Ambrose Langley was a highly experienced full back that joined the newly formed Hull City in April 1905 as both player and the club’s first football league manager. This was a considerable coup for a football club that had to date only played friendly matches and two FA Cup ties against lowly Stockton FC. His playing career was over quickly, as injury sustained against Leeds City in a November 1905 FA Cup tie robbed him of his influence. He played only once more for the Tigers, filling in at right back a few weeks later.
It was as a Hull City manager that Ambrose made his reputation. He managed the club for its first eight league seasons, all spent in Division Two. Though that’s not to say that City didn’t try hard under Ambrose to escape the second tier and reach the First Division. In his first season his Tigers side finished fifth, in his second they finished ninth as the goals of Joe and Jackie Smith stood out. In 1907/08 the Tigers finished eighth but the points tally was closest yet to the promotion positions (only six points shy of second place). Jackie Smith scored 31 goals and Arthur Temple added 18 more, while a stout defensive line formed in front of redoubtable goalkeeper Martin Spendiff. In 1908/09 the upper reaches of the league table were inhabited again, but City finished fourth and out of the promotion race.
Steeled by this steady progress, 1909/10 was to be the club’s closest brush with promotion to the top flight that was not to matched for a further 98 years. With Jackie Smith hitting 32 goals while Wallace Smith and Arthur Temple added 33 goals between them, City homed in on a promotion spot after a slow start. Between the end of February and late April, City played 12 league games, winning 11 and drawing one with 32 goals scored answered by only 10 conceded. The Tigers were on the verge of promotion and only needed to avoid defeat on the last day of the season to hold off Oldham in the table, who were also City’s opponents. Alas the Latics won 3-0 and City were denied promotion by a fraction of goal.
The following season, 1910/11, City finished fifth again but would never come as close to promotion under Ambrose Langley as they did in 1910. Key players moved on and replacement were not quite good enough to push the Tigers up the extra step to promotion. Eventually Langley left the Tigers in March 1913 after a 0-1 defeat at home to Fulham and was replaced by Harry Chapman, brother of legendary Huddersfield and Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who had joined City the previous season.
Langley was born in Horncastle at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds to an innkeeper father that had died by the time Ambrose was 11. The young Langley played for his local side Horncastle United from the age of 15, appeared in a FA Cup tie against Aston Villa at 16 and moved on to Boston Town and Grimsby Town over the next four years. In 1891 he headed north to Middlesbrough Ironopolis, a club that had just been formed and signed Langley to spearhead an attempt to join the Football League – rather like his move to Hull City 14 years later. He stayed two years at Middlesbrough and saw them win the Northern League and gain election to the Second Division in 1893. By then Langley reputation as a powerful full back had grown and he joined the professional ranks with Sheffield Wednesday, then simply called The Wednesday, in July 1893. Over the next twelve seasons Langley was a mainstay of the Owls’ first team, starting over 300 matches, winning the First Division title twice and lifting the FA Cup once. It was when Langley’s Wednesday career drew to a close at the age of 35 that he joined Hull City to begin the managerial chapter of his career.
Within a week of leaving the Hull City manager’s post, Langley was appointed club secretary at Sheffield Wednesday, which at that time appeared to be a role focusing on scouting and signing new players. In September 1915 he became Wednesday’s trainer (equivalent to a modern day assistant manager), a role he fulfilled until April 1919 when he was appointed manager of Huddersfield Town. In his first season in charge Langley steered the Terriers to promotion and in 1920/21 they finished in 17th place in the First Division. However a proposal to relocate the Huddersfield Town club to Leeds, where incumbent team Leeds City had recently been booted out of the Football League for financial irregularities. Although that move never transpired, Ambrose was sufficiently unsettled to leave the Terriers in March 1921. Eight years after Langley had been replaced at Hull City in 1913 by Harry Chapman, Ambrose was succeeded as Huddersfield manager by Herbert Chapman, who went on to win the First Division three times in a row and establish Huddersfield as the most successful English club of the 1920s.
In May 1922 Langley returned to the trade of his childhood in Horncastle, taking over as landlord of the Crown Inn in Sheffield, beginning a third career as a licensed victualler that would last until his death in January 1937. In 1925 he had a series of biographical interviews printed in the sports pages of the local press in Sheffield, such was his local fame (and his need to earn some cash, no doubt). He was later landlord at the Cricketers Arms near Sheffield United’s ground on Bramall Lane and The Pheasant on London Road, Sheffield, which was where he was located in 1937 when he died.
Langley was not selected for the England national team during his time at Sheffield Wednesday, but was chosen to represent the English Football League against their Scottish equivalents in 1898.
Date/Place of Birth: 10 March 1870, Horncastle
Hull City First Game: 2 September 1905, Barnsley H (Division Two), 35 years, 176 days old
Hull City Final Game: 26 December 1905, Burton United A (Division Two), 35 years, 291 days old
Horncastle United (1885-1888), Boston Town (1888-1889), Grimsby Town (1889-1891), Middlesbrough Ironopolis (1891-1893), Sheffield Wednesday (1893-1905), Hull City (1905-1906)
Hull City Record
Career: 15 apps, 0 goalsAmbrose Langley