At the time of writing, the Hill-Wood family have presided over the club for fifty-one uninterrupted years. It is fair to say that the current chairman has enjoyed more success than his father but I wonder if Denis Hill-Wood’s reign should be reviewed as the greater achievement, on the pitch at least?
The similarities between the times father and son took over are uncanny. In 1961, the mantle of League Champions had not been worn since 1953, the FA Cup even further back in 1950. By contrast, Peter Hill-Wood had consecutive FA Cup finals in recent history and the double preceded by the club’s first European trophy haunting him.
Yet there was a sense that the club was in decline again by the time of his death. Denis Hill-Wood had seen the club’s stock plummet during the mid-1960s, rebuilding as a result partly due to the youth policies put in place at that time. The side from 1968 – 72 was substantially populated by those players.
The decline came again until 1978s FA Cup final defeat to Ipswich, the sense was that slowly the club was getting there with a number of players coming through the ranks once more. It crumbled in 1980 with the departure of Liam Brady, a significant foundation had been removed from the club.
That turbulence during his chairmanship makes uncomfortable reading in many senses, especially when compared to the initial reign of his own father. The expectations are great and at times the leadership off it undermines any attempts at achievement on it.
This though was the his ascension to the throne, the coronation. Laudable aims and ambitions and arguably the end of George Swindin’s reign as manager. Publicly declaring such targets by a chairman inevitably leads to a change at the top of the club. Swindin lasted until the end of the season before Billy Wright took over.