The Whistle Blows by Andrew Riddoch & John Kemp
ISBN : 978 1 84425 656 3
When the Whistle
is the first book to tell the story of the 17th Battalion the
Middlesex Regiment – the ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ – and their
experiences on the pitch and in the trenches of the Great War.
Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, a heated debate took place
about whether professional football should continue during a time of
national crisis. In response to claims that footballers were 'not doing
their bit’, William Joynson-Hicks MP raised the ‘Footballers’ Battalion’
in December 1914 with some 35 professional players enlisting at the
inaugural meeting in Fulham
Town Hall. Professional footballers, with connections to over
70 present-day League clubs,
lost little time in following their lead, the Battalion being brought up
to strength by amateur players, officials and football fans eager to
serve alongside their favourite players.
Based on extensive original research, authors, Andrew Riddoch and John
Kemp, draw on many previously unpublished letters, personal accounts and
photographs to paint a vivid portrait of a remarkable battalion that
fought in some of the fiercest battles of the Great War. The result is a
book that is a significant addition to the literature of football and
that of the Great War.
Football historians will be pleased to see the roles played by such
legends as Frank Buckley, the famous Wolves manager; Vivian Woodward,
the ‘Tom Finney’ of his day; Joe Mercer, who obviously passed on his
qualities and courage to his son, the England and Manchester City
manager; the remarkable achievement of Walter Tull, only the second
black man to play in the First Division of the Football League and who
later received a commission; and one of the greatest ever Welsh
footballers, Fred Keenor, who despite being badly wounded on the Somme
recovered to lead Cardiff
City to FA Cup glory in 1927 – the only occasion on which the FA Cup has
ever left England.
Historian and broadcaster, Richard Holmes, writes in the Foreword:
In their skilful interweaving of the
story of professional football in Britain they have produced not only a
beautifully-researched history of a fine battalion, but a lasting
tribute to men who remained true to their salt when the whistle blew,
not on manicured greensward, but in a muddy trench.
More praise for When the Whistle
Blows comes from Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive of the
Professional Footballers' Association. He says:
"I am very pleased to recommend Andrew
Riddoch’s and John Kemp's book, which gives a fascinating insight into
the contribution of the Footballers' Battalion in the Great War and
their remarkable courage and bravery."