The Curious Case of Fred Walker, Huddersfield Town’s First Ever Manager
Author Lee Morris has made a series of remarkable discoveries about Huddersfield Town’s first manager and captain, Fred Walker, rewriting the club’s history in the process.
After conducting extensive archival research on behalf of the HTSA Heritage Project, Morris reveals:
- Walker’s background, including his birthplace and date of birth, which makes him Town’s second youngest manager ever.
- During Walker’s second season in charge, he missed two games due to hospitalisation, meaning those games must now be reassigned.
- Contrary to popular belief, Dick Pudan did not take charge of Town’s first games in the Football League—Walker did.
- Following his time at Leeds Road, Walker went on to manage abroad.
- Details about Walker’s personal life, including a scandal that reached the newspapers.
- The date of Walker’s death and location of his grave, both of which have never before been referenced.
Huddersfield Town A.F.C. was formed in the summer of 1908. As well as recruiting a team of players, the board of directors had to appoint a manager. They decided that the role would be a paid one, and after several applications, Frederick Charles Walker was appointed as player-manager in July 1908. Andy Rudge, formerly of Mirfield United, was appointed as the trainer/groundsman to assist him.
The history books are relatively bare when it comes to Walker. We know that he previously played for Leeds City in the Football League. We also know he was Town’s first manager. And that’s about it.
Early Years (1878-1897)
Despite some sources claiming that Walker was born in Barrow-in-Furness, we can reveal that he was in fact born on 25th March, 1878, in Longbenton, Newcastle. Fred was the son of George and Mary Walker. He was the second oldest of four children, with Margaret the eldest and Thomas and Ida his younger siblings. During his early life, the Walker family spent time living with Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Hills, at 882/4 Scotswood Road, Elswick, as listed on the 1881 Census. They later moved to their own home, and by 1891 were living at 68 Frank Street, South Benwell.
Playing Career (1897-1908)
Walker’s football career began locally in the North East during the mid-1890s. He transferred to Hebburn Argyle around 1897, when he was just 19 years old. While at Argyle, he went on to captain the side for two seasons in the National Alliance. He combined his footballing duties with a job as a brass founder.
Walker remained at Argyle into the 20th century, before signing for Barrow. There’s some confusion over when he signed for them due to the lack of records. There was a Walker who joined in 1901, with that player having the distinction of scoring their first ever goal in the Lancashire Combination. As the records don’t contain first names, we can’t be sure, but we know for definite that he was playing for them by 1903, captaining the side for two seasons.
His time at Barrow came to an end when Leeds City secured his services in May 1905 upon their election to the Football League. He thus became one of the club’s first professional players. Although he initially played in the reserves, Walker broke into the first team in September 1905, replacing the out of form Harry Stringfellow. He spent the rest of the season battling it out with Jack Morris, vying for the centre-half position. In his first season, Walker played 18 league games and another three in the F.A. Cup, often moonlighting in the unfamiliar positions of right-back, right-half and left-half.
At the start of the 1906-07 season, Walker briefly replaced injured captain John George before losing his place to Jimmy Kennedy, ultimately finding his opportunities limited thereafter. An unfortunate illness left him unable to play throughout 1907-08, though he did receive offers from Southern League clubs, rejecting them on medical advice.
Town in the North Eastern League (1908-1909)
Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Huddersfield Town were on the lookout for a manager. Walker applied for the job and was deemed the best candidate. He was duly appointed as player-manager. By the time of his arrival at Leeds Road, Walker had at least a decade of experience in the game and had played at a higher level than the Midland League, where Town found themselves in that inaugural season. As well as taking the managerial reins, Walker had the distinction of being the club’s first captain.
Although some practice matches had taken place in August, Town’s first proper match, a friendly with Bradford Park Avenue, was played on 2nd September, 1908. Walker lined up at centre-half. He also featured in Town’s first league game, against South Shields Adelaide, on 5th September, 1908. Town lost the game 2-0 but managed to win their first league game at Leeds Road, with a 2-0 victory over Workington the following week.
