Gateshead, County Durham born football manager Herbert Bamlett made his name as a referee rather than a player. On 5th March 1909, Bamlett refereed the FA Cup fourth round tie between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor, but called the game off with only 18 minutes left with the score at 1-0 to Burnley due to heavy snow. Five days later United won the rearranged game 3-2 and went on to win the FA Cup for the first time. He also refereed the 1914 match between Scotland and England, a 3-1 win to Scotland at Hampden Park in front of 105,000. Three weeks later, at the age of 32, Bamlett was appointed to referee the 1914 FA Cup Final between Burnley and Liverpool at The Crystal Palace, being the youngest ever referee to have control of an FA Cup Final, which also proved his last game as a referee.
In June that same year, Bamlett took over as manager at First Division Oldham Athletic, where he stayed for seven years. In his first season, the final season before the onset of the First World War forced the suspension of peacetime football, Oldham finished runners up in the League Championship. But in the two seasons after the War they struggled to maintain their top flight status and Bamlett left Boundary Park in May 1921, moving on to newly elected Wigan Borough.
He stayed two seasons at Borough but 3 matches into the new season he became manager of First Division club Middlesborough in September 1923, although they suffered relegation at the end of the season. After two seasons in the Second Division Bamlett led Middlesbrough through most of their 1926-27 Second Division Championship season before leaving the club at the end of March 1927, being named manager of Manchester United two weeks later in succession to caretaker manager Clarrie Hilditch, who had been in control since John Chapman had been sacked in October 1926. Hilditch returned to being a player.
His reign at Old Trafford was not successful. After narrowly avoiding relegation in 1927-28, they finished twelfth in 1928-29, but this was as good as it got. He remained at United until November 1931, when he was sacked 14 matches into the new season following United’s relegation in 1930-31. The club lost 12 consecutive matches from the start of that season and was strapped for cash after the death of owner John Henry Davies, finishing bottom of the League with only 7 wins and 27 defeats.
One of the first more unusual stories behind Herbert Bamlett as United manager was to bring Stockport County’s Hugh McLenahan to Old Trafford in 1927. The midfielder came to United in exchange for three freezers filled with ice cream! Bamlett’s second-in-command, Louis Rocca, was an ice cream maker.