No mention of the history-making pre-War Brentford team can ever be complete without the name of Harry Curtis figuring prominently. Quite simply, he was the greatest manager in the history of Brentford Football Club, and he led the team up through the divisions to the pinnacle of the English game. His team topped the First Division, finished in its highest-ever place in the club’s history and, of course, won the 1942 London War Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
His impact during his 23-year stint in charge can never be under-estimated, but it wasn’t just what he achieved on the pitch. His leadership and off-field drive was instrumental in the development of Griffin Park into what was, at the time, one of the great stadiums in Britain. Yes, he was undoubtedly a superb talent spotter as far as players were concerned, but he was also a visionary – innovative in his thinking in all football matters. He was a leader, a mentor, an administrator, a scout with an eye for a bargain, a father-figure and a skilled communicator.
Followers of Brentford FC will recognise Harry Curtis from pictures as a small, moustached man, often photographed wearing his trilby hat and invariably dressed in a suit. But as secretary/manager, his role was vastly different from the track-suited football bosses of later years. Instead, it was the trainer who put the players through their daily paces – Harry oversaw all of that whilst recruiting and selling players, managing off-field affairs down to the minutest of details and mapping out and planning for the club’s future.
Dave Lane and his team have done a great job pulling together more information about Harry that has ever been gathered in one place before. He has linked the Club back up with Harry’s family and it will be great to continue that association over the coming years. The Board Room at our new stadium being named after him is a fitting tribute.
I hope that, under my ownership, Brentford can get back to where we were in the 1930s and 40s. That is certainly what we are aiming for. But, until then, enjoy reading about the Club’s greatest days to date and the man who made it happen.
Remarkably, when the team won away at Bradford to secure promotion to the First Division in 1935, Harry was not with them, but instead was watching a reserve team fixture back at Griffin Park. Whether his absence from long-distance away matches was a regular occurrence, or not, is unclear, but he revealed his own private celebration from 150 miles away when news filtered through of Brentford’s 3-2 victory.
“I think I must have become delirious, for I threw my hat in the air, went racing down the stairs to my office, only to wonder what I had come down there for!“
Watching new players, picking the team and dealing with the playing staff were paramount to his role, but responding to letters from supporters, processing requests for tickets, ground safety issues, managing War-time finances and confronting the trials and tribulations brought about by armed conflict were all part and parcel of the role as well.
In the summer of 1947, in the aftermath of Brentford’s relegation from Division One, Harry recounted the story of his time at Brentford to reporter Eric Lucas of the Brentford & Chiswick Times newspaper. His serialised diary forms the basis of the new book and provides a fascinating insight into his experiences both on and off the field. Accompanied by a whole selection of press reports, anecdotes and photographs, we can begin to piece together the life of legendary manager Harry Curtis, as Brentford Football Club went from strength to strength and grew in stature throughout the 1930s – the club’s golden era. Harry Curtis, we salute you.
David LaneTHE LIMITED EDITION BOOK IS AVAILABLE HERE