By Tony Attwood
George Hardy has very little written about him; there’s not even a Wiki piece on the internet (as of 2 February 2013). He doesn’t even seem to get a mention on Arsenal’s own web site.
So, time to put that right – not just for completeness but because the George Hardy story is a story of huge interest – here is a piece. As so often with the Norris era I am particularly indebted to Sally Davis for her work on this topic – work that far exceeds the sparse commentaries elsewhere.
This is how Sally Davis reports the arrival of Hardy at Arsenal. It is in fact the only report of his arrival I can find.
“At the end of season 1909/10, just before William Hall and Henry Norris were asked to help Woolwich Arsenal FC, the club’s first-team coach resigned. George Hardy was taken on as his replacement: the first employee appointed by Hall and Norris’ regime at the club.”
Sally Davis makes the point that Hardy was therefore a “Norris man”, something that proves to be of considerable importance later.
The first stories we have of Hardy focus on the early days at Highbury.
In the first game at Highbury (September 6, 1913) , George Jobey, Arsenal’s new centre forward, scored but then injured an ankle. In this tale Jobey was carried off by George Hardy. Since the dressing-rooms had not been built yet, Jobey was taken to his home for treatment. The story is that George Hardy borrowed a cart from the local milkman to take him there. Another version has him putting Hardy in a wheelbarrow.
George Hardy, Bob John, Tom Whittaker, Joe Toner,
Joe Irvine, Henry Norris and Leslie Knighton sometime around 1923/4
In 1927/28 there is a suggestion that George Hardy had a benefit match – a game against Corinthians, and most reports suggest 1927 was the year when the relationship between Hardy and Chapman exploded. If there was a benefit match it would have been arranged by Norris, not Chapman, as we’ll see below.
Immediately after the game (it is said in some sources – but not all, as we’ll see below) Hardy was sacked and Whittaker promoted to the trainer in his place. It is reported in Whittaker’s autobiography (but could be a myth) that this is when Chapman said to Whittaker, “I’m going to make this the greatest club in the world and I`m going to make you the greatest Trainer in the game.”
But this raises the question: why was Hardy so strongly disciplined for one misdemeanour? Sally Davis suggests that the event brought into the open something that had been simmering for some time: who ran Arsenal.
In this version of events, Hardy was not sacked at all, but subsequently left of his own volition and thus the episode ended without Norris directly coming in to reinstate him and do what he had not done before: override Chapman.
So Whittaker continued to be the first-team trainer as Chapman wanted, and Chapman’s authority was never again questioned.
But Sir Henry Norris did not forget this moment because in his own letter of resignation to Arsenal’s board in July 1927 he said that “his position as club chairman was now untenable because of the challenges to his authority made by Hall and Chapman.” (Davis)
But whichever way it happened Hardy left in 1927 to work at Tottenham, before moving on to coach Tottenham’s nursery side Northfleet United. This version says he died preparing for a Tottenham match v West Bromwich Albion in January 1947.
So there we are – the first article on George Hardy which pulls together the different strands of opinion. There are of course many gaps – if you know any more please do write in.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches