Remembering Vivian Simpson
As football remembers those who fell during conflicts this week, and as part of the centenary of World War One, we thought it would be apt to pay respect to those Sheffield FC players whose lives were taken in the 1914-1919 war.
Looking back at that time in history, sheer odds would suggest that several of our team back then would have lost their lives, as the entire Sheffield Club playing squad enlisted en-bloc upon the outbreak of hostilities.
Instead we thought it would be apt to pay tribute to probably the most famous of our players to fall in World War One – Vivian Simpson – a gentleman who was instrumental in probably the greatest day in Sheffield FC history, that of winning the 1904 Amateur Cup.
“Simmy” as he was known to friends and colleagues, made his first Club appearances in the 1900/01 season, after leaving Wesley College. As well as been well known for his footballing exploits, he was a keen cricketer and golfer, a fact his obituary paid great respect to – citing him as “one of the best in the region.”
From 1901/02 he played for both Sheffield Club and Sheffield Wednesday as an amateur, where he made 38 appearances, scoring 11 goals. He signed for Norwich City (then of the Southern League) in 1907, but continued making cameo appearances for SFC as late as 1909, and remained a member of Club thereafter.
Although our records are still incomplete for his playing period, our statisticians have found 73 known Club appearances, where he scored 54 goals for the World’s First. Needless to say, in reality Simpson probably made many more appearances than this, and was likely to have scored several more goals.
It is for his exploits in the 1904 Amateur Cup run that Vivian is known for, as he played a key part in Sheffield reaching the final, scoring a hat-trick in the Quarter Final tie versus Darlington St. Augustine's and another one versus Loughborough Corinthians. Sadly, he was injured whilst playing for The Wednesday in a FA Cup tie versus Tottenham Hotspur, and missed the final at Valley Parade versus Ealing.
Upon winning the Amateur Cup, Club commenced a tour of the North East immediately. As soon as the party returned to Sheffield, the trophy was taken to Simpson's house, so that he could see the cup whilst still confined to his bed.
When war broke out in August 1914 he was anxious to join up but did not care to enlist as a private except in a Battalion of men of his own ‘class’. Word of this reached the Duke of Norfolk and the result was the formation of the 12th (Sheffield) Service Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment. Vivian was the first recruit on the roll of this battalion who after training in England left for the front in June 1916 taking part in The Battle of The Somme. He played a leading part in the attack on Cordorna Trench and as the London Gazette reported “He was the first man into the enemy trench and was involved in hand-to-hand combat with the defenders. Later he brilliantly organised the consolidation of the newly won position” for this he was awarded the Military Cross and mentioned in dispatches.
His MC citation; 'On 28th of June 1917 Capt. Simpson played a leading part in the attack on Cordorna Trench. He had also been heavily involved in the planning for this attack. He was the first man into the enemy trench and was involved in hand to hand combat with the defenders. Later he brilliantly organised the consolidation and protection of the newly won position'
On 13th April 1918, whilst serving with the 13th York and Lancaster, he was killed by a sniper in the village of Outtersteene whilst ‘moving amongst the men, cheering them up with his unquenchable optimism’. He was buried at Outtersteene, cemetery west of Lille, near the border with Belgium.
This week, all at the World’s First Football Club salute Vivian Simpson, and all others who gave their lives in the service of their country.
They will never be forgotten.