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Horace Cope: an important early Chapman signing, but now lost to history.

Horace Walter Cope, who played at left back for Arsenal in the Chapman era,  was born on 24 May 1899 in Treeton, a village in South Yorkshire.

He started his working life as a miner while playing also for Treeton United and then moved to Notts County (although I can’t find any dates or details) before joining Arsenal on 10 December 1926.  He was therefore one of Chapman’s early purchases.

I have also read, although without any details, that during his time at Notts County Horace Cope played for England – and certainly his fee would suggest a player of international stature.

Although he stayed for seven seasons he fell out of favour after three seasons, with the arrival of Eddie Hapgood, and only played 65 league games for the club.

Season Games  Goals
1926/7   11 0
1927/8 24 0
1928/9 23 0
1929/30 1 0
1930/1 1 0
1931/2 1 0
1932/3 4 0
Total 65 0

Including FA Cup games he played 76 times for Arsenal

Horace Cope’s first game was on 27 December 1926 away to Cardiff.  Having done so well in Chapman’s first season – with the club being turned from relegation fodder into runners up in the league, 1926/7 went far less well in the league, although Arsenal did make it to its first ever Cup Final.  But that adventure did not start of course until January, and a home defeat to Tottenham by 2-4 on 18 December 1926 was probably the last straw for Chapman who was needing to build on his first season success.  Here’s the league table after the Tottenham defeat.

P   W D L F A Pts
1 Sunderland 22 11 5 6 48 32 27
2 Burnley 21 11 5 5 52 35 27
3 Newcastle United 20 10 5 5 49 31 25
4 Huddersfield Town 20 7 11 2 38 30 25
5 Bolton Wanderers 19 9 5 5 40 25 23
6 Tottenham Hotspur 20 9 5 6 46 37 23
7 Leicester City 20 8 6 6 47 42 22
8 Sheffield Wednesday 21 8 6 7 38 43 22
9 Birmingham City 20 9 3 8 26 30 21
10 West Ham United 19 8 4 7 34 28 20
11 Leeds United 20 8 4 8 42 38 20
12 Arsenal 20 6 8 6 37 40 20
13 Sheffield United 20 7 6 7 37 44 20
14 Manchester United 19 7 5 7 27 36 19
15 Liverpool 19 8 2 9 30 28 18
16 Aston Villa 20 7 4 9 36 42 18
17 Bury 21 5 8 8 36 43 18
18 Blackburn Rovers 20 7 4 9 35 51 18
19 Cardiff City 20 6 4 10 26 33 16
20 Derby County 19 7 1 11 36 35 15
21 Everton 22 4 6 12 33 51 14
22 West Bromwich Albion 20 4 3 13 29 48 11

 

True Arsenal were not doing too badly – but this was Chapman, a man who always demanded more, and so he made changes.

Earlier in the season Arsenal had gone on a run of nine matches with just one win, and he undoubtedly had changes in mind before the Tottenham game – so that defeat at home in front of 49429 was just the catalyst.  In came Lewis in goal, Cope at left back and Peel at outside left, all simultaneously making their debut away to Cardiff.

Not surprisingly with three new players, Arsenal lost 0-2, but afterwards went on a run of three consecutive wins.  Chapman continued to switch the team around but Cope did get a run of 11 games.

My suspicion is that on 2 April 1927 Cope was injured, for he didn’t play again that season, and no regular left back was found to replace him until Kennedy came into the team, several matches later.  Indeed it was Kennedy who played left back in the cup final.

As we can see Cope fell out of favour under Herbert Chapman in the 1929/30 season and played just seven matches in his final four seasons at the Club as the team won three league titles and an FA Cup.

The chart I published earlier when looking at the tactical switches that Chapman made during his early days at Arsenal shows what happened to Horace Cope.  This table relates just to the left back position…

Kennedy John Cope Hapgood Baker Male
1925/6 14 28
1926/7 11 17 11
1927/8 1 11 24 3
1928/9 2 23 17
1929/30 1 1 38
1930/1 2 38 1 1
1931/2 1 41
1932/3 4 38
1933/4 2 40

And immediately we see that Bob John was used until Horace Cope took over, and but then Eddie Hapgood made his mark.   Three players who between them took the bulk of the games – aided by Andrew Kennedy from the Knighton era at the start.

Horace Cope played his final game for Arsenal against Blackpool on 11 February 1933, and he got that game probably because of the fall out from one of the most infamous of Arsenal matches – the defeat to Walsall in the FA Cup on 14 January 1933.

As reported earlier on the same day at the same time as Arsenal were being beaten by Walsall, Arsenal Reserves played Northampton Town at Highbury winning 5-0.  The team included Leslie Compton, Horace Cope, Ray Parkin, Alf Haynes, and Joe Hulme, all of whom played in the first team that season.

It is Horace Cope’s inclusion in the reserve team which showed us what Herbert Chapman was doing.  He wasn’t giving first team players a rest and letting the regular reserves like Horace Cope have a go.  No, he was finding out whether four of his reserves who had not had first team experience were mentally and physically strong enough to move up from the first team.   It was they who were very quickly moved on.

Horace stayed for the rest of the season playing in the reserves, and then on 3 July 1933 he was sold to Bristol Rovers for £1500.  This was to be his last club as far as I can tell.

After that I have no more information save that Horace Cope died on 4 October 1961. 

This lack of information is always sad in relation to Arsenal players but it is a particular tragedy considering the important contribution that he made in the early Chapman years to stabilising the defence.  If you know any more, please do write in.

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2 comments to Horace Cope: an important early Chapman signing, but now lost to history.

  • I now believe that after retiring from football he moved back to Treeton where his family had worked in the colliery running Treeton Working Man’s Club, Rotherham, before running a Public House in Nottingham.

  • Jean Salt

    Horace Cope was my uncle, my mothers brother. Tony your info is correct .

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