REWIND: On this day in 1982 Lee Chapman made his bow for Arsenal - Highbury Librarian recalls the striker in three acts

REWIND: Highbury Librarian recalls Lee Chapman's career at Arsenal

REWIND: On this day in 1982 Lee Chapman made his bow for Arsenal - Highbury Librarian recalls the striker in three acts

On this day in 1982 Lee Chapman made his first start for Arsenal in a 1-0 victory over the Egypt national side in a friendly.

The striker, signed from Stoke in the summer of '82 had appeared as a substitute two days previously against an Alexandria Select side.

Chapman would go on to make his competitive debut for the Gunners on August 28, in a 2-1 defeat on the opening day of the 1982-83 season at the Victoria Ground against his former side. 

Read the Gooner Fanzine's Highbury Librarian as he recalls Chapman's Gunners career in three acts. 


CHAPMAN, Lee (1992), More Than A Match – A Player’s Story:

A Signing Soured in Three Acts
As we know, after we signed target-man Lee Chapman from Stoke City, he did not go on to be a thrilling and long-lived success. He lasted less than two seasons, made only around two-dozen appearances, and scored only 4 goals. It is less well known that Arsenal managed to sour Lee’s dream move before he had headed a ball for us. The story unfolds in three acts. First came the transfer negotiations.
“My eagerness must have been only too apparent to everybody at Highbury. Contractual discussions were conducted in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion. They knew only too well that I was so anxious to play for Arsenal that I was bound to sign. Arsenal have been notorious for many years for luring players on the strength of the tradition and history of the club. After being guided around the famous marble hallway and shown the impressive trophy cabinet, I was told what a great club Arsenal were and that this was an opportunity I could not refuse. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I accepted everything put before me and questioned nothing. It was not a bad deal, but I could have done a lot better.”
Chapman (1992), More Than A Match: A Player’s Story, p.54
Lee felt that Arsenal had taken advantage of his lack of representation. In 1982, the age of the football agent had not yet fully arrived.
“My discussions were conducted with Terry Neill and company secretary Ken Friar, who is now managing director. Like a police double act – the tough guy and his more compassionate partner the two went through a routine they must have perfected over many such transfers. I came out of the talks feeling manipulated and having missed an opportunity to negotiate a much better deal. My advice to any professional, young or old, in any contractual discussions would be to seek the assistance of a responsible adviser.”
Chapman (1992), More Than A Match: A Player’s Story, p.54
The second act of this tragedy was played out later the same day. With the negotiated contract to be signed the following day, Lee heard news from his soon-to-be old club.
“Terry Neill arrived at the hotel that evening and informed me that Stoke manager Richie Barker was trying to contact me. He said that Barker was making one final attempt to keep me at Stoke, and that I shouldn’t call him because of this. I naively believed him and decided not to make contact. Shortly after I had put pen to paper, I was informed that Richie Barker had been attempting to get in touch with me for an entirely different reason. He had agreed on a transfer fee for me with Ron Atkinson, then manager of Manchester United, and wanted to know if I was interested in a move there. At the very least, I would have had talks there and may have even signed… I felt completely hollow on hearing this news. I felt… I had been dealt with in a less than honest way.”
Chapman (1992), More Than A Match: A Player’s Story, p.55
With the second grievance building upon the first, a third and final act was played out in a tribunal that was to set the transfer fee. The clubs had failed to reach an agreement; Arsenal offered £250,000, but Stoke City were holding out for £750,000.
“Stoke were using a bartering technique, demanding a high price, but in reality happy to accept a lower one, whereas Arsenal were making an honest bid and expecting to pay no more than £350,000. All parties were summoned before the tribunal, which consisted mainly of Football League bureaucrats, at a London hotel, and were asked to give reasons for their valuations… After a short private deliberation, the panel emerged to give their decision. The fee was set at £500,000. The reactions of the two clubs were most distinct. The officials from Stroke left with broad smiles, whereas those from Arsenal could not hide their shock. I looked at Terry Neill’s face and his disappointment was transparent. Not a word was said to me and I was left sitting there feeling totally inadequate. The manager was even quoted in the next day’s newspapers as being very unhappy with the valuation. I was getting the distinct impression that the club were far from happy with my presence at Highbury, and that was before I had even kicked a ball. My dream move was already beginning to turn a little sour.”
Chapman (1992), More Than A Match: A Player’s Story, p.55
While there may be other reasons why Lee failed to secure his Emirates statue, it is safe to say that this souring of his relationship with the club was an unhelpful start. It’s a cautionary tale.
Let’s hope that, in our contract negotiations this summer, Mikel, Raul, Edu and company sustain the goodwill and excitement of our new signings. Please: no fibbing; don’t be petulantly resentful of the size of the transfer fee paid. At least we can be confident that none of our new arrivals will be unfairly disadvantaged by a lack of representation. Indeed, we probably already know the name of their agent.

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  1. Greg Wakeling

    Aug 16, 2020, 15:20 #117059

    Dark days indeed Chapman ,Hankin and Hawley still bring me out in a cold sweat, was at Coventry for Chapmans first goal

  2. John F

    Aug 16, 2020, 14:20 #117058

    I was at Stoke for his debut and he was unimpressive that day and only got worse afterwards.I remember watching him before the games and thinking he can't even pass the ball straight in the practice sessions.To be fair to him he did improve at Leeds but up until Sanogoals played I thought he was one of the worst centre forwards I had seen live at Arsenal.That green away kit summed up the team in those days.