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Tributes paid to former Wolves manager Sammy Chapman

Tributes are being paid to former Wolves manager Sammy Chapman, who has sadly died.

The Northern Irishman passed away peacefully at his home in Wombourne, near Wolverhampton, on Wednesday, aged 81. Mr Chapman had suffered ill health in the last few years, but remained in good spirits.

He and his family have a unique connection with Wolves in that he managed the club twice, after being promoted from chief scout, and both his sons, Campbell and Cavan, played for the club.

Mr Chapman is survived by wife Jeannie and sons Campbell, 56, who is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cavan, aged 51, who lives in Australia.

Cavan posted on Facebook: “Apologies but no other way go contact everyone. Unfortnately my Dad passed away last night/yesterday at home. He was in good spirits the last time I spoke to him. We will be organising the funeral/memorial at Trysull in the next month for all that can make it. Thanks for your condolences in advance. Cavan.”

Mr Chapman took charge of Wolves in the darkest period of the club’s history, in 1985-86, sandwiching Bill McGarry’s 61-day second spell at Molineux. Managing the club in tremendously difficult circumstances, he was popular for the warmth of his personality and possessed an uncanny ability to spot a talent. That saw him make arguably one of the club’s best bargain signings in striker Andy Mutch, snapped up from non-league Southport for £5,000 in February 1986, while he also brought in players who served the club well such as midfielder Micky Holmes and winger Jon Purdie as well as striker Neil Edwards and winger John Morrissey.

He became interim manager following the dismissal of Tommy Docherty on July 4, 1985 after a second successive relegation saw Wolves drop into the Third Division and remained in charge until McGarry returned on September 4 1985. But after McGarry quit on November 4, Mr Chapman returned to the hotseat. However, he was unable to prevent Wolves from suffering a third successive relegation, into the Fourth Division for the first time in their history, while the club were also declared bankrupt for the second time in four years. He left on August 15, 1986, just before the start of the 1985-86 season, to be succeeded by Brian Little.

Dean Edwards was one of several players signed by Mr Chapman during his time at Wolves. The 57-year-old former striker posted on Facebook last night: “Just got back from the game to be told the news my ex-Wolves manager Sammy Chapman has passed away. Gutted is not the word. My thoughts go out to his family and my good friends Campbell and Cavan. RIP Sam #legend.”

In a later comment, Edwards added: “He was not only a great manager but a larger than life character who always had a smile on his face. He was lovely to be around and was unbelievably funny. He will be missed by many.”

Jon Purdie was given his first taste of senior football by Mr Chapman, who signed him on a free transfer from Arsenal in the summer of 1985.

Purdie, 52, went on to make 103 appearances for Wolves, scoring 13 goals. He said: “I woke up this morning to the very sad news that Sammy Chapman had passed away during the night. Sammy was a charismatic character with a great sense of humour.
“He gave me my debut at the age of 18 and although we didn’t have a great team, he had such a great personality that we all wanted to play for him.
“He worked tirelessly for the club under very difficult circumstances under the Bhatti brothers. I think he deserved more credit for keeping the club alive during that dark period of the club’s history.
“I heard that he wasn’t very well some time ago and went to visit him at home out of my respect for him. I was dreading seeing him poorly, but true to form he was full of life and we spoke at length about football and some of the stories from our time together.
“I only have fond memories of him and we have lost a true football man and a great character. My thoughts are with all his family.”

Campbell and Cavan played one game together for Wolves, a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City on February 23, 1985, under then manager Tommy Docherty, before their father took charge of the team. That was to be striker Cavan’s only senior appearance for the club, while Campbell, a midfielder, played 57 games in gold and black, scoring four goals.

Born in Belfast on February 16, 1938, Mr Chapman senior was a wing half – defensive midfielder in today’s parlance – and was most noted for two spells at Mansfield Town sandwiching a stint at Portsmouth. After spells with Shamrock Rovers and Glenavon he moved to England with Mansfield in October 1956, scoring 25 goals in 50 games before moving to Pompey in February 1958, netting 10 times in 48 appearances at Fratton Park. Rejoining Mansfield in December 1961, he added another 105 appearances for the Stags, netting 15 goals, ending his English professional career there in 1963.

He finished his playing career with South African club East Rand United, playing 13 games with scoring once, and returned to the game as a coach with Portsmouth and then Crewe Alexandra, before joining Wolves as chief scout.

Chapman scored in his only appearance for the Northern Ireland B team and was a member of their 1958 World Cup squad, but wasn’t part of the 17-man party who travelled to the tournament in Sweden.