The Northern Whig, on this day in 1950, reported that the Arsenal manager Tom Whittaker was very much in demand with the Italian national team.
Browsing through some old articles looking for Arsenal news items from the same day, I came across one about the Italian National team wanting to lure Tom Whittaker away from Arsenal.
Whittaker, however, was a one-club man and would not be moved.
He managed Arsenal from 1947 until his death in 1956, after playing for them between 1919 and 1925 and coaching them before being appointed manager.
His first professional contact came with the Gunners in 1920, playing first as a centre forward before shifting to half-back. Injury during a friendly on tour forced his retirement just five years later.
There was no coming back from a broken knee cap in those days, and he joined Arsenal’s coaching staff and began studying to become a physio.
In 1927, the great Herbert Chapman made him first team coach and Whittaker was integral to the team’s success during the 30s thanks to his training and physio work.
After the sudden death of Chapman in 1934, Whittaker remained at he club while also taking up a role with England.
Whittaker was finally handed the managerial reigns at the club in 1947 after serving with the RAF during the second World War and receiving an MBE. Two league titles came either side of his offer from Italy, while Whittaker also guided Arsenal to the FA Cup.
Like Herbert Chapman, Whittaker died while still in charge of the club. A heart attack at the University College Hospital after a period of ill-health in 1956 took him, aged only 58.
He spent 37 of those years with Arsenal and in the report of his death below was called ‘one of the greatest names in soccer’ who ‘achieved unrivalled knowledge of all aspects of football, first as a player, then as a trainer, and finally as manager’.
Full text from 1950 article:
Arsenal manager and Italian offer
An offer from Italy to Mr. Tom Whittaker, the Arsenal manager, expected to reach Highbury in a week or so.
The Italians want Mr Whittaker to look after their national team, and Mr. Whittaker, on arrival London Airport last night his way home from Rio, confirmed the news.
To the question whether would consider accepting the offer. Mr. Whittaker smilingly replied: “I have been 30 years with Arsenal, and I think a lot of them.”
Mr. Whittaker arrived with the England World Cup team, all of whom were looking fit and well. The players were under agreement not to comment on the matches in which they took part.