Joseph Hulme: Chapman’s brilliance with wingers

by Tony Attwood

Joe Hulme was born in Stafford and started his football career with York City, before joining Blackburn in 1924 for £250.

Herbert Chapman bought him to Arsenal in 1926.  and he spent 12 years at Highbury, thus sharing in all the great moments of the Chapman and post-Chapman era.

When Joe made his first appearance on 6 February 1926 Arsenal had already used Jock Rutherford, his son JJ Rutherford, Harry Woods (actually a centre forward), and Herbert Lawson (who after just 16 starts was transferred to Brentford) as a replacement for the injured Sid Hoar in the number 7 shirt.  But once Joe Hulme took the shirt, he kept it, with Sid Hoard making fewer appearances upon his return, and generally playing at number 11.

To understand his style of play you need only to think of Thierry Henry as a winger and the fact that Chapman liked the counter-attacking style of play.   Henry on the wing could knock the ball past a player and use his natural pace to outdo the opposition.  Joe Hulme used the same trick endlessly, especially when the opposition had been drawn up the field, leaving the defence low on numbers.

Joe was soon being picked to play in the Football League team, and for England against Scotland in 1927 – ultimately winning nine caps.

His record for Arsenal in the following seasons was remarkable:

Year Appearances Goals
1925/6 15 2
1926/7 37 8
1927/8 36 8
1928/9 41 6
1929/30 37 14
1930/1 32 14
1931/2 40 14
1932/3 40 20
1933/4 8 5
1934/5 16 8
1936/6 21 6
1936/7 3 0
1937/8 7 2
   333  107

With Hulme on one wing and from 1929 onwards Cliff Bastin on the other, plus Alex James coming forwards from central midfield Arsenal built their powerhouse.  Having played in the FA Cup defeat to Cardiff, Joe won the cup in 1930 and won first division trophies in 1930/31 and 1932/3.

In 1933/4 he sustained an injury in the first match, and was injured again in December and could only make a stuttering return towards the end of the season, as Arsenal won the league again.

But he did get his third medal in 1934/5 and a second FA Cup medal in 1936 and in fact he was the only player to play in all of the first four Arsenal Cup Finals.

His last two seasons involved occasional appearances and he finished his football career at Arsenal on 18 December 1937 in a 0-2 defeat.

Including cup matches he scored 125 goals in 374 games before moving to Huddersfield where he won a runners up medal in the FA Cup, before retiring at the end of th4e 1938 season.  But with that final game he became the first player ever to play in five cup finals.

What’s more Joe was an all-rounder at cricket and played 225 times for Middlesex, between 1929 and 1939.   He made his first 1,000 runs in a single season in 1932.  Indeed those who have written about his ability at cricket have raved over his fielding, batting and running between the stumps.  His 8103 runs came in 225 cricket matches.

He worked in the war as a policeman and then became assistant manager of… of all people Tottenham.  From 1945 to 1949 he was the manager.  Fortunately he had little success, although clearly did bring in some of the players that won the league for Tottenham in 1951.  He then moved into journalism where he became highly established and recognised as a writer.  Clearly a man of many talents – and it is quite possible that he was helped in his move to journalism by Arsenal’s most famous man of letters: George Allison.

Joe Hulme died in September 1991.

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3 Replies to “Joseph Hulme: Chapman’s brilliance with wingers”

  1. A good read. Thank you.

    You mentioned that Joe also played top class cricket. Am I right in thinking that the last player to play football in winter and cricket in summer at this level was Brian close?

  2. I reckon Chris Balderstone was the last player to play top flight football and county cricket at the same time. He played for Carlise during their only season in the old first division in 1974-75 and played for Leicsetershire during the summer. He also played a couple of test matches as well as playing in a county cricket game and a football league game on the same day.

    I digress, but still quite interesting.

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