Arsenal Football Club is saddened to receive the news that former player Derek Tapscott has died aged 75.

The Welshman only played 132 games for the Club but in that time he made a big impression. "Tappy", as he was affectionately known, was a fast, direct forward with an eye for goal, as his 68 strikes can testify.

Tapscott joined Arsenal in 1954 from Barry Town, although he travelled to London without knowing who he was signing for.

"When we reached Paddington, [Barry manager] Bill Jones took out two underground tickets to Highbury," said Tapscott later. "That's when I guessed what he was up to."

The fee was £2,000 plus the agreement of a friendly at the South Wales club. His initial wages were £11 in winter, £9 in summer with a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. There was also the addition of a £10 signing-on fee. He made his debut for the Reserves against QPR a couple of days later. Powerful and incisive, Tapscott made an instant impact in the second-string, who drew 15-20,000 spectators to Highbury in those days.

Despite that, in his autobiography, Tapscott admitted to some nerves when an injury to Jimmy Logie gave him his first-team debut against Liverpool on April 10, 1954.

"I was sat on the bus next to Joe Mercer," he wrote. "The oldest and youngest together. He moved next to me deliberately so he could help calm my nerves.

"'Everyone on the bus has had to go through this to play in their first game,' Joe said. 'Don't worry about anything, just be yourself and do what comes naturally'."

Both men were to have memorable games. After 20 minutes, Tapscott converted a knockdown from Tommy Lawton to give Arsenal the lead. But just six minutes later Mercer, the inspirational leader of the side, fractured his right leg in two places. Despite that devastating blow, Tapscott added another in the second half as Arsenal won 3-0.

But the drama was not over. The following Monday, Tapscott was called in by Tom Whitaker. "I have some good news for you," said the Arsenal manager. "You have been selected in the Wales squad to play Austria on May 9."

Even Tapscott himself admitted to be "flabbergasted" by his first call-up. He joined Arsenal team-mates Dave Bowen, Wally Barnes and Jack Kelsey in representing the Principality but would only win 14 caps himself.

Tapscott was a regular for Arsenal in the next three seasons and top-scorer in two. He grabbed their fourth goal in the famous 5-4 defeat to Manchester United at Highbury on February 1, 1958 - the final match the Busby Babes played in England. However it would be Tapscott's penultimate first-team outing. Injuries hampered his progress and Vic Groves took his place. Tapscott was transferred to Cardiff City for £10,000 seven months later.

He retained his eye for goal, hitting 101 in 234 games for the Bluebirds. He also helped them win promotion to Division One in 1960 and competed in the European Cup Winners' Cup five years later. He ended his career at Newport and stayed in football after retirement by working for a boot manufacturer.

The last time modern Arsenal supporters got to see Tapscott was at Highbury's last match against Wigan Athletic in May 2006. Despite ill-health, he was determined to take part in the Final Salute and he walked the perimeter of the pitch as one of the Club's Legends. It was a fitting send-off for a true Arsenal man.

The thoughts and condolences of everyone at Arsenal Football Club are with his family at this time.

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke adds: "As part of the Final Salute celebrations, I had the privilege of visiting "Tappy" at his South Wales home for a video interview. His career with Arsenal was relatively short but you could not have met a player more proud to have worn the famous red and white shirt. The enthusiasm he displayed on the pitch remained and, interview over, he spent more than an hour showing us memorabilia of his playing days.

It was a treasure trove, including immaculately-preserved contracts, letters, booklets and documents from his time at Highbury. Just 18 months before he passed away he lent some of these to the Arsenal Museum.

His walk round Highbury at the Final Salute game was tough for him but Tappy was always going to manage it. He was a proud Welshman but you sensed his footballing heart lay in London N5.

The tell-tale sign comes in the final words of his autobiography.

"When I was playing I was paid for doing something I enjoyed. I would have played for nothing," he wrote. "For someone coming from a family of 16 children I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to play at the highest level with, and against, the greatest players in the country.

"I have had a good life since taking that train ride to London with Bill Jones 50 years ago."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
13 Jun 2008