THERE is little to distinguish the grave of Robert ‘Bob’ Glendenning from other weathered monuments in the churchyard of St Peter’s at Halliwell, nor the incredible adventure he embarked upon after hanging up his boots.

A modest stone monument marks the passing of a Durham-born footballer who served in the First World War, lifted the FA Cup and played two seasons with distinction at Bolton Wanderers between 1913 and 1915.

Yet unbeknown to those who walk past the church, and many of those who will pack inside the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques tonight for the Nations League semi-final, Glendenning’s role in developing the Dutch game, laying the groundwork for what would eventually be termed “Total Football” is still recognised by the authorities who pay to upkeep his grave to this day.

The Bolton News: St Peter's Church in HalliwellSt Peter's Church in Halliwell

This, after all, is a man who managed the Netherlands at two World Cup finals and whose record in the dugout compares favourably to Dick Advocaat, Frank Rijkaard, Rinus Michels, or Louis van Gaal.

The story of how a wing-half from Tyne and Wear ended up leading one of Europe’s footballing super-powers into two major tournaments, either side of a stint as landlord of the Ainsworth Arms, is one which bears examination even nearly a century later.

As a player, Glendenning was never capped by England but did reach two FA Cup finals with Barnsley, winning the second in 1912 and creating the winning goal in extra time against West Brom at Bramall Lane with an act which would have a lasting impact on the rules of the game.

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Right-half Glendenning was off the pitch with an injured foot when West Brom attacked the Barnsley goal, beating the keeper with a shot. Seeing the danger, Glendenning ran back on to the pitch – still wearing only one boot – to make the clearance. After that incident the Football Association made it so that players must get the referee’s permission to re-enter the field of play.

Regardless of the controversy, Wanderers brought Glendenning to Lancashire in 1913 and a year after arriving at Burnden Park he was installed as the club’s captain.

During his first season, Bolton challenged at the top of the table until April when a run of four defeats in six games saw them slump to sixth place, nine points behind the league champions, Blackburn Rovers.

The following year was wildly inconsistent, as the Whites recorded their best-ever away victory – a 7-1 thumping of Aston Villa – and also another record-equalling 7-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

In total, Glendenning played 83 games at Bolton, although as football came to a grinding halt because of the First World War, some of those appearances were made as a guest.

Serving in the Durham Light Infantry 13th Battalion, Glendenning also guested for Burnley before signing for Accrington at the end of the war to see out his playing career and becoming a publican. He took over the Ainsworth Arms – now a Toby Carvery – from another former Wanderer, Sam Marsh.

Wanderers were about to lift their first FA Cup at the newly-built Wembley Stadium when Glendenning got an offer from the NVB – the Dutch FA had yet to be given the royal ‘koninklijk’ stamp of approval to become the KNVB – to be the new national team trainer.

The Netherlands had played their first official international in 1905, coached by player-trainer Cees van Hasselt but from 1908 onwards the team was managed almost exclusively by Brits.

Another former Wanderer, Jimmy Hogan, was among those helping to shape football on mainland Europe at the start of the 20th century and his recommendation is thought to have had some influence on Glendenning being selected to succeed another Englishman, Fred Warburton.

Inside-forward Hogan finished playing at Bolton in 1913, the same year Glendenning signed from Barnsley. He managed the Dutch team for only one game before moving into club football in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Hungary but found his greatest success as manager of Austria, and his quick passing style led to the famed ‘Wunderteam,’ widely regarded to be the first national side to play ‘Total Football’.

That same blueprint was left behind on the team Glendenning inherited, albeit briefly, for a 4-1 victory over Switzerland in 1923.

Another change of direction for the Dutch would lead them to appoint Billy Townley and John Bollington to the post over the next two years, meaning Glendenning missed out on the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.

Having already worked with one club side, DFC, Glendenning then got an offer from Koninklijke HFC, where he would enjoy a successful four years.

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“Frequently Glendenning would show his Bolton shirt at HFC. He was proud of it,” said HFC committee member Max Slingenberg in the book, Een Elftal Bondscoaches.

“I think Glendenning was appointed by HFC because he came from England. That was like the cradle of football. People always called him ‘Van Glendingen’. People did not know any better. We considered him as a friend. He was part of the group and was present at parties.”

The job of national team trainer in the twenties was certainly different to that of Ronald Koeman or Gareth Southgate, who take charge of their national teams tonight.

Glendenning would not get his players together until the day of a game and would instead travel around the country to coach and prepare his players individually.

A committee would be responsible for selecting the squad and the team – leaving the trainer to assume responsibilities which ranged from laundry to physiotherapy. It was not until Elek Schwartz was appointed in 1957 the line-up fell into the hands of the manager.

Indeed, in the early days of his tenure, Glendenning was sometimes not even pitchside, instead watching the game from the stand as substitutions were also decided via committee.

Fixture lists were less crammed, too, with just four or five friendly games arranged in non-tournament years, many of which were against neighbouring Belgium and Germany.

The influence Glendenning had on his players was clear to see, though, not least in motivating striker Beb Bakhuys, whose 28 goals in 23 games for his country made him one of the continent’s most feared strikers.

A superstar of the day, Bakhuys is still remembered in the Netherlands for a diving header – or ‘snoekduik ‘– against Belgium in 1934 which was dedicated to Glendenning, who had brought him back into the international fold after four years playing for the Dutch East Indies.

To this day when someone scores an acrobatic header in the Netherlands, they are described as “doing a Bakhuys’.

Glendenning’s popularity ensured his longevity but success at the world Cup proved elusive.

The Netherlands fancied their chances at the 1934 tournament in Italy when they had beaten Belgium and Ireland in the qualifiers. FIFA accounts of their first game against Switzerland in Milan note that Dutch fans sang “we’re on our way to Rome”. Sadly, they were beaten 3-2 by the Swiss, the winning goal scored by a bespectacled striker, Poldi Kielholz.

Glendenning took charge of a game against England in May, 1935 and his side were beaten in Amsterdam by a solitary goal from Warrington-born Fred Worrall, a Portsmouth outside-right who had started his career as a youngster with Bolton.

Victory against Luxembourg and a draw with Belgium was enough to see the Dutch qualify for their second successive World Cup in 1938 – but again disappointment awaited Glendenning’s talented side. Held by Czechoslovakia over 90 minutes, they lost 3-0 in extra time and were sent home early from France.

The outbreak of war and the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 curtailed Glendenning’s career as manager. His final and 36th victory came against Belgium on April 21, 1940, and just seven months later he passed away after returning home to Bolton.

Up until the last couple of years, Glendenning’s haul of wins was a national team record, surpassed only by Advocaat in November 2017. His overall reign was also longer than any other manager in the country’s history.

An early and unheralded pioneer of British football abroad, Glendenning is buried alongside his wife, Hannah, who passed away at the age of 74 in December 1962.

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