James William Gibson

The man credited with saving Manchester United from financial ruin.

James William Gibson

James William Gibson was born in Salford in 1877. He grew up in Manchester. He was from a well-off family, but his early life was greatly affected by tragedy. By the time he was 14, he had lost a sister and both his parents. He was taken in by an uncle who was a wealthy corn merchant. James immersed himself into the business and showed great skill in sales. Before he was 30, he had started his own textiles company. He won a contract to make uniforms for tram workers and during the 1st World War, he got a contract to make uniforms for the army, so his business boomed until the late 1920s, when the Lancashire textile industry was badly hit by Great Depression. James began looking for new business ventures. He was aware that Manchester United Football Club was also badly affected greatly by the Depression. United’s owner, John Henry Davies, had died in 1927 after 25 years at the club, and United were becoming a "yo-yo" club who regularly moved between the First and Second Divisions. By the late-1920s, United had falling attendances and financial problems. James W. Gibson took over as Chairman in December 1931. His first action was to step in to cover the bills and wages (he also bought a Christmas turkey for all players and staff). During the Depression years, he injected more money to keep the club afloat. On the field, United continued to slide between the First and Second Divisions. James pleaded with fans to stay loyal. To help bring supporters from Manchester, he was the driving force behind the development of the Old Trafford train station (there's a red plaque on the railway bridge). With little money to invest, he started the United Youth Academy (the first in the country) to find young talent in the local area and beyond. When Old Trafford was bombed by German air raids in 1941, he funded the rebuilding of the stadium (completed in 1949). It was also James who bought the training ground at the Cliff in Salford and it was he who appointed Matt Busby as manager. When United got to Wembley in 1948,James suffered a stroke just hours before he was due to set off and so missed the final. But when the team returned from London, they went straight round to his house to present him with the trophy and left it with him (he kept it in a wardrobe). Sadly, he died in 1951, a year before United won their first top division title since 1911 and he did not live to see the great football revolution of the Busby Babes era. But there is no doubt James W. Gibson played a massive role in laying the foundations of United’s future success.