Tom Bromilow’s (pictured below) time as Leicester City’s manager throughout the Second World War is well documented. His coach Jack Butler (main image, back row, first from right) was also a key figure at the Club from 1940 until 1946, but his time at Filbert Street has been largely forgotten.
Tom Bromilow pictured with the War League South trophy.
Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1894, Jack joined Arsenal in May 1914 after spells at Fulham and Dartford. He returned to Highbury after serving in the Footballers’ Battalion in the First World War. Playing at centre-half, he won an England cap in 1924 and was a key figure in legendary manager Herbert Chapman’s (pictured below) tactical innovation of the ‘WM’ system which laid the foundations for Arsenal’s dominance in the 1930s.
Leaving Arsenal in 1930 and retiring as a player after two years at Torquay United, Butler spent much of the 1930s coaching Belgium’s Royal Daring Club to league and cup successes as well as managing the Belgium national side, taking them to the FIFA World Cup Finals in 1938.
Herbert Chapman’s tactical innovation of the ‘WM’ system laid the foundations for Arsenal’s dominance in the 1930s.
Following the outbreak of War, Butler was back in Britain, where the 1939/40 Football League season had been cancelled after three games
The Directors’ Minutes reveal that soon after Bromilow’s appointment as manager in July 1939, the Club engaged a new Head Trainer, Preston North End’s Jim Metcalf, on £8 per week. This was later reduced to a war time salary of £2 per week. However, in October 1940, Metcalf returned to the north to look after his sick wife.
Alf Pallett, former Leicester City Chairman.
Seeking a replacement, Leicester City’s Chairman Alfred Pallett (pictured above) consulted the Secretary of the FA, Stanley Rous (pictured below) (later Sir Stanley Rous, President of FIFA) who recommended Jack Butler. Following a meeting with Butler in London, Pallett invited him to take charge of the team the following weekend against Luton Town at Filbert Street 'so that the board might be in a position to take a decision after the match'.
At the time, Stanley Rous was the Secretary of the FA, but he later became Sir Stanley Rous, FIFA President.
Despite losing the match 4-2, Butler was offered the post for the duration of the War, at a salary of £5 per week. The board paid his removal expenses from London together with £1 and one shilling (£1.05p) ‘for the loss of time sustained when meeting Mr Pallett in London’.
Following his appointment, Butler stored his furniture in the Main Stand at Filbert Street only to see it destroyed a couple of weeks later when the Luftwaffe dropped a bomb on the stand. A carpenter tried unsuccessfully to repair the furniture. The following month Butler appealed for financial aid to compensate for its loss.
Jack Butler's note to Ernie Kenney
Jack Butler's note to Ernie Kenney, informing him that a match he was due to play in was called off.
Throughout the War, Butler was heavily involved with Bromilow in setting up, developing and coaching Leicester City’s Junior and Colts teams. This scheme linked football with civilian employment and was aimed at nurturing young local talent for the cash-strapped club.
Ernie Kenney spoke to us in 2019 about his memories of Jack Butler. As a 15-year-old playing for Cosby, Ernie was invited to a trial at Leicester City and started playing for the Juniors and Colts teams which were coached by Butler. He still has notes relating to this time from Butler (pictured above) and Bromilow (pictured below).
Tom Bromilow's note to Ernie Kenney
Tom Bromilow's note, written to Ernie Kenney.
"Jack Butler was very good," Ernie remembered. "He coached us in the Arsenal way, teaching us ball control, passing, moving into open space and all that sort of thing. When (Club record goalscorer) Arthur Chandler, who was watching us one day, gave me some tips on goalscoring, he wasn’t really telling me anything that Jack Butler hadn’t already taught me."
In July 1944 as part of its youth policy, the Club also adopted Middlesbrough Swifts as a nursery club, from whom they signed the future Leicester City and England star Don Revie (pictured below).
The Club signed future City and England star Don Revie for Middlesbrough Swifts.
In November 1944, with the Allies and the Red Army making advances in Europe, Jim Metcalf and Jack Butler both applied for the position of trainer at Filbert Street once the War was over. The Board voted 3-2 in favour of Butler who was appointed on a salary of £500 per year.
Tom Mather was appointed as Leicester City’s manager in June 1945.
At the end of the season Bromilow left Leicester to coach in Holland. He was replaced by Tom Mather (pictured above) who had 30 years’ experience as a manager. When Mather left Leicester City after only eight months in March 1946, he was replaced by Johnny Duncan (pictured below), Leicester City’s captain in the halcyon days of the 1920s.
Before departing to coach in Denmark during the 1946 close season, Butler was offered a year’s contract extension, but because of significant differences with Duncan concerning training and coaching, Butler offered to resign to avoid any conflict. The Directors reluctantly accepted Butler’s resignation and made a payment of £600 to him.
Johnny Duncan was a major figure in Leicester City's history.
This was a large sum, equivalent to more than Butler’s annual salary. It is an indication of the Directors’ appreciation of the pivotal role that Butler had played in guiding Leicester City through the Second World War.
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