It’s a story that inevitably will not get as much media coverage as a controversial Paris Metro incident or a ball boy scandal, but why it doesn’t is one of the issues with both modern media (or just media in general) and those who read it.
The headlines; Hazard kicks teenage ball boy or racist Chelsea fans push a coloured man off of a train, are much more ‘clickable’ than something that paints fans in a good light.
Well, some might say that it’s mostly as case of rival fans trying to gain some sort of moral one-upmanship over a club they despise. Others will say that ‘doomsday headlines’ have always been more popular, which arguably raises even more questions, but the reality is that even if it is just sometimes, the focus should be on the positive, something that proves football is ‘the beautiful game’.
If turned into a film, the life of George ‘gatling gun’ Hilsdon would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Born in 1885, the ex-West Ham and Chelsea striker was nothing short of a legend for the west-London club. In fact, he was the first Chelsea player to score 100 goals in their short history, and in no less than 150 games, which is some achievement.
Starting out at West Ham, the player eventually made the move to Chelsea where he earned the nickname ‘gatling gun’ because his shots were simply unstoppable. After six years in blue, Hilsdon returned ‘home’ to West Ham where he scored 17 goals in 36 games in his first season back at the club, a real goalscorer.
He eventually retired from football, like many other professionals, as he found himself in the ‘unfathomable’ position of having to fight for his country in the First World War at the age of 29 by mandatory conscription.
Unsurprisingly, this is where his dream story took a turn for the worse. Rumours have it that Hilsdon tried to avoid active service, but was caught by the police. Eventually on the Western Front, he would be significantly injured by a Mustard Gas attack. On his return from service, Hilsdon retired from football as his injuries meant he could no longer play the game he once loved.
Hilsdon eventually passed away aged 56.
Heartbreakingly, the FA stumped up the money to pay for his funeral, which did not come with a headstone. Tragically, just four people turned up to remember the man. Hilsdon, who was once adored by so many was laid to rest in nothing more than a hole in the ground, a complete change from what a ex 56-year-old footballer who passed away would receive today.
74 years in an unmarked grave
Andy Scott, a current Chelsea supporter, found the site of the grave in of Hilsdon and wanted to make a change.
The fan, who has no link to the player, other than he once played for the club he loves, organised a fund to get a headstone so Hilsdon could be properly remembered. The fund, which Andy set up, successfully reached its target of £1,000 through the donation of like-minded fans, who like Andy had no connection to Hilsdon other than they wanted to see a player who scored more than 100 goals for the club over 100 years back remembered properly.
Andy contacted the extended family of the desist to get their permission to lay a headstone for the player. He found a grandson, also named George, who was overwhelmed with the support shown by who was a complete stranger who not only raised the money but did all the research and spent his time contacting the right people to make it happen.
“Finally George ‘Gatling Gun’ Hilsdon, you will have the headstone that you deserve.” Andy Scott.
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