Foster Allen Image 2 Reading 1912

Foster Allen Image 2 Reading 1912


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Rawmarsh, Yorkshire born inside left Allen Foster began his football career with Parkgate Athletic before joining Midland League club Rotherham Town in 1908. From there he was signed by First Division club Bristol City in the 1909 close season, making his Football League debut at Bradford City that September. He played in all of their first four matches and scored his only goal for The Robins in the fourth, a defeat at Blackburn Rovers, after which he lost his place making just three further appearances that season and 6 more appearances in their 1910-11 campaign, which ended in relegation. Foster’s prolific scoring for the Bristol City reserve team in the Great Western Suburban League prompted newly promoted Southern League First Division club Reading to buy him for £75 in August 1911,

A left-footed inside forward, Allen was virtually ever-present over the next four years, topping Reading’s goalscoring list in each of those four seasons, forming a deadly partnership with Joe Bailey. He is particularly remembered for two scoring feats: The first was a stunning volleyed winner in the FA Cup Second Round Replay against First Division Aston Villa in February 1912, prompting a bid of £750 from Villa, which the Reading directors rejected despite the Club being in significant financial difficulties at the time;  the second came during the club’s successful end of season tour of Italy in 1913, for his hat-trick scored against Italian giants AC Milan in the Biscuitmen’s 5-0 victory on 13th May 1913. The result prompted the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera to report that “without doubt, Reading FC are the finest foreign team seen in Italy”. Foster finished his professional career with Reading with 73 goals, 67 of which came in 146 League matches. With the onset of the First World War forcing the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915, Foster played for Reading in wartime football through to 1916.

In 1914, during the early months of the First World War, Foster enlisted as a private in the Footballers Battalion (17th Service Battalion) of The Middlesex Regiment. On 14th April 1915 the 17th Middlesex played the Royal Navy Division in a match at Crystal Palace. The match ended in an 8-0 victory for the 17th Middlesex, with Allen scoring a hat-trick and fellow Reading forward Joe Bailey scoring two. On 26th April the battalion beat a team from 23rd Royal Fusiliers 2-0, with Allen scoring both goals. Training for war gathered pace and the battalion embarked for France on 16th November 1915. On 8th August 1916, he went over the top with the battalion at Guillemont, during the Battle of Delville Wood and was shot in the thigh, abdomen and arm. Foster was recovered by four stretcher-bearers from no man’s land and was transported to a hospital in Corbie, where he died of his wounds. He was buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension.

When news of his death reached home the Reading Observer wrote, ‘The news of Allen Foster’s death came like a thunderclap and the death roll of Reading Football Club is slowly mounting up. It seems impossible to believe that the fair-headed centre forward with a caustic tongue but lovable disposition would entertain no more.’

Reading FC manager, Harry Matthews, wrote to Allen’s wife, ‘Allen I cannot imagine ever had an enemy.  He was liked by all and has done a great deal for the club.  I’m quite sure we shall ever miss his company, and he will leave us all with a fragrant memory. Of all the players, I devoutly hoped he might be spared to come back and be with us all again. I’m hoping when the better days come to the club, they can do something in appreciation of his good deeds.’

On 18th November Reading played a benefit match for Allen’s widow, Beatrice and Richard, his 3 year-old son, against a Football Battalion team comprising of soldiers of 27th Middlesex Battalion and despite appalling weather £100 was raised. Ted Hanney was one of the linesmen and Joe Bailey appeared for Reading. More than 1,000 spectators braved the heavy rain to watch the match which ended in a 5-2 victory for the 27th Middlesex.


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