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Edris Hapgood

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss

England Caps: 30

Goals: 0

Player: 1933 - 1939

Edris ‘Eddie’ Hapgood was a very respected cultured defender who played for Arsenal and England in the Thirties and captained both teams.

Weight Training

Hapgood was playing amateur football while working as a milkman before he was enticed into playing professionally with Kettering Town. Arsenal came in for him in 1927 paying £950, and immediately put him on a strict weight training regime and build-up diet as he was so frail looking. They forced him to abandon his vegetarianism as well.

Herbert Chapman

Hapgood made his Arsenal debut in 1927 under their legendary manager Herbert Chapman, the most influential figure in English football for decades. Hapgood was initially second choice at left back but after couple of years he was the first choice.

International Debut

His debut in the England side soon followed in a tour match against Italy in 1930, a 1-1 draw, and he quickly became a regular in the side. In fact, his leadership and calm, efficient defending lead to his appointment as England captain, in 1934. Cracks were beginning to appear in England’s world superiority, they had been beaten by Hungary and Czechoslovakia earlier in the year, though their unbeaten home record still stood (assuming the ‘home’ countries didn’t count).He could have got an easier match. The opposition were the Italians, recent winners of the second World Cup, which England had declined to enter, making this match the ‘real’ World Cup, as far as the English press were concerned. Played at Highbury Stadium in North London, the match became known as ‘The Battle of Highbury’.

Battle Commences

Right at the start of the match, a foul by England centre-forward Ted Drake on Luis Monti broke a bone in the Italian’s foot and he couldn’t continue. The remaining ten men set about England with a vengeance and Hapgood’s broken nose was one of the more minor injuries suffered. Three goals to the good at half-time, England were lucky to win 3-2 at the final whistle, as the Italians played football rather than rugby in the second half.

Two years later, another match against a team from outside the British Isles would cause controversy for Hapgood, but this time not for football reasons. A match against Germany had been arranged, in Berlin, as part of a tour that took in France and Switzerland.

Political Coercion

On orders from the Foreign Office, when Hapgood and the rest of the team lined up with the German side at the beginning of the march, they gave Nazi salutes. This caused a furore in the press back home, but the politics were more important than the game.

England won the game 6-3, but that wasn’t really a problem for the Germans as England in those days usually won. The battle that Germany won was the cementing of the English policy of appeasing German aggression in Europe.

War Interrupts

Officially Hapgood’s international career ended at the outbreak of World War II (proving appeasement was, in fact, a complete waste of time), as the FA and League suspended all activity, but in fact he played on for another thirteen matches, all as captain, in unofficial wartime internationals.

Book Club

He was one of the first footballers to write an autobiography, “Football Ambassador”, and after the war tried a couple of management posts. When they didn’t work out, he asked Arsenal for some support and they offered £30! It turned out later that the post-war Arsenal manager, Tom Whittaker, had fabricated a story about Hapgood asking for optional ‘benefit’ payments that clubs were allowed to award players.

Scandal and Abandonment

Hapgood and another player had supposedly asked for these payments at the end of the war, and then had unsuccessfully appealed to the League when they were turned down. Yet there was no record of the appeal at the FA and Arsenal would not let journalists see club minutes to verify the story.One of the best players in the country in the Thirties Hapgood saw out his days running YMCA hostels and died in 1973.

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