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Football Ambassador: The Autobiography of an Arsenal Legend Paperback – 30 Nov 2009
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From the Back Cover
Signed by Herbert Chapman from Kettering Town for £950, Eddie Hapgood, the part-time milkman, joined Arsenal in 1927 and made a total of 440 appearances in both league and cup before retiring in 1944. In addition he captained England for 34 of his 43 international caps.
Football Ambassador was the first football autobiography and was written at the end of a long and successful career for both club and country.
Hapgood tells the story of his career, introduces the great players of his era and recounts his experiences with Arsenal and England with both honesty and a touch of humour.
Eddie Hapgood remains sixteenth on Arsenal's all-time appearance list, a central figure in the side that dominated English football in the 1930's, a true gentleman and an Arsenal legend.
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For those Arsenal fans not familiar with the name of Eddie Hapgood or the role he played for Arsenal in the all-conquering era of the 1930s then it's time you found out.
As captain of Arsenal and England, Eddie Hapgood was the Tony Adams of his generation. In addition to his Arsenal honours (5 league championships and 2 FA Cup winners medals), Hapgood was capped 43 times for England. This might not sound too impressive until you appreciate that this was before the days of Englands participation on the World Cup and before the European Championships even existed. In today terms 43 caps would equate to more than 100.
This country has produced few full-backs as good as Eddie Hapgood and fewer still have worn the red and white of Arsenal.
This book was used by Arsenal Football Club as one of the gifts in their membership pack for the 2010/2011 season. As such many fans will now own a copy. For those who don't I recommend this as money well spent.
Unveiled by Eddie Hapgood's son, Mike, in September 2003, a blue plaque on Barton Hill is a fitting reminder of the greatest Bristol-born footballer ever to grace the game.His professional attitude and sportsmanship gives him a well deserved place among the legends. But that doesn't mean that Eddie never transgressed. At the age of 10 he found himself in court.
The reason? Playing football in the street had resulted in the smashing of a window and three milk bottles. The fine? Two shillings and sixpence, which was met by his mother.
But young Eddie obviously didn't pay too much attention to the magistrate who told him: "You really must curb this passion for kicking a ball about, otherwise it might get you into trouble."
In fact, "trouble" meant playing 434 matches for Arsenal between 1927 and the outbreak of war in 1939, although he did feature many times in unofficial wartime matches for both club and country.
In his early days, in between delivering milk by horse and cart for his brother-in-law, Eddie turned out for his local club, St Philips Adult School Juniors, and it was while playing for them that he was spotted by a director of Bristol Rovers and a trial match was arranged.
He must have put up a fine display, because within a few days he was made an offer to sign for the Eastville club with wages of £8 per week and a place in the first team.
Most history books now relate that Rovers let this promising full-back slip through their hands.
But, as Eddie later revealed in the 1945 Football Ambassador (Sporting Handbooks), as the relevant papers were offered, the youngster queried what would happen during the summer months.
"I have a coal business," replied the director, "and I can fix you up driving a coal cart."
"Gently, but firmly, I ushered him out of the house," recalled Eddie. "I figured there was a social distinction between driving a milk float and a coal cart."
It wasn't long before Hapgood signed for Kettering Town - £4 a week in winter and £3 in summer. And he could keep his milk round.
In October 1927, after about a dozen matches, Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman heard about the skills of this young left-back and went to see him in action.
He offered the club £1,000 for his services - £750 down and a guarantee of about £200 and a friendly match thrown in.
It was all part of his masterplan to make the Gunners one of the most formidable clubs in world football.
On November 19, 1927, Eddie made his debut at St Andrews against Birmingham City.
Within five years, as an established member of the Highbury side, he was made team captain, taking over from Tom Parker.
Far from being a just a left-back, Eddie would often follow play up field to assist the Arsenal attack. This included the likes of David Jack, Ted Drake, Cliff Bastin and fellow Bristolian Jimmy Brain, and his displays on the wing were not the kind opposing players were prepared for.
In his time at Highbury, Eddie won five Football League Championships (1931, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1938) and two FA Cup winners medals (1930 and 1936). He also got a runners-up medal in 1932 in both competitions.
But without doubt it's his 30 England international caps that remained his proudest possessions.
He was just 24 when he made his international debut against Italy in Rome in May 1933. It was a 1-1 draw, England's equalising goal being scored by Arsenal team mate Cliff Bastin.
It was against the same opposition a year later that Eddie first captained his country in the infamous "Battle of Highbury".
The home side, which included seven Arsenal players, were 3-2 winners against the reigning World Champions in a bruising match which saw poor Eddie suffer a broken nose.
Strong in the tackle and with impeccable timing, Eddie was the most capped England international between the wars with 30 to his name.
He also led the side in his last 21 games, another record for the same period.
Of all the international matches he took part in - he was on the winning side 16 times, with just 11 defeats - none was more controversial than the meeting with Germany in Berlin in May 1938.
The result was a convincing 6-3 victory for the visitors.
But it was the giving the Nazi salute to the German dignitaries in the stand that caused the furore.
There had been many debates among ministers and FA officials as to what was the correct thing to do, with the Ambassador to Germany Sir Neville Henderson in one corner and tour organiser Wreford Brown and Stanley Rous of the FA in the other.
Much to the displeasure of the England players on that sun-drenched afternoon, the salute was given to a stadium packed with 100,000 supporters.
In his autobiography Hapgood recalled the incident as "the worst moment of my life, and one I would not willingly go through again,"
Eddie made his final England appearance, again as captain, just before war broke out. It was in May 1939 against Yugoslavia in Belgrade.
He suffered torn ankle ligaments after just 16 minutes and yet still managed to play on, albeit as a winger. England lost 2-1.
Eddie was captain in 13 "unofficial" wartime appearances for England, five of them at Wembley.
No caps were awarded during these years but every player received an illuminated address from the FA with a full list of matches played.
On other wartime visits to the Twin Towers, Hapgood featured in a 1-1 draw with Preston in the Football League war cup final of 1941, and the following year appeared for the RAF against the Metropolitan Police in a resounding 6-3 win.
Following Eddie's retirement from football in 1945 he moved into management, firstly with Blackburn Rovers in Division One (1946-47) and then with Division Three Watford (1948-50), before moving closer to home with a six-year stint at Bath City (1950-56). Eddie died on April 10, 1973, aged 65.
If you want to have a look at the legendary footballers plaque, its new home is to be at Barton Hill Primary School.
Football Ambassador: The Autobiography of an Arsenal Legend - is a Jolly old chums, tea and cucumber sandwiches and a hearty pat on the back type of book with neither personality, guts nor passion - just pretentious "arf-arf" type drivel. Very easily readable but a right load of old codswallop.
Harry Enfield's Mr Cholmondley-Warner isn't far off the mark...
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