Franklin Charles Buckley (more commonly known as Major Frank Buckley) (October 3, 1882 – December 21, 1964) was an English football player and, later, manager. He is the brother of Chris Buckley who played for Aston Villa.
Buckley was born in Urmston
. He joined the army and bought himself out in 1902 to join a football club. He went from Aston Villa
to Manchester United
and Manchester City
all within six years and only found something approaching stability with Birmingham City
, where he made 56 appearances. Soon after that he was on the move again, this time to Derby County
. It was with the Rams that he gained his sole England cap, in 1914 in a shock 3-0 defeat by Ireland
at Ayresome Park
, before upping sticks, again, to join Bradford City
; his stay in Yorkshire
shortened by the start of World War I
Introduction to management
Buckley went to war with the 17th Middlesex Regiment
(where he commanded the Footballers’ Battalion) seeing action and receiving wounds to his lung and shoulder in the Battle of the Somme
and rose to the rank of Major. On his return, he was appointed manager of Norwich City
. The Canaries had been so debt-ridden that the receivers had wound the club up, but following an extraordinary general meeting, the club was resurrected and Buckley was placed in charge in February 1919 and returned the club to Southern League
football. Despite retiring from playing during the war, Buckley played one game for Norwich in September 1919, when he was the club's secretary-manager.
Once again Buckley’s stay was short, by July 1920 he was gone; financial disputes precipitating a wholesale change of personnel.
Prior to Buckley it was not unusual for clubs to create sides through purchases. Preston North End
and Derby County of the 1880s and 1890s are good examples of teams that had gathered together players, en masse, from elsewhere; the famous Sunderland
side of the 1890s is another; Middlesbrough
's controversial transfer policy of 1905 another. However, such a policy, of creating success through expenditure, will only be successful if there is success and money is generated as a result. Certain questions are always of importance: How do you best sustain income? How do you generate local interest in the club? How do you create a style of play synonymous with the club?
Buckley comes across, in retrospect, as a character far removed from the unbending disciplinarian that he wished to portray himself as. The truth is, possibly, closer to him being a wily manipulator of whatever resources were available. Accordingly, his aims, which arose because of simple economics, boiled down to key principles. First he introduced youth programmes at the clubs where he worked and created club sides without bankrupting the directors by combining young 'home-grown' talent with experienced professionals. Second, he went into the transfer market with his eyes wide open. He bought players cheaply and sold others cleverly. Third, he insisted on using a scouting network throughout England and Wales, which is where a scout of Buckley's found John Charles
. Fourth, he kept the press intrigued with rumour and innocent half-truths and, accordingly, kept the paying public interested and expectant in his clubs.
As a result Buckley's influence on the rise of the Blackpool
sides of the 1950s, of the Leeds United
'club culture' of the 1960s and 1970s should never be understated. His principles may not have been adopted directly by Busby
but they were innovative principles that are quite commonplace now. Buckley's financial acumen may well have come from his stint as a travelling salesman in the early 1920s, but he returned to football management with Blackpool on October 6
, and it was there that Buckley’s ideas started to come to the fore. He was lured to Bloomfield Road
with the promise of an extremely high salary and enough money to strengthen the squad. Buckley is credited with implementing a youth system and scouting scheme to the Seasiders, as well as introducing the club's famous tangerine shirts. Such a marketing step (previously Albert Prince-Cox
had altered Bristol Rovers
' strip and Herbert Chapman
altering the (white-sleeved Arsenal
jerseys) in the 1930s) was followed in time by Bill Shankly
kits) and Don Revie
(Leeds United's 'Real Madrid
Despite a total change of tactics, Buckley didn't have much more success with Blackpool than his predecessor, Bill Norman. During the 1924/25 season, he sold established players such as Herbert Jones and Harry Bedford, which proved unpopular amongst the fans.
In July 1927, Buckley took up an appointment with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Stan Cullis
wrote of him: "I soon realised that Major Buckley was one out of the top drawer. He didn't suffer fools gladly. His style of management in football was very similar to his attitude in the army. Major Buckley implanted into my mind the direct method of playing which did away with close interpassing and square-ball play. If you didn't like his style you'd very soon be on your bicycle to another club. He didn't like defenders over-elaborating in their defensive positions. Major Buckley also knew how to deal with the press." (Cullis, quoted in Taylor and Ward
, 1995, pp. 31-2)
Buckley stay at Wolves can be taken two ways. On the face of it, he appeared to achieve only modest success with the club; they won the Division Two title in 1931/32 and finished runners-up in the Division One in 1937/38 and in both the First Division and the FA Cup the following season. An alternative view is that during his stay at Molineux, Buckley once made the club a £100,000 profit within one year, purely on transfer deals; he toyed, provocatively, with the media (instigating the empty rumour that his players were using a monkey gland treatment to aid performance), he used psychologists to instill confidence in his players and was responsible for bringing through Stan Cullis and offering Billy Wright a start in professional football. After he had left the club, however, the full value of his vision, not least the Wolves youth programme, came to fruition and did so much to shape the Wolves side of the 1950s when they won three Division One championships, twice won the FA Cup, and were one of few genuine challengers to the Busby Babes.
Buckley left Wolves, somewhat surprisingly, in 1944 and another non-committal couple of years followed at Notts County (for a then-unheard-of £4,000 a year) and Hull City before starting work at Leeds United, where one of his first discoveries was John Charles just after Christmas 1948. He was not afraid to try all manner of ideas to induce the Elland Road club out of mediocrity: dancing songs broadcast through the public address system during training days, so-called 'shooting' boxes (a contraption designed to send the ball out at different speeds and angles to players), increasing admission costs, youth development programmes. John Charles did excel during the 1954/55 season but the team failed to respond in kind.
Buckley, a stern disciplinarian throughout his career, earned devotion and affection, not least because he was also a 'tracksuit' manager. He brought in Jack Charlton
, who had this to say about him:
"Unlike the pros, we got just two weeks' holidays in the summer, and while they were away, our job was to remove the weeds from the pitch and replace them with grass seed. I remember being sat out there one day with Keith Ripley, another ground staff boy, when Major Buckley came over to us. We must have looked pretty forlorn, the two of us, and to gee us up he said he'd give us five shillings for every bucket we filled with weeds. Now that was an offer we couldn't refuse. By the time we were finished, we had filled six buckets, and cheeky bugger that I was, I marched straight up to the Major's office. And when he asked what I wanted, I told him I was there to claim my thirty bob for the weeds. He nearly blew a bloody gasket! 'Get out of here!' he bellowed. 'You're already getting paid to do that work - don't ever let me see you up here again with your buckets.'
"Yet beneath the gruff exterior, he was a kind man, as he demonstrated once when I met him. My shoes must have been a sight, for when he looked down at them, he asked me if they were the only pair I had. I nodded. The next morning, he summoned me to his office and handed me a pair of Irish brogues, the strongest, most beautiful shoes I'd ever seen. And I had them for years."
Buckley left Leeds in April 1953, moving to Walsall, but left them in September 1955.
Buckley died in Walsall in December 1964, aged 82.
(1992). Blackpool: A Complete Record 1887-1992
. Breedon Books Sport. ISBN 1-873626-07-X.