Plymouth Argyle 1905/06

Football’s Pioneering Managers: Bob Jack

Focusing on pioneering and innovative football managers who did much to change the game, Professor Matt Taylor recalls Bob Jack, Plymouth Argyle’s most successful and longest serving manager.
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On 30 August, 1930, Home Park hosted its first match in the Second Division of the Football League. Although the Pilgrims lost 3-2 to eventual champions Everton, it was a proud moment for the supporters and the manager, Bob Jack, who had been a symbol of the club’s progress since arriving as a player in 1903.

Born in 1876, Jack first played for his local club, Alloa Athletic, as a 15-year-old and turned professional in 1893. He moved to Bolton Wanderers in 1895 for six seasons and then had short spells at Preston North End and Glossop.

In 1903, he moved down from the Football League to join Argyle, who were about to embark on their first professional season in the Southern League. Still in his 20s, Jack was made player-manager at Home Park in 1905. He moved to a similar position at Southend United during the summer of 1906. Yet in 1910, having finished his playing career, he returned to Plymouth as manager.    

Under Jack, the Pilgrims finished runners-up and winners of the Southern League in 1911/12 and 1912/13 respectively. In the Football League’s new Third Division Southern Section, which Plymouth joined after the First World War, Jack built one of the most competitive teams in English football.

Built around key figures such as goalkeeper Fred Craig, Welsh international defender Moses Russell and the forward partnership of Sammy Black and Jack Leslie, Plymouth were regular challengers for promotion.

Indeed, they were runners-up for six consecutive seasons between 1921/22 and 1926/27 (at a time when only the champions were promoted) and made the top four the following two seasons. Despite the consistent disappointment of missing out on promotion, Jack was known to boast around this time that no club had won so many matches as Argyle since the last war.

Plymouth were finally promoted in 1929/30 and the club performed well in the Second Division, finishing fourth in 1931/32 and fifth in 1936/37. Jack retired in April 1938, having spent almost 30 years in total as Argyle manager.

Two of his sons also played under him at Plymouth. The most successful, David, later made his name at Bolton Wanderers, scoring in two FA Cup Final victories at Wembley, playing for England and becoming the first £10,000 footballer when he was bought by Arsenal’s Herbert Chapman in 1928.  

Jack retired to Southend, where son David was then manager. He died there in 1943 but his ashes were returned to Plymouth and scattered at Home Park.




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