Whilst many will look at the likes of Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and other mouth-watering players as pioneers of the game we all know and love, it is time to cherish the memory of an original pioneer, Walter Tull who passed away 100 years ago this week.
Who is Walter Tull?
Walter Tull was a key figure in the movement of tackling racial boundaries and helping encouraging ethnic minorities to take part in the beautiful game.
Tull made a name for himself at amateur side Clapton F.C back in 1908 as a half-back, here he won a FA Amateur Cup at the East London outfit, before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 1909.
The Half-Back had came from a family with slave heritage, with his grandfather a slave in Barbados. When Tull moved to The Lilywhites in 1909, he became the first player of mixed-heritage to play in Latin America, as well as just the third ethnic minority to ever play in the Top Division.
Walter Tull had made a name for himself in N17, making ten first team appearances and scoring twice before being placed in the reserve team in an attempt to protect the former Clapton man from racial abuse and death threats that had already been thrown at him in an away match with Bristol City.
Despite disgusting racial slurs and discrimination, Tull remained calm, composed and focused on the task at hand, in an interview with Football Star, he was described as Tottenham’s most brainy forward and a role model to all white players who play the graceful game.
“He is Hotspur’s most brainy forward … so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football … Tull was the best forward on the field.”
North London to Northampton
Walter Tull had struggled to get back into the Tottenham Hotspur first team having been demoted to the reserve side, and he soon swapped North London for Northampton in a swap deal back in October 1911.
Tull went on to make 111 Northampton appearances and scored nine goals in the process.
Football to the firing line
Northampton’s new star man had his Cobblers’ career cut short, as in August 1914, the first world war broke out, meaning that due to conscription, Walter Tull became the first Northampton Town player to be enlisted into the British Army.
Such was the character of Walter Tull, the then 29 year old had tackled discrimination and racial abuse within his own camp to become the first ever “coloured” infantry officer within the British Army. He went onto become a very well respected and adored man within the British Army set up despite ethnic differences with his fellow soldiers.
As Tull returned from the war to complete his infantry officer training, it is reported that the Northampton Half-Back had made a gentleman’s agreement to play for Glasgow Rangers when the war was over.
Unfortunately, Tull was killed on the front line in March of 1918, his body was never recovered and a memorial was built at the Arras Memorial in France alongside his fellow soldiers who had lost their lives in World War I.
Walter Tull was more than a footballer, Walter Tull was more than a infantry officer, Walter Tull was a maverick. He battled against discrimination all his life and laid the foundations for the future of ethnic minorities in British Society through achieving his dreams.
Tull is one of the untold and often forgotten heroes in this great game we call football, to that we here at All Out Football say thank you Walter…..
Walter Tull: April 1888-March 1888.
featured image credit BBC