When, on April 24th 1915, Sheffield United captain George Utley lifted the FA Cup, it brought to a close one of the most controversial football seasons in history. The same day, thousands of allied troops were killed or injured in a German poison gas attack near Ypres. The two contrasting scenes underlined the fierce debate that had endured for many months about the continuation of professional football whilst innumerable young men were being sacrificed in the name of freedom and democracy.
Britain declared war on Germany just four weeks before the 1914/15 football season was due to commence. That it did commence, and progressed to a conclusion, polarised public opinion. One faction claimed it was immoral and reprehensible to play professional sport at such a time; the other insisted it was vital in order to maintain the spirit and morale of the population.
Meanwhile, professional footballers carried on scoring goals and winning and losing matches. If the arguments that seethed in parliament and in the national press affected them, they did not let it show, especially those of Sheffield United, intent on restoring the club to its glory days of the beginning of the century. They succeeded, but their glory was brief, and tainted.
The book, highlighting the Blades FA Cup glory of 1915 is expected to be released late November.