24 September: birth of Eddie Hapgood, one of our greatest ever players




24 September 1908: Eddie Hapgood, one of our greatest ever players, born in Bristol

Eddie was the ninth of the ten children. He left school at 14, and worked in his brother’s milk round business while playing for St Philip’s Adult School Juniors, in Bristol.   He was then spotted by a director of Bristol Rovers and given a trial but not liking the contract he opted for Kettering Town.

He later joined Arsenal and went on to play 440 times for the club, and 43 for England – 34 of those as captain and was at the very heart of our great team in the 1930s that dominated English football.

Eddie Hapgood’s autobiography “Football Ambassador” was the first ever such book – something that is hard to imagine when players now knock off the history of their lives after a couple of middle-of-the-road seasons in the Premier League.  So important and groundbreaking was this book that Sir Stanley Rous, who went on to become president of FIFA wrote the introduction.

What makes this book so worth reading is the way it dwells on Arsenal.  Here is a man plucked out of obscurity to play for what was beyond any dispute the greatest team in the world – the team that dominated all football from 1930 to the outbreak of war in 1939.

And there is so much in this book that makes us realise that while some of football has changed out of all proportion, a lot hasn’t.   Eddie signed for Kettering because they offered him the best deal going – £4 a week in the season, £3 a week in the off season, and a willingness to let him carry on working as a milkman in between.   That’s the difference.

But the similarity is there too, through the fact that after he played his first game for Kettering he was slated by the local press who criticised the manager for buying such a useless player.   Remember the first games of Bergkamp, Henry, Song etc etc?

According to Eddie Hapgood, his interview for a transfer to Arsenal consisted of two questions from Herbert Chapman (with George Allison standing by his side in the offices at Kettering Town).

First, “Do you smoke or drink?”

On receiving the right answer to both the second question was delivered:

“Would you like to sign for Arsenal?”

And that was it.

If you can find a copy of Eddie’s book it is still a great read, and I recommend it.


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