Football Remembers its players who never came home

Sunday 17 Aug 2014
Football Remembers commemorations are taking place throughout 2014

In the year when Football Remembers the fallen heroes of the First World War, the poignant story of the players that never came home has been retold.

A new book called The Final Season charts the stories of many professional footballers who swapped their sport for combat in World War One, never to return not just to the game but to their families.

Perhaps the most well-known tale of a footballer that never returned from the Great War is that of Walter Tull.

Born in Kent in 1888, Tull made his name as a forward firstly for Tottenham Hotspur and latterly with Northampton Town before the outbreak of War cut short his time on the pitch.

Walter Tull was killed in action in 1918

His professional career began with his local amateur side Clapton FC – where he had already won the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup.

He went on to join Spurs in 1909, and Northampton in 1911. 

After a promising start, however, he had to down the tools of sport and take up the tools of war to serve his country in 1914.

It was a battle from which he would never return.

Tull served in the Footballers’ Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, and fought in the Battle of the Somme. 

He also saw active service in Italy in 1917 and 1918, before returning to France - where he was killed in action during the Spring Offensive on 25 March 1918.

His body was never recovered.

A permanent reminder of Tull lives outside Northampton's Sixfields Stadium while a statue has been suggested for when Tottenham move to a new ground. 

As Northampton's tribute reads, "his strong heart still beats loudly".

Tull was one of many footballers of his era to lose their lives in the First World War, an era where your profession as a sporting 'celebrity' bore no significance when your country called.

He and others are remembered, just as they should be.

Football Remembers is a year-long series of remembrance activities organised by the British Council, The Football Association, Football League and Premier League.

It culminates in a week-long commemoration period in December during which opposing teams will pose for a combined pre-match photograph, replicating the spirit of unity shown on the battlefields of the Western Front.

By FA Staff