Did Herbert Chapman ever make a more astute signing than Eddie Hapgood?The defender was at lowly Kettering when the legendary manager signed him in 1927. Hapgood went on to captain Arsenal and England during periods of dominance for both teams, ending up with 393 League appearances, five titles, two FA Cups and 30 international caps.Fittingly, he led England out for the first time at his club ground for a 3-2 win over Italy in November 1934 which would be dubbed the 'Battle of Highbury'. Hapgood, who suffered a broken nose in the game, was one of seven Arsenal players on duty for England - a record club contribution which still stands to this day.It was all so different in the mid-1920s when Hapgood was an amateur in Bristol, juggling his milk round with appearances for a local side. Kettering gave him his big break and then Chapman swooped. When trainer Tom Whittaker had finished with Hapgood, his slight frame had been replaced by a powerful physique.That held Hapgood in good stead. He displaced regular left-back Horace Cope by early 1929 and did not relinquish his position until the outbreak of World War II. He was soon earning rave reviews for his assured displays in defence.Hapgood played 32 or more matches in every season from 1929 to 1939 and succeeded Tom Parker as skipper in the early 1930s. He led the side to five League titles and one FA Cup, having already won the trophy under Parker's captaincy in 1930.The War cut short Hapgood's playing career - he was only 30 when it began. But by the time the conflict had ended, Hapgood had cut his ties with Arsenal. He had made 440 appearances for the Club, scoring two goals. Eddie died in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, on Good Friday 1973. He was 64 years old.
WHAT THE FANS SAID:
I swear I saw him - just about - in the game against Moscow Dymamos in 1946. This was played in dense fog and Arsenal included, because of World War II, some other players like Ronnie Rooke (remember him?). In the end it was a stupid game and our Russian friends cheated but I saw Eddie as well as seeing the first Russian of my life, "Tiger" Komich the goalkeeper. The Russians won 4-3 but it was all a bit silly.John Miller, Southwold, Suffolk
My late father, who watched Eddie Hapgood play many times during the 1930s, said that he was the complete footballer. He could tackle, dribble, fly kick (a difficult skill) and, when confronted by wingers such as Stanley Mathews, would bottle him up near the corner flag or touchline, leaving him with no place to go. He played for England with distinction, and in an era when players played a lot less internationals, he would today easily have earned 100 caps. He takes his place alongside James, Bastin, Jack and Herbie Roberts as the backbone of the all-conquering Arsenal of the 1930s.Patrick Cooper, Bracknell, Berkshire