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[15] Harold Hardman - Restoration of His Resting Place

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  • [15] Harold Hardman - Restoration of His Resting Place

    Harold Hardman - Restoration of His Resting Place

    Harold Hardman served Manchester United as a player, director, and chairman, for almost 60 years. He saw the club through the darkest hours in its history in those harrowing days after the Munich Disaster. For so many years this little fellow played an enormous part in the club and dedicated his life to serving it. He never once took any remuneration nor ever sought or asked for any. He died in June 1965. His resting place in Sale Cemetery has become so neglected and run down - so much so that it has become almost unrecognisable. In an era where statues are built for managers and stands are even named after them; when a CEO has his name on a plaque in the Munich Tunnel when he had no connection with Munich at all, it is a sad and sorry state of affairs that a little man who gave his life in service to the club, is another sad endictment of an unsung hero long forgotten by the establishment which he served so loyally.

    To right this, a group of Manchester United supporters have got together to work on a project whereby the resting place of this great little man will be restored to the respectful and dignified state that it so rightly should be.

    Paul Farrell, a local stonemason (who did the word carving on Sir Matt's statue) who is a huge United fan, has willingly volunteered his services to restore the masonry. The basic cost of the restoration will cost between 700-800 pounds. With this in mind, we are asking United supporters to remember this unique little man who contributed so much to the club, by making a donation, no matter how small, in order that we raise the necessary funds to see the job through.

    Donations (again - no matter how small) can be made into my Paypal account - [email protected]

    The Harold Hardman Restoration page on Facebook can be found here -

    This is a fan project and has absolutely nothing to do with the club, and we wish to keep it that way.

    It may well be that some of our members may know little of Harold Hardman or about his life. Below is an extract from my latest book "The Original Trinity" which will be published in July 2014.

    Harold Hardman

    Harold Hardman served the club for over 60 years… as a player, director, and Chairman of the club. His story and part in Manchester United’s history makes fascinating reading.

    Manchester United’s illustrious history is filled with people whose presence in one way or another, has had huge effects on the club. When the word “hero” is mentioned, for most fans, their thoughts automatically turn to players. But there has been a number of persons whom I term, “unsung heroes” who, even though they never ever trod the hallowed turf, nor even pulled that famous red jersey onto their bodies, they played more than a huge part not only in keeping the club afloat during the most difficult times, but they also helped shape the foundation and direction which the club would take.

    Four families immediately spring to mind – the Davies family, immediately after the turn of the 20th century; the Gibson family from the 1930’s through to 1970’s; the Edwards family from 1958 – 2003; and now the Glazer family. There has also been a number of individuals who have left their mark on the club, people like Louis Rocca, Walter Crikmer, Ernest Mangnall, Les Olive, Billy Inglis, Joe Armstrong, to name just a few. For most of those people, theirs was a labour of love, and they gave that labour out of devotion and love for Manchester United Football Club. Sadly, in relation to the Edwards and Glazer families, that ethos is as far removed from the mark in regards to those standards that were laid down before them, all those years ago.

    It takes a very special kind of man to be Chairman of Manchester United Football Club, and hold on to the reins of what probably is the most famous football club in the world, and yet at the same time, remain quietly in the background.

    Harold Payne Hardman was just such a man. For most Manchester United fans, during the tenure of his reign at Old Trafford, Mr. Hardman remained, and was content to be, somewhat of a distant, shadowy figure. Modesty was certainly a keynote of his character, but that modesty could never be said to have projected him as nothing more than a figurehead. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    Even by today’s standards, the life of Harold Payne Hardman, which spanned some 83 years, makes remarkable reading. Hardman was born on 4 April 1882 in the Kirkmanshulme area of industrial Manchester, an area which is now known as Gorton. As a very young boy he was frail and his local doctor was to inform Hardman’s family that he was not strong enough to play games. Because of their son’s alleged poor health, the Hardman family decided to leave smoky Manchester and move to the seaside town of Blackpool on Lancashire’s North-West coast.

    The purer seaside air seemed to do the young boy good because his health rapidly improved, and he decided that come what may, he was going to play football and not worry about any consequences. Football had been developing in Blackpool since 1877 when the first club, Victoria, a local church club played their games at Cuance Street. The team disbanded after just three years, but some members joined up with some old school friends and formed called Blackpool St. John’s. However there was internal discord between the players, and this led to a meeting being called on 27 July 1887, which was held at the Stanley Arms public house where it was decided to form a new football club which would represent the whole town, and so it was given the name of Blackpool Football Club.

