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Eddy Hapwood, legendary full-back for Arsenal and England, was one of the stars of the great Gunners' team of the 1930s.
Edris, Albert Hapgood, better known as Eddie, was born in Bristol on 24 September 1908, the ninth of the ten children. From the age of fourteen he worked as a milkman at his brother-in-law's dairy, playing football in local leagues.
Rejected by Bristol Rovers, in 1926 he joined Kettering Town of the southern league, at that time a ‘nursery’ club for Arsenal Football Club. The following season he signed for Arsenal, a club which, under the managership of Herbert Chapman, was emerging as a leading force in English football.
Arsenal's success in the 1930s, which brought five league championships and three cup final appearances, was based on Chapman's strategy of sound defence and rapid counter-attack. Hapgood, as left full-back, played a key role in this system. Of average height and medium build, he relied upon exceptional speed, precision in the tackle, excellent positional sense, and, despite his height, outstanding heading ability. His technique was to manoeuvre his opponent away from dangerous positions, dispossess with a well-timed tackle or interception, and set up an attack with a shrewdly placed, often short, pass.
Chapman displayed outstanding leadership qualities from an early stage, and he was madecaptain of Arsenal in 1930. He retained the post after Chapman's death in 1934, despite cool relations with the new manager, George Allison.
In 1933 Hapgood was selected for England and in November 1934 the Football Association (FA) appointed him captain of the national team. His first game as captain was the ‘battle of Highbury’, an ill-tempered match against the world champions, Italy, which tested his strength of character. A broken nose forced his temporary withdrawal from the field but, in the era before substitutions, he returned to lead his team to victory. He remained England's captain throughout the 1930s, and played thirty times.
Though Hapgood continued to play in club, international, and services football during the war, when the league resumed in 1946–7 he felt he had reached retirement age. In any event, Arsenal's failure to pay the full long-service benefit he considered was owed to him led to his leaving the club. He moved into club management, first with Blackburn Rovers, then (after a brief resumption as a player with Shrewsbury Town) with Watford and Bath City.
Without independent means or a job in middle age he took employment as warden of a YMCA hostel for apprentices at the atomic energy research establishment, Harwell. He enjoyed excellent health throughout his life but at the age of sixty developed heart trouble which forced an early retirement to Leamington Spa. He suffered a fatal heart attack while attending a sports forum at Honiley Hall, Warwickshire, on 20 April 1973.