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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Obituary: Sammy Chapman

Northern Ireland-born footballer whose career was overshadowed by his role in the 1960s betting scandal

Jailed: Sammy Chapman
Jailed: Sammy Chapman

Sammy Chapman, who has died aged 81, was a footballer and manager whose career was overshadowed by his part in the betting scandal of the mid-1960s.

The affair had begun when Jimmy Gauld, a former Mansfield Town team-mate of Chapman who had retired as a player, had organised a network of players prepared to throw matches for money.

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The Sunday People newspaper got wind of the conspiracy, and for a sum of £7,420 - worth £150,000 today, and nearly twice as much as he ever earned from his match-fixing - Gauld spilt the beans and went round the country secretly taping conversations with his recruits.

There were separate allegations that Chapman and other Mansfield players had had a whip-round and bribed three Hartlepool United players to throw a promotion decider - which Mansfield won 4-3 after going 2-0 down.

For his part in the Gauld syndicate, Chapman was suspended by Mansfield at the end of the 1963-64 season, and in January 1965, at Nottingham Assizes - in the first British trial to admit taped evidence - he was one of 10 players sent to jail, in his case for six months. Gauld was sentenced to four years, while the scandal would deprive the England manager, Alf Ramsey, of Peter Swan and Tony Kay, who would both have been odds-on to make the 1966 World Cup squad.

On Chapman's release he was banned for life, though the suspension was later rescinded, allowing him to work in the game.

Samuel Edward Campbell Chapman was born in Belfast on February 16, 1938. He was on Manchester United's books as a junior, as well as those of Glentoran, Glenavon and Shamrock Rovers, then joined Mansfield Town in October 1956. He was called up to the Northern Ireland 'B' team in 1957, scoring a penalty against Romania on his debut, and he was in the provisional squad for the 1958 World Cup, though he was not one of the 17 players who travelled to Sweden for the tournament.

He played 50 League games for Mansfield, scoring 25 goals, then in February 1958 he signed for Portsmouth for a fee of £7,000. He was at Fratton Park until 1961, scoring 10 goals in 48 games, before rejoining the Stags, for whom he played another 105 League games, scoring 15 goals.

Following his release from prison and his life ban from football, Chapman went to South Africa - which because of apartheid was not a member of Fifa - and played a handful of games for East Rand United.

His suspension was eventually rescinded and he coached Portsmouth and Crewe Alexandra. He moved to Wolves as chief scout, and proved a gifted talent-spotter: the signing of future club favourite Andy Mutch for £5,000 from Southport was a particular triumph. The club, however, was in freefall, and when Tommy Docherty was sacked in 1985 Chapman served as caretaker-manager until the arrival of Bill McGarry - who lasted only 61 days, making way for Chapman to retake the reins.

With Wolves at such a low ebb, however, Chapman was unable to avert a third successive relegation, to the Fourth Division, and he left in August 1986. His two sons, Campbell and Cavan, both became professional footballers and turned out for Wolves.

Chapman - who was described by one of his former Wolves players, Dean Edwards, as "a larger-than-life character who always had a smile on his face" - moved on to Leicester City, as chief scout and then youth development officer.

Sammy Chapman, survived by his wife Jeannie and their two sons, died on July 24.

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