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Billy “Fatty” Foulke.
One of the most colourful characters of the Edwardian era was goalkeeper - Billy “Fatty” Foulke. He was 6ft 2ins high and weighed 15 stone at the age of 19 when he first played for Sheffield United in 1894. His weight and height were a considerable asset in the days when goalies could still be charged into the net. Responding to taunts from opposition fans he once declared 'I don't mind what they call me, as long as they don't call me late for my lunch.' The football chant “Who Ate All the Pies?” is said to have originally been about Foulke.
Born at Dawley, Shropshire, William Henry Foulke also excelled as a cricketer playing first-class matches for Derbyshire. After being discovered playing for village side Blackwell in a Derbyshire Cup tie at Ilkeston Town, Foulke was signed by Sheffield United. His height has been variously given as between 6'2" and 6'6" and in his day, he towered over his fellow players. According to the Guinness Book of Records he was 6'3" and 310lb. Other sources point to him as being 'at least 25 stones' at his heaviest.
Despite his weight, Foulke was more than just a stopper. He was surprisingly agile and was expert at saving penalties - it was not unknown for him to charge upfield to the opposing penalty spot. While at Sheffield, he helped them to win the FA Cup twice. He also played in goal for England in a match against Wales in 1897 - England won 4-0.
In 1905, Foulke moved to Chelsea for the transfer fee of £20, where he was made captain and became something of a folk hero despite staying for just one season. He moved to Bradford, his last club, in 1906. Whilst playing against Accrington Stanley in February 1907, it is said that Foulke's jersey clashed with the red shirts of the opposition. No-one could find a jersey large enough to fit him, so he played wrapped in a sheet, procured from a nearby house. Bradford won the game 1-0 and Foulke, who didn't have to make a save during the entire match, kept a 'clean sheet'.
Legend has it that towards the end of his life, William Foulke fell on hard times and was to be found at Blackpool Sands, making a few pennies by saving penalties in a 'beat the goalie' attraction. In fact he spent his retirement years as landlord of a pub in central Sheffield for a couple of years and then he ran a corner shop in the city. His passion for football remained undiminished and he was a regular on match days, sitting in a specially constructed chair on the front row.