As the 1908-09 season progressed, Town struggled with inconsistency, failing to make a mark. Walker led Town to 16th place in the North Eastern League. Despite finishing just two places and five points from the foot of the table, it wasn’t a bad finish for the new side and their rookie manager. Walker was perhaps helped by the home form, with seven of the 10 wins coming at Leeds Road. He also appeared to have a significant influence on the games in which he played, turning out in seven of those victories.
From a playing perspective, Walker’s season started quite well. He remained ever-present in the side until December, when he missed a home game against Newcastle United Reserves. Following this, his appearances were more sporadic, finishing with 22 games to his name.
Town in the Midland League (1909-1910)
Town subsequently secured a place in the Midland League, considered a higher level of football, for the 1909-10 season. The move was made to reduce the travelling expenses to away games. Other important changes occurred during pre-season, with Town adopting blue jerseys and white shorts as their official colours. They also looked to improve the ground, with the installation of telephone lines, lighting, press areas and a directors’ box.
Walker remained as the manager for the new season, and though he’d started the previous one as team captain, he opted to choose other players in his place. C Stevenson got the nod at centre-half, and then as the season progressed, Charles Randall took his place.
Although Town won their first game in the Midland League, their form was once again inconsistent. They also competed in the F.A. Cup for the first time, progressing through to the 4th Qualifying Round. In their first ever game in the competition, Walker led Town to a record 11-0 win over Heckmondwike, which remains the club’s highest ever competitive victory.
Walker was eventually forced to don the jersey as Randall suffered an attack of pleurisy shortly before the fixture with Sheffield Wednesday Reserves on 13th October. This led to Walker returning to the team; it would also lead to his untimely retirement from the pitch.
He played at centre-half in that game, a 2-2 draw, and would remain in the side for the following three games. The second was a 7-0 victory over Rothwell White Rose in the F.A. Cup, where he chipped in with one of the goals. The third saw him play in a 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest Reserves. His fourth and final appearance that season came in an F.A. Cup tie with South Kirkby Colliery on 6th November.
The game was a bad-tempered one from start to finish—no surprise since South Kirkby were renowned for being a dirty side. The opposition resorted to aggressive play early in the first half, deliberately kicking some of the Town players. Walker told the referee, “You better caution these chaps or they may cause trouble.” Minutes later, he was deliberately kneed by McGuine, causing suspected internal injuries which saw him rushed to the Infirmary.
Town went on to win the game 5-2 and McGuine followed Walker to the Infirmary with a broken leg later in the match. Neither team finished with all 11 men on the pitch. Town ended with 10 and South Kirkby limped off with just 8 (eight). On 8th November, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner updated supporters on Walker’s progress in the Infirmary: “Walker was in a bad way when he was removed to the Infirmary, but much to the relief of his many friends, he rallied shortly after his admission.”
Following this event, the Board agreed that an ambulance would be present at all home matches in the future.
Two days later, Town were back in action against Sheffield United Reserves, losing 5-1 at Bramall Lane. For over 100 years, Walker has been credited with managing this game. However, our research has shown that he was absent as he was still recovering in hospital at the time. While we can only speculate, it’s quite likely that the trainer, Andy Rudge, was in charge on the day. Whoever it was, the records are incorrect and should be revised.
Furthermore, Walker only left the Infirmary on 12th November, in order to recuperate at home, as noted in the Examiner on the same day:
“Good news of Fred Walker has been received. He has left the Infirmary and has been removed home. His progress has been so satisfactory that it is expected he will be able to don the jersey again if required in a week's time.”
As he was recovering, Walker didn’t take charge of the following game either, a 4-3 away loss to Leicester Fosse Reserves. He has therefore wrongly been credited for managing two games. Again, this should be reflected in the record books.
