Derek Tapscott was born on 30 June 1932 in Barry, Wales to Stanley and Florence Tapscott. He was one of sixteen children.
Derek attended High Street Junior School. Upon leaving school he worked as a delivery boy for a butcher, an assistant to a television repairman then as an apprentice bricklayer.
At a time of National Service, Derek received his call in October 1950. He joined 4 Training Regiment of the Royal Engineers. At 18 Derek was already playing for Barry Town and the Royal Engineers granted him permission to link-up with the club on match days. During his National Service, Derek became a member of the drill staff and was promoted to the rank of corporal.
After his National Service, Derek returned to bricklaying. His appearances for Barry Town continued. His skill caught the eye of the Tottenham Hotspur scouts and they invited him for a trial. However, Derek didn’t sign for Tottenham Hotspur. Instead, in October 1953, he joined their rivals, Arsenal. His transfer fee: £4,000.
Derek began his Arsenal career with a prolific run in the reserves, scoring 13 goals in 15 matches in the London Combination League. On 10 April 1954, he made his first-team debut against Liverpool and scored twice. He scored five more goals in five further matches that season.
During the 1954-55 season Derek established himself in the Arsenal first team. In 1955-56 from inside-forward he became the club’s top scorer, a feat he emulated the following season. He scored 21 and 27 goals respectively.
European competition, in the form of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, beckoned. On 4 May 1956, Derek played for a London XI that defeated a Basel XI 1 – 0.
Manchester United’s final domestic match before the tragic Munich air disaster was against Arsenal. That game developed into a nine-goal thriller with Manchester United taking the honours, 5 – 4. Later, Derek described the game as “the best I ever played in.”
Derek’s 1957-58 season was blighted by injury and he lost his first team place to Vic Groves. This resulted in a move, in September 1958, to Cardiff City. The transfer fee: £10,000. Derek left Arsenal with the impressive record of 68 goals in 132 matches.
Derek made his Cardiff City debut in a 4–1 win over Grimsby Town. The club continued to record impressive results and in 1960 they won promotion to the First Division. During this period, Derek scored six goals during a 16 – 0 victory over Knighton Town in the Welsh Cup, a club record.
Derek featured in Cardiff City’s first venture into European competition. He played in the team that reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup scoring the winning goal against Sporting Clube de Portugal in the second round.
Further injuries curtailed Derek’s appearances for Cardiff City. At the beginning of the 1965-66 season he joined Newport County. However, he left that club at the end of that season and moved into non-league football where he played until his retirement in 1970.
On his retirement, Derek could look back at successful spells with Arsenal and Cardiff City, for whom he scored 102 goals in 234 appearances. He could also look back at an illustrious international career, representing Wales.
After only one appearance for Arsenal, Derek was named in the Wales squad for a match versus Austria. He made his debut on 9 May 1954 in Vienna. Austria won 2–0. Nine consecutive appearances followed as Derek established himself in the Wales team.
Derek scored his first international goal on 22 October 1955 during a 2–1 win over England. In the 1959 British Home Championship he scored in the final two matches of the competition, against England and Northern Ireland. From 14 appearances for Wales, Derek scored one other goal, at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham on 23 November 1955 against Austria.
After football, Derek worked for sports goods companies Gola and Diadora. He published his autobiography, Tappy: From Barry Town to Arsenal, Cardiff City and Beyond, in 2004.
Derek died on 12 June 2008. In 2012, Barry Town inducted him into the club’s Hall of Fame.