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Villa legend of ‘82 Dennis helps youngsters honour Duncan

Villa’s European Cup-winning captain Dennis Mortimer provided a surprise coaching lesson for young Black Country footballers as part of their preparations for a tournament honouring Duncan Edwards.

Jonathan Hipkiss Photography
Jonathan Hipkiss Photography

Mortimer dropped in at Brierley Hill’s Dell Stadium to give his guidance to a team of under-16s who will play in the inaugural Duncan Edwards Peace Field Festival at the venue next Sunday, May 22.

The team, made up of players selected from the Stourbridge & District Youth League, will play under the banner of Manchester United ace Edwards against teams from three other Peace Field projects in the UK also named after legendary figures in the game – George Best (Belfast), Denis Law (Aberdeen) and Sir Tom Finney (Preston).

Mortimer, who led Villa to final glory over Bayern Munich in Rotterdam 40 years ago this month, will be in attendance on the day to present the winning team with a specially commissioned Duncan Edwards Trophy.

Every player and coach in the festival will be presented with a medal.

After his visit for the coaching session, Villa hero Mortimer also presented Stourbridge League chairman John Farley with a replica of the club’s European Cup winning shirt, which will be signed by himself and the rest of the team and auctioned to raise funds for the peace field project.

The Dell Stadium pitch was officially renamed the Duncan Edwards Peace Field last November and twinned with designated play areas in Messine, Flanders, the site of the 1914 Christmas truces during the First World War.

In the week leading up to Christmas, German 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 play games of football.

Part of a worldwide initiative by the National Children’s Football Alliance, it is one of 39 peace pitches established in five continents in countries including the USA, Argentina, Ghana, Israel and Australia. A partnership between the Edwards pitch and those representing Best, Law and Finney was agreed at the time and the football tournament will become an annual event.

Edwards, who was born in Woodside, is regarded as one of the Midlands’ greatest ever players and made 18 appearances for England before he died at the age of just 21 by injuries sustained in the 1958 Munich air crash.

Tournament matches will be 30 minutes each way with the semi-final draw taking place before first game kicking-off at 10.30am.

The final is due to begin at 2.30pm. Entry for spectators costs £2 and includes a full colour programme.

The Stourbridge League currently consists of 99 teams representing communities across the whole of the Black Country, with a total of 550 boys’ teams and 70 girls’ teams. Its squad for the tournament has been chosen by coaches from the league.

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 that have been made in battlefields around the world to preserve our freedom at home.

“The fact that for a few brief hours, two sets of adversaries, laid down their arms and came together to share a game of football is so very poignant.

“I am proud that the Dell Stadium, in the Dudley borough has been chosen to host this inaugural Peace Field Football Festival in the name of Duncan Edwards.”

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