In Brief

Euro 2016: England denied the chance to mark Somme centenary

Plans to visit WWI memorial at Thiepval 'scuppered' as three-hour round-trip could affect players' performance

England arrived in France yesterday ahead of the start of Euro 2016 but the The Times reports that the Three Lions squad have been denied the opportunity to pay their respects to the professional footballers who were killed in the First World War.

Next month sees the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, an offensive which began on 1 July 1916 and ended the following November. The first day of the battle was the costliest in British military history with 20,000 soldiers killed and 40,000 wounded; in the five months of fighting British and Commonwealth casualties reached 420,000 and on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing the names of 37 footballers are commemorated.

Thiepval is only 70 miles from England's base at Chantilly but according to the Times the squad's plan to "pay homage to those who died at the Somme 100 years ago has been scuppered by Dave Reddin", the Football Association's head of performance services.

Roy Hodgson "was keen to visit with squad members" and had discussed the possibility of a visit to the memorial with FA chief executive Martin Glenn. The pair agreed it would be a fitting tribute but that was before the intervention of Reddin.

Described by the Times as a "highly regarded figure within sport", Reddin was a member of Clive Woodward's coaching staff when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and he was also involved with Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.

Reddin and other sports scientists working with the England squad for the 2016 Euros warned that a three-hour round trip from Chantilly "would be too draining and likely to impact on England's performance". That was enough for the FA to cancel the trip, to the "frustration" of Hodgson, and instead FA chief executive Martin Glenn will represent the England squad at a service at Thiepval today.

Two of the players who wanted to make the trip were midfielder James Milner and goalkeeper Joe Hart, and the pair broadcast a video message about the centenary commemorations of the Somme.

“It is important that we never forget what happened or those brave men and women affected by the Battle of the Somme," said Hart, while Milner paid tribute to the professional and amateur players who were killed and the thousands who "were so badly injured they could never again play the game I love".

Among those killed on the Somme was Donald Bell, a defender for Bradford Park Avenue, in the top-flight of English football in 1914. Having secured his release from his professional contract, Bell was commissioned into the Yorkshire Regiment and on 5 July 1916 he single-handedly charged a German machine gun position, an act of gallantry for which he was awarded a Victoria Cross.

"I hit the gun first shot from about twenty yards and knocked it over," he wrote of his exploits to his parents. "I must confess it was the biggest fluke and I did nothing... [but] I am glad to have been so fortunate for Pa's sake, for I know he likes his lads to be top of the tree. He used to be always on about too much play and too little work, but my athletics came in handy this trip."

Five days later Bell was killed in action, but remains the only professional English footballer to have won the Victoria Cross.

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