Eddie Chapman 1923-2002

It is with deep regret and sadness that West Ham United announced today (8th October) the death of Eddie Chapman, the Hammers' former Chief Executive and one time player.

In a career that spanned an astonishing 49 years, Eddie became the third longest serving employee of West Ham United Football Club.

Only former Hammers legends Charlie Paynter, as Trainer and then Manager, and Ernie Gregory, who after his goalkeeping career became a coach, served longer at Upton Park.

Born in August 1923, Eddie Chapman and his parents moved to Ilford where he attended Loxford Central School.

Always a keen sportsman, Eddie excelled at football especially which meant he was soon picked to represent Ilford, Essex and London at schoolboy level before representing the South of England against the Midlands.

Two other sports Eddie was also good at were cricket - where he also represented Ilford, Essex and London - and athletics, where he represented his County in the 100 yards at the English Schools championship.

It was this great burst of speed that was to be such an asset for the young Chapman during his soccer career as he featured as either a right winger, inside forward or sometimes even as a centre forward.

A prolific goalscorer throughout his playing career, Eddie soon came to the notice of the West Ham United scouts as he notched up 128 goals in the 1935-36 season in junior football.

Amongst his individual scoring feats were 102 goals for his school team and in one match alone netted 12 goals whilst on three other occasions scored nine times and bagged eight more in another game.

With such a knack in front of goal it was no surprise that half a dozen clubs were chasing the youngster's signature, but on his 14th birthday he agreed to sign for Charlie Paynter's Hammers with a proviso, insisted upon by his parents, that their son should also learn the administrative side of football to safeguard his future after he had finished playing.

It was to be one of the wisest requests insisted upon as some 20 years later Eddie was to be appointed Club secretary of West Ham United upon the retirement of his mentor, Frank Cearns.

Working as an office junior in the mornings and a couple of afternoons each week Eddie would then train the rest of the week with the other players.

As the Club in those days did not have a youth section Eddie - like Ernie Gregory, who had signed some 12 months previously, and other players then - was loaned out to local non-league sides to gain experience.

Eddie played for Leyton and Romford and his progress was such that within a year he was selected for an FA Amateur XI and scored twice in an away victory over Guernsey.

Unfortunately within a year or so the Second World war began which meant that league soccer as such was suspended and regional football became the norm for the next six years.

Shortly after signing professional form for the Hammers in 1942, Eddie enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Physical Training Instructor and was stationed at Chatham for the next three years.

Eddie was soon playing in the R.E.'s All England XI as well as during his spare time playing for the Hammers in the Football League South.

At other times he also guested for Spurs and Millwall and on the occasions he could not get back to the capital in time to play was given permission, by Charlie Paynter, to play for Gillingham who were then not a Football League club but played in the Kent League.

Despite the country being at war, these were halcyon days for youngsters like Eddie for, as he recalled earlier this year in an article in the Club programme, not only was he playing football, which he loved, but was also being paid for doing so as each appearance for the Gills earned him a fiver, which in those days was quite a lot of money.

With the ending of the War Eddie returned to Upton Park on a full-time basis still working in the office and playing part-time in the Reserves.

His goalscoring feats continued and he once scored five goals in a 7 - 0 victory over QPR in a Combination fixture just after WW2.

Eddie established himself in the Reserve side of 1947-48 which won the Combination Championship that season, before he made his first team Second Division debut the following campaign.

Two goals down at home to Coventry City, the Hammers fought back to snatch a draw with the debutant Eddie scoring one of the goals.

Competition for places was fierce, however, and with the likes of more experienced players such as Eric Parsons, Terry Woodgate, Ken Bainbridge and later Harry Hooper, Eddie found his chances somewhat restricted.

He did, however, make a further six more appearances netting another brace of goals before a persistent back injury caused him to finish his playing career.

By now married to Edith, who he met whilst she also worked in the Club offices during the war years, and with two young sons, Eddie by 1956 had become totally involved in the Club's administrative affairs.

When the then Club Secretary retired that year Eddie Chapman by then was his natural successor and decided to hang up his boots and concentrate on Club business off the field.

Eddie did not however give up playing sport completely as he continued with his other great passion - cricket - at which he still excelled as a respected batsman for many more years with a local amateur side of which he was instrumental in forming known as the Ad Astra Cricket Club.

Later his two sons, Barry and Kevin, would join Eddie in the team.

Within a short time the Hammers won the Second Division Championship (1957-58), under then manager Ted Fenton and so began a new era at Upton Park as the cream of English football, in the presence of the First Division, came to the Boleyn Ground to test not only the players on the pitch but Eddie's administrative prowess behind the scenes.

The arrival of Ron Greenwood in 1961 as the Club's new Manager/Coach sparked the next period of successes as the Hammers progressed from their triumphs in finals of the domestic Cup competitions to European Cup Winners' Cup fame.

Eddie's role as an administrator was increased as he took over many of the responsibilities for off-the-field duties that the manager was in those days expected to undertake.

Thus whilst the Hammers' international reputation increased with their playing triumphs on the field, Eddie was at the helm leading his backroom staff in the day - to - day detail that helped take some of the pressure from the manager to allow him to concentrate on his players and events on the field.

As such Eddie was an integral cog in those triumphs.

In June 1979 Eddie was appointed Chief Executive of the Hammers as the Club also appointed it's first Commercial Manager.

Eddie Chapman was the recipient of the Football League long service award in 1978 and six years later (in August 1984) of the Canon League Loyalty Award for Administration after 47 years with the Hammers.

By then Eddie had become one of the most respected and experienced Club administrators in League football.

A member of the Football League Secretaries' and Managers' Association, he was admired by his fellow professionals. On his retirement in June 1986 he was presented with a global football suitably engraved from the Chief Executives and Secretaries of the League Clubs.

Eddie was awarded a Testimonial by the Hammers' Directors which took place at the start of the following season 12 months later.

In his thirty years as first Club Secretary and then Chief Executive of West Ham United, Eddie Chapman masterminded the behind-the-scenes organisation of three FA Cup Finals, two appearances in the European Cup Winners' Cup Final, three Charity Shield matches, a League Cup Final as well as numerous semi-final ties, and a host of First Division fixtures that often, it seemed, had Upton Park bursting at the seams in the 1960s, 70s and 80s with near capacity gates for the visits of Manchester United, Liverpool and the London derby fixtures.

Even when he did finally retire as an administrator with the Hammers, his skills in that capacity were called upon behind the scenes at a club where he had once thrilled the crowds who had once watched him on the pitch at the Priestfield Stadium.

The Directors of Gillingham invited him to re-organise their matchday administration into a more professional operation, a task he undertook with relish until it was completed.

Although not having been in the best of health in recent years, Eddie had been a regular visitor to Upton Park, with his sons and grandsons, until the last few months.

Eddie Chapman, from his long association with the Hammers, could honestly say that he was one of only a few who had seen all the changes that the Boleyn Ground has undergone in the last eight decades.

From the days of the open terraces at each end of Upton Park in pre-war days, through the austere times of the late 1940s and early 50s, to the reconstruction work of the late 50s and the building of the East Stand in 1968, following the demise of the "Chicken Run", through to the rebirth of the Boleyn Ground with the unveiling of the Bobby Moore and Centenary Stands in the 90's, culminating in the building of the new Dr. Martens West Stand that arose during the arrival of the new Millennium.

Chairman Terence Brown says: "Eddie's contribution to West Ham United was immense, and I would like to send the Club's sincerest condolences to his dear wife, Edith, and his family.

"It is a very sad day for everyone at the Club".