Bristol born left back Edris “Eddie” Hapgood began his football career with St Phillip’s in Bristol and joined Bristol Rovers as an amateur in 1926 without making their first team. He joined Southern League Kettering Town and from there he was signed for £750 by Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal in October 1927, making his Football League debut that December at Birmingham. By January 1929 he had become Arsenal’s regular left back and played over 30 games a season in every season throughout the 1930’s, although he never managed an ever present season, missing one game only in 1931-32 and 1937-38. His first Arsenal trophy was the FA Cup Final win over Huddersfield Town at Wembley in 1930, and although a loser in 1932 against Newcastle, he won the Cup for a second time in their narrow 1-0 victory over Sheffield United in 1936.
He was a lynchpin of Arsenal’s five League Championships of the 1930’s, winning the title in 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1938. The Second World War came with Hapgood aged 30 and doubtless it prevented him from further honours and restricted his career Arsenal appearances to 445, with 2 goals for the club scored in a 2-0 win at Liverpool in January 1935 and in a 3-2 win over Everton in August 1936.
In addition to four appearances for The Football League he was a regular in the England team after his first selection against Italy in May 1933, winning 30 caps until the outbreak of the War and missing very few internationals, being captain of his country on 21 occasions. He was the most capped England player between the two World Wars, ahead of Sammy Crooks, Roy Goodall and Harry Hibbs. His first match as captain was the infamous “Battle of Highbury” on 14th November 1934, against Italy, who were reigning World Champions at the time. The match was notoriously dirty, with many players sustaining injuries, including Hapgood himself with a broken nose; England beat the Italians (who were reduced to ten men for most of the match) 3-2. Hapgood also captained England in another infamous match, against Germany in Berlin on 14th May 1938, where Hapgood and his players were made to give the Nazi salute before the match, under pressure from British diplomats. Hitler was not in attendance and England won the match 6-3.
Hapgood served in the Royal Air Force during the War, whilst also playing for Arsenal and England in unofficial matches. In June 1940, he was one of five Arsenal players who guested for Southampton in a victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage. He also appeared as a guest player for West Ham United later in the War. It was during the war that Hapgood fell out with the Arsenal management, after he was loaned out to Chelsea and eventually left the club under a cloud in 1944.
After the War he became manager of Blackburn Rovers in June 1946 but resigned in February 1947. He then coached at Shrewsbury before becoming manager of Watford in February 1948, being sacked in March 1950. He then enjoyed six years as manager of Bath City. After that he left football completely; he fell on hard times and wrote back to his old club Arsenal asking for financial assistance (as he had never been given a testimonial match) but the club only sent him £30.
His son Tony Hapgood played for Burnley and Watford after the Second World War.
NB This postcard commemorates the infamous “Nazi salute” international between Germany and England in Berlin on 14th May 1938. The match had all the potential for a diplomatic incident. Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador in Germany, had advised the team, through the FA Secretary, Stanley Rous, to give the Nazi salute for the betterment of Anglo-German relations, as a mark of respect, NOT nationalism. The Germans had already decided to respect the English national anthem.
The match was watched by Nazi luminaries such as Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler, up until the day before, was due to be in attendance, but he did not turn up on the day. Before the game, Sproston, during the debate about whether they should salute, famously told Stanley Matthews “I know nowt ’bout politics and t’like. All I knows is football. But t’way I see it, yon ‘Itler fella is an evil little twat”. How right he was! A reluctant England team eventually gave the Nazi salute and they then proceeded to play the Germans off the park, winning 6-3.
The players are:
Vic Woodley (top centre) – Chelsea
Bert Sproston – Leeds United
Eddie Hapgood – Arsenal
Ken Willingham – Huddersfield Town
Alf Young – Huddersfield Town
Don Welsh – Charlton Athletic
Stanley Matthews – Stoke City
Jackie Robinson – Sheffield Wednesday
Frank Broome – Aston Villa
Len Goulden – West Ham United
Cliff Bastin – Arsenal
Jackie Robinson scored twice, with Matthews, Broome, Goulden and Bastin each scoring.