    Harold Hardman played for a number of junior teams, which eventually led to him playing for South Shore Choristers who were considered rivals by Blackpool FC.. In 1896, Blackpool FC had been accepted into the Football League and were playing in Division Two. After finishing third from the bottom of the league in 1898-99 season, they were relegated into the Lancashire League. On 25 May 1900, the Football League decided that Blackpool FC should be once again allowed to play in the Second Division in the 1900-1901 season, and it was during that season that they amalgamated with the South Shore team, and so Harold Hardman’s football league career began.

    On 8 September 1900, the beginning of the 1900-01 football season, young Harold Hardman made his league debut in a match against Gainsborough Trinity, which was the very first Football league game ever played at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road. Over the next three seasons, Hardman was to be an almost permanent fixture in the Blackpool. An outside-left, he had great pace and the ability to switch flanks and was equally at home playing on the right hand side. He was known as a ‘dribbler’ and while not a prolific goal scorer himself, he was the fulcrum from which many goals were made for Blackpool forwards Bob Birkett and Jack Parkinson.

    His form was so consistent, that it was inevitable that First Division clubs began to take notice of him. Blackpool were a struggling club and it was no surprise that in 1903, Everton were able to secure his services for £100. The ironical thing is that Hardman remained an amateur all through his playing career. He had made 71 appearances for Blackpool and netted 10 goals.

    When he joined Everton, he was combining a football career with studies to become a solicitor. It was during his time at Everton that he first gained international recognition representing England at both amateur, and full international level, and it was there that he enjoyed most of his success, playing in two successive F.A. Cup Finals, winning an F.A. Cup winner’s medal in 1906, and a loser’s in 1907.

    In 1908 he was selected for the Great Britain team which played in the Olympic Tournament held in London and was a member of the Gold winning team which beat Denmark 2-0 in the final at Crystal Palace. During the next few seasons he was also capped eight times for England at amateur level, and also four times as a full international. Then came his first link with Manchester United when he signed for them in 1908 – but it proved to be not as successful as the one he was to enjoy in later years.

    When he left Everton in 1908, business commitments were making increasing demands on his time, and he moved to Manchester. When he signed for Manchester United, he entered into a bizarre kind of agreement with the club in that he would only play in alternate matches – why he should have done this is a mystery. Obviously it didn’t suit him as he only played four first team games for United, but the reality was that he was kept out of the first team by the consistent form of United’s brilliant Scottish international left winger, George Wall. So it was no surprise therefore when he left the club in 1909.

    The newspaper ‘The Manchester Guardian’ reported on January 16, 1909, “The Bradford City Club have secured the services of Harold P. Hardman, the well-known amateur outside left of Manchester United, and formerly with Everton. Owing to the brilliance of Wall, Hardman has not played regularly with the United team this season and he wishes to go to a club where he can appear more oftener in First Division football. He was signed on yesterday afternoon by Mr. Peter O’Rourke in Manchester, and will probably play against Liverpool next week."

    Upon completion of his transfer, Hardman wrote to the Chairman N.W. Pollock stating; “I know that I am coming among true sportsmen, and I shall throw myself heart and soul into my pet pastime. I feel sure that by the end of the season we shall hold a secure and honourable position in the League. Not the least controlling force that led to my decision was your present lowly position in the chart, for there is nothing I love better than a good, hard fight well won.”

    His stay at Valley Parade was as short lived as it was in Manchester, and he played just 20 matches for the Yorkshire club. He was hampered by a broken arm and after sustaining the injury he decided to retire from active playing. However, the lure of the game proved too much for him and he came out of retirement and threw in his lot with Stoke City. He was to stay three years in the Potteries, and the biggest landmark in his career during those three years, was that once again he was selected for the Great Britain soccer team which played in the Olympic Tournament held in Stockholm. He picked up his second gold medal when Britain contested the final, and again beat Denmark by 2-1.
    In 1911 Hardman became a Director at Manchester United and his role in the club was one that today we would probably term Director of Football. Again, it was another strange situation, because whilst he was also a Director at United, he was also still continuing his playing career with Stoke City! He played for Stoke for two years whilst still a Manchester United Director – surely the only Director who ever helped pick one club’s team whilst playing for another.

    He was to stay on the Old Trafford board until 1931 when the club encountered serious financial difficulties and almost went into liquidation. A local Manchester businessman, by the name of James W Gibson bailed the club out but one condition of him taking over, was the resignation of the board… However, just three years later, at the invitation of James Gibson, he re-joined the board.