It seems that Walker was back in the dugout for the next game and continued in his role. Although there was no official announcement, the injuries he suffered forced his retirement from the game at the age 31 and he concentrated on managing from then on.
In February 1910, Leeds Road played host to an international amateur match between England and Wales and Walker was thanked by the board of directors for his role in arranging it. This highlights his role as secretary-manager, which was common in this era, with managers often combining secretarial duties with that of coaching and selecting the team.
Walker was most likely the secretary-manager throughout his time at Leeds Road, but the position is subject to some confusion. 99 Years & Counting states that Walker was secretary between January and August 1909, in between the resignation of Honorary Secretary Mr. J.H.R. Appleyard and the appointment of Mr. Reeder, again as Honorary Secretary. We think that there has been some misunderstanding between the Secretary and the Hon. Secretary roles.
Walker was referred to as the secretary various times in the press, including in February 1910, when he was described as such in newspaper adverts for the international match at Leeds Road. Other adverts inviting players for trials also referred to Walker as the secretary and when he eventually left the club, his replacement took on the secretary-manager role.
Town in the Football League Second Division (1910)
At the end of the 1909-10 season, Walker had steered Town to a more respectable position of 5th in the Midland League. They then made the step up to the Football League, securing a place in the Second Division in time for the 1910-11 season.
It has been suggested that this marked Walker’s departure from Leeds Road. This is, however, a mistaken assumption. Indeed, certain publications contain inaccuracies about Walker’s time at Town, with Huddersfield Town: A Complete Record (1990) stating “such were the aspirations of the directors towards Football League membership, he was released in May 1910.”
Once more, this is incorrect, as various sources confirm. In June 1910, when Town were elected to the Football League, Walker sent a telegram to a Mr. Gott of The Albert Hotel, confirming that Town had been elected. He was still in charge by 8th August, 1910, when the following advert appeared in The Athletic News: “Huddersfield Town A.F.C. Require First-class PLAYERS - State full particulars to FRED WALKER, Sec-Manager, Leeds-road, Huddersfield.”
John Ward’s archive, exclusive to the Heritage Project, lends further credence to Walker’s continuation in the job, saying, “Walker was the Town manager who had the distinction of being at the helm when Town entered the Football League, Division Two, for season 1910-11.” This is confirmed further by his inclusion on a team photo in the Examiner on Monday, 5th September, which appeared alongside a report of Town’s first Football League match, a 1-0 win against Bradford Park Avenue.
However, this is at odds with 99 Years & Counting, which makes no reference to Walker at all during the 1910-11 season, and instead states that Dick Pudan was in charge for the whole campaign. No mention of Walker is made on the 1910-11 page in the book. To add further confusion, Walker’s departure date is given as 26th November 1910 later in the book and he is credited with having managed 92 games, despite the first two seasons’ games only adding up to 82 matches. This leaves 10 games unaccounted for.
We are now certain that Walker DID NOT leave Town in May 1910. He continued in the secretary-manager role into the 1910-11 season, making him the club’s first ever manager in the Football League as he took charge of the first match at that level. He also took charge of the second league game, the first Football League match at Leeds Road, a 1-0 loss to Burnley on 10th September. Walker was mentioned in the report of the match in The Athletic News:
“The ground, by the way, is in a very incomplete condition, but Mr. Fred Walker, the manager, informed me that the fine new stand should be ready before the end of October, though I am afraid that the work will have to be rushed. Mr. Walker, I may add, played for three seasons with Leeds City and is now entering on his third term with his present club in the capacity of manager.”
On the evening of that match, Town secured the services of Albert “Dick” Pudan, a full-back from Leicester Fosse. It was announced in the Examiner on 12th September, with Pudan seemingly having been signed as a player. As an aside, although Pudan’s first name was Albert, he was known as Dick, leading to him occasionally being called Richard:
“On Saturday evening, Huddersfield Town made the transfer of Richard Pudan, of the Leicester Fosse. Pudan is a well-known full-back, and though the defence of the Huddersfield Town team is the portion which stands least in need of strengthening in view of the capital work of Morris and Taylor, Pudan should prove of value to his new club”.
