Seaton Delaval born inside forward Clem Stephenson began his junior career with New Delaval Villa in 1905 and West Stanley in 1906 before joining Blyth Spartans in 1907. He also played for Durham City in 1908. He signed for Aston Villa in March 1910 from Blyth Spartans for £165. He was initially loaned to Stourbridge for development from May 1910 until February 1911, making his Football League debut for Villa in February 1911 against Tottenham Hotspur, and played 216 games for Villa, scoring 85 goals, either side of the First World War in a very successful period for The Villains. He was a member of their FA Cup winning teams of 1913 and 1920 and was 3 times a runner up in the League Championship in 1911, 1913 and 1914. His career best season return was 29 goals in 45 games in the 1919-20 season, all but two coming in the League.
In August 1920 he was sold to Herbert Chapman’s Huddersfield Town for £4,000 so starting a 22 year spell as a player (until 1929) and as manager where he would be “The Gaffer” from August 1929 until his resignation in June 1942. He was a 3 time League Champion under Herbert Chapman at Leeds Road as they won a hat-trick of titles in 1924, 1925 and 1926, also being League runners up in 1927 and 1928, and he won the FA Cup there in 1922, being a runner up in 1928. In 1924 Chapman was moved to write to Stephenson as follows: “I want to thank you personally for your play, your wholehearted efforts both on and off the field. I have never had such confidence in any captain of a team I have been associated with.”
It was later written: “Chapman bought perceptively, welded his assets together astutely and soon sent out one of the most successful League sides of all time. It was stubborn, disciplined and highly mobile with Clem Stephenson, once of Aston Villa, at the heart of everything. He was a stocky tactician without much pace but his passes were as sweet as stolen kisses.” With Stephenson as club captain in the 6 years from 1922-23 they never finished outside of the top 3 in the First Division. In March 1924, well into his 30’s, he was finally capped for England against Wales at Ewood Park, having also been called up but not selected in 1920. He also represented The Football League on 3 occasions. He played his last match in April 1929 having scored 50 goals in 276 matches for The Town. When Chapman joined Arsenal, Stephenson succeeded him as manager in May 1929. As manager he led Huddersfield to 2 FA Cup Finals, losing to Arsenal and Preston in 1930 and 1938, and to a runner’s up position in the League in 1934, He could understandably never quite emulate the extraordinary feats of his legendary predecessor and mentor.
He was the older brother of George Stephenson who played for Aston Villa, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and England and who later managed Huddersfield Town, and Jimmy Stephenson who played for Aston Villa, Sunderland, Watford and QPR. His nephew Bob Stephenson was also a professional footballer, playing for Derby County, Shrewsbury Town and Rochdale in the 1960s, as well as playing cricket for Derbyshire and Hampshire between 1967 and 1980.
NB in the photograph he stands on the right hand side with Sammy Whittaker (left) and Jimmy Leach (centre).