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 and mostly spent trying to win promotion for Division One. 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 the 1907/08 season 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 the 1908/09 season 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, the 1909/10 season was to be the club’s closest brush with promotion to the top flight that was not to matched for 98 years. With Jackie Smith hitting 32 goals and 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 1910 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 1910/11 season saw 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 April 1913 after a 1-2 defeat at Barnsley and was replaced by Harry Chapman, brother of legendary Huddersfield and Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who had joined City the previous season.
Ambrose Langley was born in the Lincolnshire market town of Horncastle to a father who was publican at the Coach & Horses Hotel. He played for local sides Horncastle United and Boston United before serving Football League sides Grimsby Town (1889-1891), Middlesbrough Ironopolis (1891-1893) and The Wednesday (1893-1905) – during his twelve years with the Owls he lifted the Division One title three times (1899/00, 1902/03 and 1903/04) and was an FA Cup winner in the 1895/96 season when Wednesday defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Crystal Palace stadium.
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 August 1913 he became Wednesday’s team manager, a role he fulfilled until April 1919 when he was appointed manager of Division One side Huddersfield Town. In his first season in charge Langley steered the Terriers to promotion and took them to the FA Cup Final at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground, only to lose to Aston Villa in extra time. In the 1920/21 season Langley’s Terriers finished 17th in Division One, early in 1921 a proposal emerged 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, his brother Herbert Chapman replaced Ambrose as Huddersfield manager and went on to build a team that won 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 that defined his childhood, taking over as landlord of the Crown Inn in Sheffield and beginning a third career as a licensed victualler that would last until his death. 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 living when he died in January 1937.
Date/Place of Birth: 10 March 1870, Horncastle, England
Date/Place of Death: 29 January 1937, Sheffield, England; 66 years, 325 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 26 April 1905; 35 years, 47 days old
Left Hull City: 6 April 1913; 43 years, 27 days old
Tenure: 2,902 days
Hull City (1905-1913), The Wednesday (1913-1919), Huddersfield Town (1919-1921)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 324, Won 147, Drawn 68, Lost 109, Goals For 535, Goals Against 425
Achievements: 3rd in Division Two, 1909/10 season