Remembering the Sheffield war hero who helped Wednesday to FA Cup glory

Vivian Simpson helped Wednesday claim the FA Cup in 1907
Vivian Simpson helped Wednesday claim the FA Cup in 1907
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He was a Sheffield war hero and football legend, once described as the 'best and most whole-hearted player who wore the Wednesday colours'.

Vivian Simpson shone for Sheffield FC and The Wednesday FC, as the Owls were then known, before becoming the first volunteer to join the Sheffield City 'Pals' Battalion and earning the Military Cross for bravery during the First World War.

Vivian Simpson in uniform with his Military Cross ribbon

Vivian Simpson in uniform with his Military Cross ribbon

His huge contribution to both sporting life in the city and the Allied victory is being remembered on the centenary of his death aged 35 on April 13, 1918.

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Mr Simpson attended Wesley College, which is now King Edward VII School, before working as a solicitor for his family law firm on Fargate.

But it was on the football field where he made his name as a wiry but elusive winger, who was a regular for Sheffield FC and put in many star turns for Wednesday.

His goals propelled the former to a famous victory in the FA Amateur Cup in 1904, though he missed the final due to injury.

Vivian Simpson in his Wednesday kit

Vivian Simpson in his Wednesday kit

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'Simmy', as he was nicknamed by fans, played 38 games for the Owls and scored 11 goals, including a hat trick against Manchester United in a 6-0 win in 1904.

He helped Wednesday see off Liverpool in the quarter finals on the way to winning the FA Cup in 1907, only to again miss the final due to injury, and was good enough to feature in a North v South trial match for England that year, though he is not believed to have earned an international call-up.

In his 1926 book 'The Romance of the Wednesday', Richard Sparling hailed him as the club's 'best and most whole-hearted player', while also praising his 'charming personality'.

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Mr Simpson shone on the fairways and at the crease too, playing off scratch at Wortley Golf Club and racking up centuries for Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club.

After war broke out, John Cornwell, who is writing a book about Mr Simpson, said he was the first volunteer to enrol with the Sheffield City Battalion, signing up at the town hall on September 2, 1914.

In May 1917, he led a 'textbook' operation to capture a German trench near Arras in northern France, for which he was personally presented with the Military Cross by Field Marshal Douglas Haig.

The following spring, he was leading his company in a rearguard action against German troops near the Belgian border in France when he was shot dead by a sniper while selflessly dashing through the darkness to check on his comrades.

He was buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery, which stands as a monument to those soldiers who blunted the German offensive during those desperate days, laying the platform for the march to victory that autumn.

Retired Colonel Geoffrey Norton said: "He was an extraordinary man who was brilliant at everything he did, whether it was on the sports field or in service during the war.

"Not only was he an excellent captain, the soldiers loved him because he cared for them which was rare in those days."