Sheffield United: Bramall Lane prepares to remember its own and those who made the ultimate sacrifice
On Friday, before a blast of a whistle elicits a primeval roar, over 30,000 people are expectedÂ to fall silent and pay their Rembrance respects.Â
Some will be thinking about lost relatives and loved ones. Others former comrades, as the haunting strains of a bugle fill the chilly night air. And, as players from Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday prepare for the derby, their predecessors who served during World War One but never came home.
"It is vitally important that, at this time, we as a club remember those who wore our colours and others who gave their lives for a greater cause," John Garrett, United's club engagement manager and historian, said. "That greater cause was for the freedom of the world."
This year's tribute carries extra significance because it comes 100 years after the November armistice. Both United and Wednesday were scarred by events between 1914 and 1918, with seven players and former squad members among those killed in conflict.Â
Jimmy Revill, an outside left for United, died of gunshot wounds at a clearing station in France during the spring of 1917. Alex Kay, who made a dozen appearances for the club before retiring, was killed earlier that year. United will plant trees in their memory, and install a commemorative plaque, at their Steelphalt Academy training complex before the game.
"Jimmy was a player who knewÂ the glory of being part of a very successful top flight football team as well as the true horrors of trench warfare, a different battle altogether," Garrett continued. "He joined the army in 1916, with the Royal Engineers, but sadly was severely wounded and died as a result."
Revill made 60 starts for United after being signed, on Ernest Needham's recommendation, from Tibshelf in 1910. He lost his life, aged 25, on the first morning of the Battle of Arras in northern France and United later staged a benefit match in aid of his family. Kay, who also represented Partick Thistle and Edinburgh club St Bernard's, is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial which remembers the 72,337 missing British and South African servicemen who lost their lives in the Battles of the Somme.
"Jimmy had been spotted by the legendary Blades captain Ernest Needham and spent five happy seasons at Bramall Lane," Garrett said. "He was largely deputised for another legendary player by the name of Bob Evans; one of the few who won full international caps for two countries, Wales and England, as well as an FA Cup winners medal against Chelsea in the only such game played during a World War. That was the fabled 'Khaki Cup Final' of 1915."
"Jimmy's own chance of an FA Cup winners medal nearly came as a player the season before when he played in the semi- final against Burnley," Garrett continued. "The first game was drawn and the replay was lost by a solitary goal.
"Nicknamed 'Old Aeroplane Legs' by an admiring crowd, Jimmy was renowned for having a powerful shot. He was no 'also ran' of a player. Jimmy was a part of a team, in what we would now know as the Premier League, that finished as high as 6th during his time here. "He stands out because he is the only member of that great squad to lose his life in the conflict."
Five former Wednesday players who lost their lives during the Great War will also be remembered ahead of kick-off. Walter Eaton, Jack Lyall, James Maxwell, Vivian Simpson and Findlay Weir feature during a film United have commissioned to mark their sacrifices and those of the Sheffield City Battalion. It will be screened, on Bramall Lane's scoreboard, ahead of the game.
"We, as a football club, always pay our respects to those who served, who are serving and those who made the ultimate sacrifice," Garrett said.Â