Peace field will honour Dudley football hero Duncan Edwards

A Black Country sports stadium is to be twinned with the famous field in Flanders where First World War soldiers downed their arms for a game of football – as part of a tribute to Dudley football legend Duncan Edwards.

Mayor of Dudley Councillor Anne Millward looks at the Duncan Edwards Trophy and a poppy ball
Mayor of Dudley Councillor Anne Millward looks at the Duncan Edwards Trophy and a poppy ball

The Duncan Edwards Peace Field project will also see the launch of a new annual youth football tournament in memory of the Manchester United and England midfielder, who was killed at the age of 21 as a result of injuries sustained in the 1958 Munich air crash.

The Dell Stadium in Brierley Hill, home to Dudley Town FC, will be declared the Duncan Edwards Peace Field in a ceremony on November 11.

It forms part of a worldwide scheme which uses sport as a way of encouraging young people to understand each other better.

Organiser Jim Cadman, who has co-written a book about Duncan's life, said civic dignitaries and local football celebrities would attend the event, which will see it join with three other schemes in the UK honouring football heroes Denis Law, Tom Finney and George Best.

George Best
Denis Law
Tom Finney

The move will see under-15s sides from the four players' home towns compete for the Duncan Edwards Trophy in a competition which will be launched at The Dell in May next year.

It is part of an initiative by the National Children's Football Alliance which have seen 39 'peace pitches' created across countries across five continents, including the USA, Argentina, Ghana, Israel and Australia.

"We have had Jews playing football against Arabs, which is very significant at the moment, we have even got peace fields in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Mr Cadman.

"If we can inspire these young people to think that even in the midst of war you can put down your rifles to play a game of football, we can at least give peace a chance."

In the UK, peace fields have been created in Preston to honour Sir Tom Finney, in Belfast to honour George Best, and in Denis Law's home town of Aberdeen.

Law, the only survivor of the UK footballers honoured with peace fields, this week revealed he was suffering with dementia.

Teams representing each of the four fields will play for the Duncan Edwards Trophy at The Dell each year.

The stadium will be twinned with designated areas of play at the Flanders Peace Field in Mesen, Belgium.

The Dell Stadium will be declared a Peace Field
The monumument in the Peace Village in Flanders

The field was made famous in the week leading up to Christmas 1914 when German, British and allied soldiers stopped fighting to sing festive songs.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, some ventured into no man’s land to exchange gifts and to play games of football.

Today the truce is remembered as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity.

Duncan's uncle Sidney Edwards served as a private in the 9th Worcester Battalion during the First World War, but was killed in 1917 in Kut al-Amara, Mesopotamia, now part of Iraq.

He is commemorated on the First World War memorial in Priory Street, Dudley.

Teams playing in the tournament will compete for a trophy based on the statue of the star in Dudley marketplace.

Ernie Brennan, chief executive of the National Children’s Football Alliance, said: “Young people will connect with Duncan’s legacy and the power of the game that brings us together celebrating peace through play.”

The annual Duncan Edwards Tribute Dinner will be held at the Copthorne Hotel in Brierley Hill on September 30, with all proceeds going to the Peace Field Project.

This year's dinner will celebrate Edwards's 85th birthday and Best’s 75th, with Best's Manchester United team-mate Alex Stepney attending, along with West Bromwich Albion’s FA Cup-winning captain Graham Williams who played against both Best and Edwards.

Also in attendance for the tribute will be members of Aston Villa’s 1992 European-Cup-winning squad, including captain Dennis Mortimer, winger Tony Morley, defender Colin Gibson, midfielder Gordon Cowans and goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer.

The statue of Duncan Edwards in Dudley market place
Duncan Edwards, jumping high, centre, during a game against Wolves

A large collection of memorabilia relating to George Best's glittering career will also be on display at the event.

Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Anne Millward, said: “The Duncan Edwards Peace Field is a wonderful initiative and a sobering reminder to us all of the sacrifices made for our freedoms.

“The fact that for a few brief hours, two adversaries laid down their arms and came together to share a game of football is so poignant and I am very proud that the Dell Stadium in Dudley borough will be twinned with the historic Flanders Peace Field in Mesen, Belgium.”

For more information and to book tickets for the dinner contact Jim Cadman on 07971 624627 or email jwc@duncanedwardstribute.com

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