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Football Remembers: Gordon Astall's story

8 May 2020
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England's oldest surviving international footballer shares Marines memories with Plymouth Argyle Academy players ahead of 75th anniversary of VE Day

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day to mark the end of World War II in Europe, players from 11 club academies visited ex-footballers who served in the armed forces to learn about their lives and the sacrifices they made.

Gordon Astall (Plymouth Argyle)

England's oldest surviving international footballer was visited by Aaron Goulty and Adam Randall from Plymouth Argyle's Development squad.

During the war Astall, now 92, served in the Royal Marines, stationed in Plymouth. Argyle was his professional club after playing as an amateur for the Marines and Southampton.

Nicknamed "Cannonball" for the ferocity of his shot, his form for the Pilgrims, then a Third Division side, led to a call-up to the England B squad.

After a move to Birmingham City in 1953, Astall earned two England caps, was chosen for the Football League representative side and played in the 1956 FA Cup final. 

Although he lives with dementia, Astall still enjoys talking about football and shared some of his memories with the Argyle youngsters.

Hard-hitter

"I used to crack it a wee bit, you know. I could hit a ball in those days," said Astall, his eyes lighting up as he recalled his playing days. "When you see [the players] hitting a ball today from anywhere outside the box, it's flying!"

Astall was happy to give Goulty, a winger himself, some words of advice.

"It doesn't matter where you play, give it the best you've got," he said. "There's 11 of you on the pitch and you help one another."

Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, is the MP for Plymouth Moor View and has paid tribute to the sacrifices made by Gordon and his generation in World War Two.

"Football Remembers is a fantastic campaign," he said. "It's so important that we take time to remember the sacrifice of 75 years ago to a younger generation and I am proud to support the Premier League's efforts in this.

"I am also delighted to be involved because Gordon Astall was a Plymouth Argyle player, and I feel a connection to him as a fellow Commando here in Plymouth.

"To Gordon and to all of his generation, I would just say a huge thank you and outline my admiration and respect for everything you did for us 75 years ago."

Get In Touch

The Academy visits, organised by the Premier League's Education Department, in partnership with Big Ideas, are an inspiration and a tribute from the football family to all those - players and supporters - who served their country during World War II.

Football supporters can get involved in this Football Remembers activity by sharing a short video message for the nation’s World War Two veterans on Twitter using the hashtag #FootballRemembers or by uploading their video message on the Big Ideas website.

Or you can show your support for an older person who may be isolated at the moment by taking part in our #GetInTouch activity.

Write and share a letter, or make a phone call to an older relative, friend or neighbour to make sure they are OK and to help them not feel isolated.

See: Football Remembers WWII

Also in this series

Part 1: Football Remembers: Arthur House's story
Part 2: Football Remembers: Tony Collins' story
Part 3: Football Remembers: Josser Watling's story

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