No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion
No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
Born 24/09/1908, Bristol
England 30 caps
One of the shrewdest signings legendary manager Herbert Chapman ever made was that of left-back Eddie Hapgood, who became a key figure in the great Arsenal side of the 1930s that dominated English football like no club had done before. He became known as the "ambassador of football" - later the title of his autobiography - and is still regarded by many as the greatest left-back in Arsenal's history, despite the claims of other notables in that position such as Walley Barnes, Bob McNab, Sammy Nelson, Kenny Sansom and Nigel Winterburn.
Edris Albert Hapgood was born in a tenement in Barton Road, Bristol, on 24 September 1908, the ninth of ten children, and showed an early aptitude for the game, despite once being fined half-a-crown (12.5 pence now, but a substantial sum then) for putting a football through a window while playing in the street.
From the mid-1920s, Hapgood played amateur football for St Phillip’s Marsh Adult School Juniors, who competed in the local Downs League, while earning his living delivering milk for his brother-in-law's dairy. He came to the attention of Bristol Rovers, who gave him a trial in a reserve match against Taunton United on May 7, 1927. Eddie was offered a contract of £8 a week, conditional upon his delivering coal on behalf of one of the club's directors in the close-season. He turned it down, preferring to sign for Southern League Kettering Town. His wage was only £4 a week but Kettering were happy for him to continue working as a milkman, which proved to be the clincher.
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Vegetarian Eddie was so frail at this stage that he was frequently knocked out when heading the heavy leather balls. This was a cause of much concern and threatened to abort his embryonic career. But the Arsenal trainer, Tom Whittaker, determined that Hapgood was simply too light, weighing just 9 stone 6lbs, and needed to be built up. Whittaker introduced a regime of weight training and made the player start eating meat, putting him on a diet that was said to have consisted almost entirely of steak. It was a blow to speedy right-winger Joe Hulme, who shared digs with Hapgood and had been benefitting from Eddie's share of the meat; but otherwise it was a winning formula, as Hapgood rapidly developed a strapping physique and would be known in for his strength, power, and heading ability.
After making his debut at Birmingham on 19 November 1927 as a deputy for the injured Horace Cope, Hapgood made two more League appearances that season, and played in each of Arsenal's last 17 League games in 1928-29 to establish himself as the club's first-choice left-back. The following season, 1929-30, Hapgood was ever-present in an FA Cup run that led Arsenal to their first major honour when they defeated Chapman's previous club Huddersfield Town 2-0 at Wembley.
It was the springboard to an unprecedented spell of success in which Hapgood, originally partnered at right-back by captain Tom Parker, then from the 1932-33 season by George Male, was a near-permanent fixture.
After collecting that FA Cup winner's medal in 1930, Hapgood played in all but four of Arsenal's games in their record-breaking 1930-31 campaign, when they became the first southern club to win the League championship, racking up a record haul of 66 points and netting a staggering 127 goals in the process. Another Wembley appearance followed in 1932 as Arsenal finished runners-up in both League and FA Cup, and then came three consecutive title triumphs between 1932-33 and 1934-35. Another FA Cup triumph was secured in 1936, and a fifth League championship in 1938.
Captaining all-conquering Arsenal
Hapgood had become peerless in his position, carving out a reputation for class, composure and elegance in a previously unfashionable position. Technically outstanding, with great anticipation that contributed to astute positional sense, he was also a byword for consistency, playing in at least 35 matches in League, FA Cup and Charity Shield for the Gunners during each of ten consecutive seasons between 1929-30 and 1938-39.
Having succeeded Parker as Arsenal captain, the supremely confident Hapgood exuded calm authority as well as guts, making him a natural leader in the dressing room and on the pitch. It was inevitable that his prowess would be recognised by England, and he made his international debut against Italy in Rome, on 13 May 1933, a 1-1 draw. He duly became England captain too, and the first of his 21 games as skipper of the Three Lions was the infamous "Battle of Highbury" on 14 November 1934, against Italy, by now the reigning world champions following their World Cup triumph on home soil earlier that year.
