Hailing from 1888 Folkestone, England, Walter Tull was one of the early Black soccer players. He played for six years and with three teams. His career was shortened as a result of joining the British military effort in World War I.
The son of a British mother and Barbadian father, Walter Tull was orphaned very early in life following the death of his mother in 1895 and his father at the end of 1897. His stepmother surrendered him and his brother Edward to the Children’s Home and Orphanage upon the recommendation of Grace Hill Wesleyan Chapel’s minister.
He would pursue soccer as part of the Clapton F.C. amateur team in late 1908. An extremely talented athlete who excelled at the sport, he picked up several medals in the FA and London County Amateur Cups and the London Senior Cup. At the end of the season publication, Football Star had him pegged as one of the season’s hottest talents.
By 21, Walter Tull signed with Tottenham Hotspur of the First Division. Before his first official season, he took part in a Latin American tour, making him the first Black player to do so. When he debuted in September 1909, he was in an inside forward. This meant he typically played a support role to the center forward and making it so that his teammate in the role could make shots cleanly.
In his first season, he would make ten first-team appearances and even play against the FA Cup champions, Manchester United before a crowd of 30,000. Overall, Tull was seen as an extremely talented player but was dropped from the main team and placed on reserves.
Walter Tull experienced racism while playing. One hostile crowd was Bristol which resulted in Football Star covering the event in the article “Football and the Colour Prejudice” a month after he debuted. By the end of his run with the Hotspurs, he had made 20 first team appearances and four goals.
In October 1911, his contract was picked up by Northampton Town of the Southern Football League. His time with the Cobblers saw make over a hundred first team appearances with nine goals. Tull’s career ended in December 1914 with the outbreak of World War I months earlier. He would be known as the first Northampton Town player to enlist in the Army. He also had the distinction of being the first Black infantry officer in Britain’s military force, according to the Glasgow Evening Times.
In the next entry, we will go into Tull’s military career and eventual demise.