Historians who specialize in football history often always land up finding the history of the sport going back to Lancashire. A researcher who was studying the evolution of the game in Lancashire suddenly stumbled on a photograph of soldiers in uniform in the archives. This triggered an interest to find out why a picture of soldiers was in the wrong place, and when he was about to find out the right place for the photograph, he realized that it was a team of football players who were dressed as soldiers. The same soldiers in uniform were placed at a stadium on a stand. It stood out oddly amongst all the action photos of recent football stars. On further investigation, the football team were not just dressed as soldiers; they were soldiers at the World War I. Great football players from the different regiments in Lancashire came together to form a team to play. They played their match in 1916 against the Yorkshire county.
The best players from Lancashire’s World War I army are featured in the photos. Even the best winger in English football history is featured in the pictures. Eddie Latherton was a Blackburn Rovers players and was a widely celebrated player in the football team from Lancashire. He hailed from Middlesbrough but moved base to Blackburn before the World Wars began. He soon became one of the brightest performers of the football Rovers where he did a short spell. He collected league titles and two caps from England.
The football league was disbanded and paused when the conflicts and World War began. At this stage, the brave Eddie joined the artillery force with the Royal Field Artillery. However, the promising player died in Oct 1917 at a young age of 28. Though his fatal wounds caused him to end his time in the army and the loss to the football world, his records and accomplishments are still celebrated.
Eddie Latherton is only one of the most promising football players who died when they had enlisted. The theory goes to prove that the wars put a damper on the abilities of some of the best who could have beautifully influenced the world. Other players with promise who died at war and lost their chance to see the extent of their talents in football are:
- Teddy Bullen,
- Thomas Boyle,
- Speak, and
- Walmsley, etc.
Many of these players were either dead by the time they finished the army stint or were severely wounded and chose to go down in their glory than struggle to stay on the top after the way. Their abilities as captain of the football team in Lancashire or even as prominent players in the army matches are genuinely appreciated and recognized by the city of Lancashire to this day. Some of these talented players succumbed to PTSD after the war and turned to alcoholism or suffered severe mental agony from the trauma. However, the influence of these young and able men has been a source of inspiration to football players hailing from Lancashire today.