Episode Two: Harry Stafford

The second episode of the all-new United Through Time podcast has been released. It focuses on Harry Stafford and is available on all good podcast networks, including:

iTunes acast Spotify

Podcast description

United Through Time looks at Harry Stafford – the saviour of Manchester United. A player, captain and then director, Stafford saved the club from bankruptcy in 1901 and 1902 before falling on his sword to stop the FA crippling Man United in 1904.

This is the story of a railwayman, a son of a hatter, a pub landlord, a hotel owner, a distinguished full-back, a disgraced footballer, the saviour of a club. This is a man who is not remembered through a statue outside Old Trafford but who, along with his St Bernard dog, is responsible for the very existence of Manchester United.

This is the story of Harry Stafford, an Edwardian man who wore a white top hat and loved the spotlight but who, having told everyone he was headed to Australia, boarded a boat to the USA in 1911.

United Through Time is the new podcast delving into Manchester United’s long and famous history. Going in chronological order, United Through Time will focus on the most important individuals at the club since Manchester United was founded as Newton Heath in 1878.

Hosted by Harry Robinson, two guests are heard on this episode as United Through Time covers the themes of railway towns, British emigration, working-class unemployment, the Great Depression and much more as well as the more general football stuff.

Guest One: Ean Gardiner is the author of ‘Harry Stafford – Manchester United’s First Captain Marvel’. This book is the story of Harry Stafford’s life. Without it, that story would be a completely different tale. Ean’s decade-long research has been utterly invaluable and without his work, this podcast would be nothing. The book is a must-read. You can buy it on Amazon, eBay and from Empire Publications.

Guest Two: Gary James is one of the definitive authorities on Manchester’s football history. He’s an honorary research fellow at De Montfort University and has written a number of books and will have a new one coming out next year on the city’s football history up until 1919. It will be a must-read.

If you enjoy the episode, please take the time to leave us a review on iTunes. You can even do it while you’re listening! You can also follow us on Twitter at @UtdThroughTime or check out our website at unitedthroughtime.com


Harry Stafford tales: signing Charlie Roberts

Charlie Roberts would become the first ever Manchester United player to represent England. He was brought in by Harry Stafford (the subject of episode two of United Through Time) in a game-changing transfer for Manchester’s football scene. It was a sign that the new Reds in town meant business and could do that business well.

United chairman JJ Bentley was also chairman of the Football League. It was a fact that often caused quite significant controversy, although Bentley was actually a Bolton fan.

Bentley travelled down to London with the Manchester City party in his role as Football League boss. The Blues of Manchester were going to play in the FA Cup Final of 1903. Unbeknown to them, Bentley had arranged an appointment at the plush Holborn restaurant in London. He was meeting with Mr Joseph Bellows, the chairman of Grimsby Town.

Grimsby had a fantastic central defender called Charlie Roberts. He was the sought-after man of English football. Everyone wanted him, including City. While Bentley and Bellows met in London, Harry Stafford was on the end of a telephone line with Charlie Roberts beside him. He had gone on what was called a ‘fishing trip’ and managed to catch Roberts rather than a pike or a cod.

The deal was done for £600, Stafford got Roberts’ signature and the following morning, on Cup final day, Stafford took Roberts to Manchester. While City were ‘distracted’ by becoming the first Mancunian club to win the Cup, United had pounced and it was a sign that things might be beginning to shift very slightly in Manchester.

Later that day, Roberts made his debut in a 2-0 home win against Burton United. He was 6ft, a mountainous man for the era, and wore short shorts, much to the frustration of the Football Association. Everyone else at the time was wearing shorts down below their knees.

Roberts went on to play 302 times for Manchester United in central defence. He formed part of the ‘Ducrobell’ back line of Duckworth-Roberts-Bell which had a brand of cigar named after it.