Edris Albert “Eddie” Hapgood was an English footballer, who captained both Arsenal and England during the 1930s. Eddie was born in the humble working class district of East Bristol and started his footballing career in 1926 when he was driving a horse-drawn milk cart for a living and playing football for St. Philips Adult School AFC. He came to the attention of Bristol Rovers who offered him a trial on 7th. May 1927 in a Western League match for the reserves against Taunton at Eastville. Eddie had a glowing report in the press.
Bristol Rovers offered him a full time contract. Eight pounds a week in the season and a job driving a coal wagon in the summer. Eddie turned down the offer as he felt there was a social distinction between driving a milk cart and a coal cart. Eddie went on to sign for non-league club Kettering at £4 a week during the season and £3 a week out of season. Rovers had let a great talent slip through their fingers.
He was signed by Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal for £950, after just 12 games for Kettering in 1927. Initially a thin and fragile player, Arsenal’s trainer Tom Whittaker forced him to take up weight training, and abandon vegetarianism, and Eddie eventually became known for his physique and power. Eddie made his Arsenal debut on 19 November 1927 against Birmingham City but was initially used as backup for left back Horace Cope He didn’t become Arsenal’s regular left back until early 1929, but after that he made the position his own, right up to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Eddie appeared in his first FA cup final in 1930 when Arsenal beat Huddersfield 2 – 0. In 1932 they lost to Newcastle 2-1. This FA cup final was famous for the goal that never was. A Hapgood clearance was intercepted by Davidson, who pumped a long ball down the flanks to Boyd to chase. It looked unlikely he would reach the goal-line. Hapgood ran with him and appealed with his team mates that the ball went out of play. Boyd hooked the ball into play for Allen to head the equaliser. Two days later the Daily Mirror devoted the front page to a picture from Movietone news coverage, showing the ball was clearly out of play when Boyd centred.
Television cameras first appeared on a football league ground in September 1937 when the BBC transmitted extracts from a practice match between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves. A photograph taken at the time clearly shows Eddie staring down the lens of the mobile transmission television unit.
Eddie earned a reputation as an elegant and unruffled defender. He became Arsenal captain, and led a side which dominated English football in the 1930s, winning five League Championships and two FA Cups. Eddie also played for England 30 times, making his debut against Italy in Rome, on 13 May 1933, which finished a 1-1. Eddie captained England 21 times: his first match as captain was the infamous “Battle of Highbury” on 14 November 1934, against Italy, who were reigning World Champions at the time. England had declined to take part in the World Cup, so the match was billed as the “true” World Championship match. The match was notoriously dirty, with many players sustaining injuries, including Eddie himself with a broken nose. England beat Italy 3-2. Eddie also captained England against Italy in Turin with Mussolini in the crowd.
In another infamous match, against Germany in Berlin on 14 May 1938, Eddie and his players were made to give the Nazi salute before the match, under pressure from British diplomats. Hitler was not in attendance, and the players resented the pressure to conform, but it was done to avoid a diplomatic incident; England won the match 6-3.
On 15th April 1939 Eddie led England against Scotland at Hampden Park in what he described was his greatest match. Not since 1927 had England even drawn against the Scots. After playing second fiddle in the first half, they produced outstanding football in the second half to silence the famous Hampden roar. With the scores at 1 – 1 Tommy Lawton scored the winning goal in front of a record 150,000 partisan Scots. It was Eddie’s greatest playing memory.
The Second World War cut short Eddie’s playing career (he was only 30 when hostilities broke out). Eddie served in the Royal Air Force during the war, whilst also playing for Arsenal and England in unofficial matches. In June 1940, he was one of five Arsenal players who guested for Southampton in a victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage. It was during the war that Eddie fell out with the Arsenal management, after he was loaned out to Chelsea and eventually left the club under a dark cloud. He played 440 times in all for Arsenal, scoring two goals
In January 1943 Eddie set a new record for the most number of caps for his country. Afterwards the Football Association decided that in recognition of this fantastic achievement they would award Eddie a £100 testimonial. This was the first time a player had been given a cash presentation from the rulers of the game.
In 1945 he wrote one of the first footballing autobiographies, entitled “Football Ambassador”, and after the war moved into management. He had stints in charge of Blackburn Rovers, and then Watford and Bath City. After that he left football completely. He fell on hard times and wrote back to his old club Arsenal asking for financial assistance (as he had never been given a testimonial match) but the club only sent him £30. He spent his later years running a YMCA hostel in Harwell, Berkshire and in Weymouth, Dorset.
On Good Friday, 20th April 1973 Eddie Hapgood sadly collapsed and died, aged 64, during a sports forum with Stan Cullis at Honiley Hall near Warwick. A week later on 27th April after a service at St. Marks Church, he was buried at Brunswick Street Cemetery, Leamington.