To add further confusion, two days later, on 14th September, the Examiner revealed that Pudan wasn’t coming to Leeds Road as a player but as Team Manager:
“The Huddersfield directors are certainly prepared to spend a lot of money—it’s impossible to keep the mention of filthy lucre out of football nowadays—but they are keen enough men of business to refrain from getting players who may never be needed. Hence the surprise when they signed Pudan. The matter has been cleared up, however. Pudan is not going to Huddersfield as a player. Huddersfield want him as team manager exclusively (says a Leicester writer). He will not be required to play.
“We all know that Huddersfield have tremendous power of wealth behind them and there is little doubt that they are going to play a big role in first class football sooner or later. To be appointed to the position of manager with them, then, is one of the plums of the football profession, and Pudan, who has, I understand, been promised the position for more than a year, could not possibly afford to forego the opportunity. Pudan has stated to a Pressman that he is wanted by Huddersfield ‘exclusively’ as team manager, but when asked if he would not be sorry to give up the game, he replied that he should play on emergency.”
The timeline of Pudan’s tenure remains complicated. All we can do is look at the evidence. The newspaper reports initially suggested his arrival at the club was as a player—Town even paid around £460 for his services—but it was only after an article appeared in a Leicester newspaper suggesting that Pudan was being employed as the Team Manager that the Examiner reported it. That report only appeared days after the initial signing—he even played a game for Town, in the West Riding Cup against Castleford on 21st September, though no mention is made of him being the manager in the reports. Indeed, he doesn’t appear to have been referred to as the Town manager in any Examiner reports immediately after his signing.
Two months later, on 21st November, it was revealed in the press that Pudan had accepted the job of secretary-manager at Leeds Road, so we think it can be said for definite that he took charge of the games that followed that date:
“R. Pudan, the ex-Newcastle United and Leicester Fosse full back, who signed on for Huddersfield Town some weeks ago, has accepted the position of secretary-manager of the club in succession to Mr. Fred Walker, who will act as assistant.”
With his start date given as 26th November in John Ward’s archive and 99 Years & Counting, this means that his first game in charge is generally accepted as Glossop on the same day. However, as the report on the 21st has come to light, it means that Pudan’s first game in charge was probably the F.A. Cup Replay against Lincoln City on 23rd November.
It’s not known where this initial date came from, and the press reports suggest that it is false. There’s also further confusion within the record books. You’d be forgiven for assuming the further 10 games credited to Walker are the first 10 league games of the 1910-11 season before Pudan finally accepted the job. However, there were also four F.A. Cup matches between 3rd September and 21st November, meaning that Walker managed at least 14 games that season. These four games are unaccounted for, as neither Walker or Pudan are credited with taking charge of them. To add even more confusion, neither manager is credited with managing the replay against Lincoln City on the 23rd November.
The Heritage Project suggests that the record books should look like this:
This includes the removal of the two games in 1909, as well as the addition of the first 10 league games of 1910-11 and the first five F.A. Cup games that are credited to neither Walker nor Pudan. Pudan has been assigned the additional game on 23rd November.
Walker remained at Leeds Road after Pudan’s appointment, seemingly as assistant manager, but he didn’t last long as his departure was announced in the Examiner on 16th December, with the announcement simply saying, “Mr. Fred Walker has severed his connection with the Town club.” He was replaced by Leslie Knighton on 30th December.
Managing in Germany (1911-1913)
So far as we can tell, no mention has ever been made of what happened next for Fred Walker, with no reference to his later career in the game nor his career out of the game. We’ve never even seen a death date.
