Football teams in the Dispatch district are playing their part in a poignant initiative that marks the centenary of one of the most iconic moments of the First World War.
‘Football Remembers Week’, which runs until this Sunday, aims to engage players and fans at every level of the sport about what happened on Christmas Day 100 years ago on the battlefields in Belgium.
On 25th December 1914, soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and crossed into ‘no-man’s land’ on the front line to share in an impromptu ceasefire. First-hand accounts from the time include references to football being played and photographs being taken.
Now the FA, the Premier League, the Football League and the British Council have joined forces to urge teams and players throughout the country to remember the moment by lining up for joint team photos, to symbolise togetherness, at matches staged during this week.
All photos uploaded to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #footballremembers, will be automatically transferred to a special website, www.footballremembers.com, to be preserved for future generations.
Prince William, who is the president of the FA, said: “This promises to be a powerful way to engage and educate young people about such an important time in our history.
“The story of soldiers putting down their arms on Christmas Day remains relevant today as a message of hope over adversity, even in the bleakest of times.”
Notts FA have backed the initiative, and football clubs in the Hucknall and Bulwell area are taking part. They include Linby Colliery Welfare, whose secretary Adrian Ward commented: “This commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1914 Christmas truce is a simple, but good, idea by the FA. We are more than pleased to support it.”
Ward is also a local-football historian and recalls how, at the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, many footballers were sacked on the spot or given huge pay-cuts.
It was against this backdrop, in 1915, that the biggest scandal in Hucknall footballing history erupted when England and Manchester United striker Enoch ‘Knocker’ West was banned for life for match-fixing, Ward says.
West was born in Hucknall in 1886 and lived in the family home on Brook Street with his nine brothers and sisters. As a talented footballer, he enjoyed four glorious seasons with Nottingham Forest and scored on his England debut against Scotland at Hampden Park in 1908.
When Forest were relegated in 1910, he joined United for a transfer fee of £450. But five years later, he was embroiled in controversy that ended his career.
On Good Friday 1915, United needed to beat Liverpool 2-0 to avoid relegation, Lo and behold, they did just that -- but it came to light that a relative of West’s, living in Hucknall, had won a large amount of money by betting on the correct score.
What’s more, it emerged that an unusual amount of similar winning bets had been placed with various illegal, back-street bookmakers around the town.
West, along with four other United players and six Liverpool players, were duly found guilty of match-fixing and handed life-bans from football.
Sadly, six of the 11 died in action during the war. More were cleared of wrongdoing after the war, but West, whose descendants still live in Hucknall today, was never pardoned and even had to wait until 1945 for his ban to be lifted. Right up to his death in 1965, he protested his innocence. But attempts since then to get the FA to give him an official, posthumous pardon have failed.