    It’s my opinion that Harold Hardman must have the record as the longest serving Football Director in the history of the game because he was a member of the Manchester United Board until his death in 1965 – a period of some 54 years. Hardman was connected to the famous Manchester Amateur club, Northern Nomads as serveing in varying capacities at different levels of the game; President of the Lancashire County F.A., President of the Central League, and served in many positions at the F.A. notably on the F.A. Council. In 1949 he was awarded the long service medal for his 21 years of service as Treasurer of the Lancashire County FA.

    Nature endowed him with a modest physique, but he more than made up for it with a sharp and shrewd brain, lively powers of conversation, and highly developed sense of humour, toleration, and integrity. His profession was readily identified even by complete strangers as that of a solicitor, and one straight out of the pages of Dickens and he would have been the ideal partner for Mr Wickens. His diminutive appearance was very deceptive, and he was certainly nobody’s fool.

    In 1952, after the death of James W. Gibson, he became Chairman of Manchester United. After the Championship win of 1952, United entered into a period of transformation as Matt Busby began the introduction into the first team of his beloved “Babes”. Many in the Board Room became restless and not altogether in agreement with this happening. Busby’s staunchest ally was one Harold P. Hardman. He was as tough as granite and this side of his character also came out in 1956 when he backed Busby’s recommendation that the Club should enter the new European Cup competition, despite the reluctance of the Football League, and initially the Football Association’s agreement. He accompanied Sir Matt on his visits to both headquarters, fighting the battle with him, and eventually, through tenacious determination and argument, they won the day and helped change the direction of English football.

    In February of 1958, Mr. Hardman had to see the Club through the saddest, and toughest time in its history. The Club was devastated by the Munich tragedy.. Who can ever forget his inspiring words immediately after Munich when he wrote on the front page of the United Review match programme for the game against Sheffield Wednesday on 19 February 1958,

    Although we mourn our dead and grieve for our wounded, we believe that great days are not done for us. The sympathy and encouragement of the football world and particularly of our supporters will justify and inspire us. The road back may be long and hard but with the memory of those who died in Munich, of their stirring achievements and wonderful sportsmanship ever with us, Manchester United will rise again.

    By this time he was 76 years of age but despite that longevity, he entered into the task of restructuring and rebuilding the Club with the energy of person of much younger years. Over the next few years, the Stretford End was rebuilt and various parts of the Old Trafford ground were improved. He oversaw the financial processes that allowed Sir Matt Busby the funds to improve the team – and never baulked when Busby asked for monies that would shatter the British transfer record as was the cases when he signed Albert Quixall and then Denis Law. He was without doubt, Busby’s staunchest ally.

    Manchester United’s gradual rise to pre-eminence before the Munich tragedy, and their resurgence after it, were inspired to a great extent by the unwavering faith of a man who might never have been heard of in football, if he and his family had accepted the advice of a doctor all those years before.

    His smile lit up Wembley Stadium in May, 1963 as Noel Cantwell led the victorious Manchester United team up those famous old 39 steps to collect the F.A. Cup from HM the Queen, after defeating Leicester City 3-1 – United’s first trophy win after Munich. Sadly, shortly after this his health started to fail him. He had also become aware at this time of Louis Edwards’ surreptitious attempts to gain control of the Club, and he tried to block this by having an agreement with the other Directors on the Board that they would not buy any more shares in the Club. Unbeknown to him, Edwards continued doing just that, and upon the death of Mr. Hardman on June 9th, 1965 (shortly after United’s first Championship win after Munich) he acceded to the position that he always coveted – Chairman of Manchester United Football Club.

    To some in today’s modern era, the name of Mr. H. P. Hardman may just be that – a name in the Club’s past history. However, here was a man who gave 54 years of his life to the Club, and who was there through probably the most austere and trying times in its history. A man who never asked for recompense in any kind of way, and would never have even dreamed of taking his bus fare out of Club funds. He was a man who served the Club with great dignity, and put the Club’s standing and good name before everything else. He was indeed “red through and through” and indeed – “A Real Hero”

    He died at his home in Sale on 9 June 1965, just a few weeks after Manchester United had won the First Division Championship. He was buried in Sale Cemetery, but sadly, over the years his resting place has fallen into neglect and it just shows how a ‘real hero’ was so quickly forgotten by the club which he served fort most of his life.

    by Tom Clare

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