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Feature: The Legend Of 'Fatty' Foulke

Not for a minute am I suggesting Frome invest in a new goalkeeper, it frankly would be unnecessary and a waste of money, a bit like eating 11 breakfasts, really.

Born in 1874, Fatty Foulke, or William Henry Foulke had a busy career with spells with clubs such as Sheffield United, Chelsea and Bradford. His ‘aggressive’ playing style while partnered with his large frame between the sticks was most effective and earnt many plaudits.

During this time, the UK housed around 35,000,000 people with an average height of under 5ft 9inches, meaning Foulkes height not only meant he was instantly recognisable, but also set him in good stead with a larger wingspan than other keepers, and an ability to smash goal kicks further than any of his counterparts at the time.

Credit: Ninian Reid, Flickr. Image labelled for reuse.

Born and raised in Dawly, Shropshire, impressive performances from the much raved about teen at the time for local club Blackwell Miners’ Welfare FC, saw a £20 (£2,500 approximately today in comparison) to Sheffield United sealed. Over 11 seasons at Brammal lane much success was seen with the big man in goal, including two FA cup triumphs and a first division title win.

His legend however grew with his size more than his achievements on the pitch, one of his most infamous tales shines light on Foulke allegedly sneaking into his teammates dining room at the hotel they were staying at before polishing off all 11 breakfasts.

Another golden tale followed the 1902 FA Cup final which saw United concede a questionable late equaliser to Southampton, enraging Foulke who, while dripping naked from a shower shortly before hand, broke into referees quarters before ripping off a cupboard door to expose a shaking, cowering referee seeking refuge inside.

His fame growing, a move to a London club was always on the cards for Foulke, which came in the form of Chelsea blue. Chelsea were a club known for utilising a strong PR presence, so even though (due to homesickness) Foulkes stay only lasted a year, he had a significant presence, further supported by a spike in attendances when he played.

It’s even been said that Chelsea would organise small children to be placed behind the goal, to further show off Foulkes unique figure, something with allegedly would later become the modern-day ball boy.

Foulkes career would come to a close with one final season with Bradford, before he would retire with a knee injury. His later years prompted myths of him living out his days in Blackpool, saving penalty shots from holiday makers on the beach. Really, they were in Sheffield where he owned a beer shop and could be seen around the town in custom suits, one of which detailed his FA Cup medal engraved on a pocket chain.

A true legend of the sport.




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