But we can now reveal that he took on the 1. F.C. Nürnberg job in 1911, becoming one of the first English managers to manage abroad. This came at a time when German football was going through a period of foreign influence, with a number of sides employing English managers. Not much is known about his time there, but he is briefly mentioned in Ulrich Hesse’s book Tor! The History of German Football:
“Nürnberg, too, went looking for outside expertise. The Franconians learned the finer points of the game from an ex-Britannia Berlin player, Felix Servas, who had joined them in the summer of 1901, only weeks after Nürnberg's renunciation of rugby. Servas was succeeded by an Englishman about whom little is known, except that his surname was Walker and that his German amounted to nothing more than ‘Beer good’.”
The beer was good for almost two years, as he remained in Germany until January 1913. Walker returned to his home country and spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post upon his return:
“The association game is growing very fast in Germany and one never sees rugby, whilst cricket does not seem exciting enough for either players or spectators. I think there is a great future for association football on the Continent. All the teams are amateurs, and if they would only train like professionals they would take a deal of beating.
“Some of the clubs out there have from 2,000 to 4,000 members. Each member pays a mark a month, with the privilege of either playing or watching football, hockey, tennis - in fact, any of the Olympic games. There are many lady members, and they are very keen on sports.”
Walker had been due to remain in Germany until August 1913 but returned to England having had offers from clubs in France and Switzerland. At the time of the interview, he was deciding which one to accept.
A Very English Scandal (1913-1914)
Later that year, an unfortunate series of events saw Walker make the national press when he was named as a co-respondent in a divorce, having begun an affair with a married woman while he was the manager at Town:
“Formerly a Huddersfield Town football players’ manager, Mr. Fred Walker was named as the co-respondent in a divorce suit heard on Monday by Mr. Justice Bargrave Deane in the Divorce Court.
“The suit, which was undefended, was brought by Mr. Walter Edward Capper, who had resided in Wormald Street, Almondbury, Huddersfield, who sought a divorce from Edith Capper, née Lodge, on the ground of her misconduct with Mr. Fred Walker, of a Huddersfield football club.
“In 1910, the husband heard rumours which connected his wife with Mr. Fred Walker. He spoke to his wife about it and she denied that there was anything between her and Walker. The husband said he would follow her for the purpose of finding out and Mrs. Capper replied ‘If you do, Walker will give you a thrashing!’
“Subsequently, the petitioner heard that his wife had been in Manchester with Walker. Petitioner asked her about it and she did not deny having been there. Later she went to Blackpool, where it was found she had stayed with Walker. A decree nisi was granted to petitioner, with costs and the custody of the child of the marriage.”
In December 1914, Fred and Edith, who were now living together in Newcastle, were married in his native city. Walker was working as a licensed victualler, having entered the licensing trade during the previous year and seemingly leaving football behind for good.
Publican, Hotel Manager, and Retiree (1914-1940)
Walker returned to Yorkshire to become the licensee of The Wheatsheaf Inn, Bradford, on 14th March 1917, remaining for over five years until 18th October, 1922. He then took on The Fountain Inn, Morley, on 13th November, 1922, until his departure on 10th September, 1923. By August 6th, 1924, he had returned to Huddersfield to run The Black Bull in Berry Brow, but stayed there for less than a year, departing on 6th May, 1925.
By 1932, he was living at 103 Brook Lane, Clayton, and remained there until at least 1935, when he moved to Leeds. He was now working as a hotel manager and is listed as such on the 1939 Register, living at 8 Ernest Avenue, Leeds, with his wife. Just a year later, in 1940, Walker had retired. He sadly passed away on 28th October, 1940, at St. James University Hospital, Leeds, of “streptococcus meningitis due to oral media.” He was 62 years old.
Days after his death, Walker was buried at Harehills Cemetery in Leeds. In a sign of the times, his remains lie in a common grave alongside several others, with no headstone to mark his life. We recently located and visited the grave to pay our respects, laying some flowers and a Town pennant as a mark of respect.
Here’s to Fred Walker, Huddersfield Town’s very first manager.