Because England had declined to take part in the World Cup, the match was billed as the 'true' if unofficial World Championship match. Arsenal supplied an unprecedented seven members of the England side, plus Whittaker as trainer, and the man with the magic sponge had to work overtime in a notoriously violent contest. Among the casualties was Hapgood, who suffered a broken nose. Italian defender Luis Monti broke his foot in a challenge with Ted Drake in the opening exchanges, forcing Italy to play all but two minutes of the game with ten men. Enraged, they set about exacting retribution, and after Hapgood's facial features were temporarily rearranged by an opponent, forcing his withdrawal for 15 minutes, Ray Bowden injured his ankle, Drake was punched and Eric Brook had his arm fractured as England eventually triumphed 3-2.
Hapgood remained as England's captain throughout the 1930s, winning 30 caps. He was skipper in another infamous match, against Germany in Berlin in May 1938, when craven British diplomats, pursuing a line of appeasement towards Hitler's fascist dictatorship, insisted that Hapgood and his players give the Nazi salute before the match, even though the Fuhrer himself was not present. Hitler did, though, want to use the game as Nazi propaganda, and as the England players were getting changed an FA official went into their dressing-room and told them they must give the salute while the German national anthem was played. Stanley Matthews, one of Hapgood's team-mates that day, later reminisced, "The dressing room erupted. There was bedlam. All the England players were livid and totally opposed to this, myself included. Everyone was shouting at once. Eddie Hapgood, normally a respectful and devoted captain, wagged his finger at the official and told him what he could do with the Nazi salute, which involved putting it where the sun doesn't shine."
The FA official left but was back a few minutes later with a direct order from the British Ambassador in Berlin, telling the team that the sensitive political situation between Britain and Germany made it imperative they obey. England thrashed Germany 6-3 in front of 110,000 people including Goering and Goebbels; just over a year later, the two countries were at war, appeasement having been utterly discredited.
From January 1928 until the outbreak of war in September 1939, Hapgood missed only 47 out of 437 League games for Arsenal; but at he age of 30, the hostilities brought a premature end to his official playing career. He had made a total of 440 competitive first-team appearances, scoring two goals.
Hapgood served in the Royal Air Force during the war, while continuing to represent Arsenal and England (on a further 13 occasions) in unofficial matches. Sadly, however, it was during the war that Hapgood, who had idolised Chapman and greatly admired Whittaker, fell out with the Arsenal management. He had never seen fully eye-to-eye with Chapman's successor as manager, George Allison, and was unhappy when Allison loaned him out to Chelsea.
He eventually left the club under a cloud, without receiving the benefit payments his years of loyal service had deserved. In 1945, he was one of the first footballers to (ghost) write an autobiography, and after the war he moved into management with Blackburn Rovers. After the club finished in 17th place in 1946-47 he resigned, then taking over at Watford, but after two unsuccessful seasons he left the Hornets in 1950. He also took charge of non-league Bath City between 1950 and 1956.
On losing his job at Bath he encountered real financial difficulties and wrote to Arsenal asking if he could have the testimonial match he didn't receive as a player. The club refused, but did send him a cheque for all of £30. Hapgood ran a YMCA at Harwell and then Weymouth before retiring to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. Attending a sports forum at Honiley Hall, Warwickshire, on 20 April 1973 - Good Friday - Eddie Hapgood died from a heart attack. He was 64 years old.
Five League Championship medals (1930-31, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35, 1937-38)
Two FA Cup winners' medals (1930, 1936)
Four FA Charity Shield winners' medals (1930-31, 1931-32, 1933-34, 1934-35)
30 England caps; plus 13 Wartime caps
Four Football League caps
DID YOU KNOW... Eddie Hapgood featured on the first ever recording of a football song, cut before the 1936 FA Cup final, where his Bristol accent could be picked out.
Graham Lister, Goal.com
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