Sheffield born left back Joe Fidler played junior football with South Street New Connexion in 1902 before joining hometown First Division club Sheffield United in February 1903, making his Football League debut against Small Heath in January 1904, but making only that appearance and a further solo appearance the following season at Blackburn Rovers in November 1904 before joining Southern League Fulham in 1905. He stayed a single season at Craven Cottage before joining Queen’s Park Rangers in 1906, and he was part of the Rangers teams that won the 1907-08 and 1911-12 Southern League Championships, making 165 appearances for Rangers over seven years at Loftus Road. He also played in their 1908 FA Charity Shield matches when they lost to Manchester United in a replay, the only time there has been a replay in the Shield’s history.
He then returned to Football League action when he joined Woolwich Arsenal in February 1913, being one of the players who played the last match at Woolwich and the first at Highbury.He made 13 appearances in 1912-13 and 12 appearances in 1913-14 for The Gunners, scoring before joining (temporarily non league) Port Vale in 1914, playing 5 times for The Valiants.
However, in January 1915 with the country at war with Germany, Fidler took the brave option to join arguably the most famous football-related unit in the British Army – the 23rd infantry battalion of the 17th Middlesex Regiment, also known as the Football Battalion. Joe’s decision came a fortnight after the formation of the unit had been publicised and perhaps that played some part in his decision as some 122 professional players duly signed up for the battalion.
As a serving member of the Battalion, Fidler was to witness and take part in some of the harrowing action of World War One including the Battle of Arras where 462 members of the unit lost their lives. By the end of the War, a thousand members of Fidler’s unit had lost their lives. However, Fidler was not one of them and he returned to England to continue his career, this time in non league circles playing for Bird-in-Hand in 1919, Industry Sports of Sheffield in 1923 and Turton Platts in 1924.