Harry Curtis (football manager)

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Harry Curtis
Harry Curtis, football manager, 1926.jpg
Curtis pictured in 1926.
Personal information
Full name Henry Charles Curtis[1]
Date of birth 22 January 1890
Place of birth Holloway, England
Date of death 30 January 1966(1966-01-30) (aged 76)[1]
Place of death Southend-on-Sea, England[1]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
Walthamstow Grange
Teams managed
Gnome Athletic
1923–1926 Gillingham
1926–1949 Brentford
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Henry Charles "Harry" Curtis (22 January 1890 – 30 January 1966) was an English footballer, referee and manager, best-remembered for his 23 years as manager of Brentford. He is Brentford's longest-serving and most successful manager to date. In 2013 Football League 125th anniversary poll, Curtis was voted Brentford's greatest-ever manager.[2] He was posthumously inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame in May 2015.[3]

Playing and refereeing career[edit]

Curtis had a brief spell as a footballer in his teenage years, playing for Romford and Walthamstow Grange.[4] After his retirement from playing, Curtis became a referee and was quickly added to the Southern League list of referees.[4] In 1918, he was promoted to the Football League list and retired from refereeing in 1923.[4]

Managerial career[edit]

Gnome Athletic[edit]

Curtis began his managerial career as secretary of amateur club Gnome Athletic.[4]


Curtis entered league management when he became secretary-manager of Division Three South side Gillingham in 1923, taking over from Johnny McMillan.[4] After leading the club to three mid-table finishes, Curtis departed Priestfield in May 1926.[4]


After a chance meeting with Brentford director and former referee Frank Barton,[4] Curtis took over the managerial job at the Division Three South side in May 1926,[5] signing a 12-month contract.[1] He brought Gillingham trainer Bob Kane with him to Griffin Park.[6] Curtis' debut season saw a run to the fifth round of the FA Cup, which yielded enough money to build a grandstand on the Braemar Road side of Griffin Park.[4] In the 1929–30 season, Curtis' Bees side won all 21 home league games, a record which has never been bettered.[5] Curtis also named the same team for 21 games between November 1929 and March 1930.[4] The most successful era in the club's history began in the summer of 1932, when Curtis signed Jack Holliday, Billy Scott and Bert Watson from Division One side Middlesbrough for £1500.[4] Brentford won the Division Three South title in the following season, the first silverware of Curtis' managerial career.[6] Curtis' Brentford finished fourth in the club's first season in Division Two, before securing a second promotion in three seasons by winning the 1934–35 Division Two title and securing top-flight football for the first time in the club's history.[6] The club won a second piece of silverware during the 1934–35 season, bringing home the London Challenge Cup.[7]

Curtis and recently appointed assistant manager Jimmy Bain guided Brentford to fifth and two successive sixth-place finishes in the club's first three seasons in Division One.[6] Crowds at Griffin Park averaged 25000 and in the 1937–38 season,[5] Brentford led the Division One table for three months and reached the sixth round of the FA Cup for the first time.[4] Brentford's sustained period of success was consolidated by Curtis' man-management abilities and his astuteness in the transfer market,[8] bringing in Scottish internationals Dave McCulloch, Bobby Reid and Duncan McKenzie, Welsh internationals Idris Hopkins and Les Boulter, with Billy Scott and Les Smith going on to represent England.[4] The outbreak of the Second World War and the suspension of professional football in 1939 brought Brentford's golden era to a halt, but Curtis still managed to win further silverware during the war, winning the 1941–42 London War Cup,[9] the Bees' only Wembley success to date.[5] Football League competition resumed in 1946 and Curtis' Brentford were relegated to Division Two in the 1946–47 season and Curtis stood down from the manager's role in February 1949.[1] For his long service, Curtis was rewarded with a testimonial in May 1949, played between Brentford and a team of former players.[10] To date, Curtis is Brentford's longest-serving and most successful manager and a lounge at Griffin Park has been named in his honour.[11] He was posthumously inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame in May 2015.[3]


Curtis rounded out his management career with a spell at Southern League side Tonbridge,[6] joining the club in 1950.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Curtis was born in Holloway, London and moved to Walthamstow with his mother after his parents separated.[1] In 1911 he was working as an engineer's clerk and married in 1915,[12] subsequently having two sons.[1] After retiring from football management, Curtis moved to Southend-on-Sea and worked as a personnel manager for a company in the town.[6] He later worked as a journalist.[1]


As a manager[edit]


As an individual[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chapman, Mark. "Remembering The Guvnor: Harry Curtis". www.brentfordfc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  2. ^ "Greatest Managers – Football League 125". Fl125.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  3. ^ a b c Wickham, Chris. "Kevin O'Connor and Marcus Gayle join others in being added to Brentford FC Hall of Fame". brentfordfc.co.uk. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Haynes, Graham (1998). A-Z Of Bees: Brentford Encyclopaedia. Yore Publications. pp. 39–40. ISBN 1 874427 57 7. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Brentford FC History". Brentfordfc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Haynes, Graham; Coumbe, Frank (2006). Timeless Bees: Brentford F.C. Who's Who 1920–2006. Harefield: Yore Publications. pp. 175–176. ISBN 978-0955294914. 
  7. ^ a b Haynes 1998, p. 82.
  8. ^ "Bill Axbey: the legend of Griffin Park dies, aged 102 (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)". Richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk. 2007-05-08. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  9. ^ Haynes 1998, p. 83-84.
  10. ^ Griffin Gazette: Brentford's Official Matchday Magazine versus Crewe Alexandra 06/04/96. Quay Design of Poole. 1996. p. 20. 
  11. ^ "Family Service Directory | Hounslow Council – GPLZ on the Road". Fsd.hounslow.gov.uk. 2014-07-15. Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  12. ^ "1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcription". search.livesofthefirstworldwar.org. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 

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