Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Glossop and the Hill-Woods

Posted by John Beech on May 11, 2009

Having blogged recently on the demise of Darwen, and in passing mentioned the original Accrington (1), I thoroughly enjoyed David Conn’s article in yesterday’s Observer (2) on the third member of that intrepid band of desaparecidos from the top flight of English football – Glossop North End. Although the article had been prompted by Glossop’s appearance at Wembley for the final of the FA Vase, it gave a fascinating account of Glossop since their disappearance from the top flight, and Arsenal’s rise and rise from the time Samuel Hills-Wood switched his backing from Glossop to the Gunners.

These two threads following the role of Samuel Hills-Woods (and his descendants in the case of Arsenal) offer textbook examples of two phenomena in the professional English game:

  • In the case of Glossop, without a significant benefactor a club which does not have a large population within its immediate catchment area from which it can build a strong fan base is not going to cut it at the top – with the wrong choice of club, a benefactor can only buy success at his continuing cost.
  • In the case of Arsenal, influence and money can be used to build a club into a super-club where there is a large potential fan base. Arsenal under Samuel Hills-Wood in the decade following the First World War makes for an interesting comparison with, in the modern era, Fulham under Mohammed Fayed or Chelsea under Roman Abramovich.

Together they suggest that, unless a benefactor has infinite pockets, in the long term a club should set its sights on what it considers realistically to be its ‘natural level’. What the level is for any particular club is, of course, highly contentious.


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