ground give The Emirates an edge we all love, and the ring of trophy placards around the stands is a great touch, but until one of them is the silhouette of the Premier League trophy or European Cup, then we will look upon the Emirates as a great place – not THE place.