Newhall, Derbyshire born right half Ben Warren began his playing career with Newhall Town in 1897 and played for Newhall Swifts in 1898 before being signed by First Division Derby County in May 1898, whose secretary-manager had spotted him playing in a junior match. He made his Football League debut at Stoke in March 1900, and soon established himself in The Rams’ first team. Playing at right half, though he could also fill in at inside forward, Warren was known for his hard but fair tackling, and for his consistent performances. In 1907 it was said of him that he “has no superior in England as a right half back and shoots with great ability”.
He scored eight goals in seven FA Cup matches to help Derby reach the semi-finals of the competition in 1902, including a hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Lincoln City in the second round, and played in all three semi final matches when they were eventually beaten by Sheffield United at The City Ground, Nottingham in the second replay. He also helped Derby reach the FA Cup Final a year later, though they lost 6-0 to Bury at The Crystal Palace.
He won his first England cap in a 5-0 win over Ireland at Solitude, Belfast, in February 1906. He went on to win 22 caps, scoring twice, playing in almost every international through to April 1911, and twenty consecutive internationals. He also made five appearances for The Football League.
He was once again an FA Cup semi finalist in 1904, when Derby lost 1-0 to Bolton Wanderers at Molineux. He continued to play for Derby County until 1908, spending a year with the club in the Second Division after their relegation in 1907. Warren signed for David Calderhead’s Chelsea in July 1908 having scored 33 goals in 270 appearances for The Rams, and made his Chelsea debut against Preston North End that August. He retained his place in the England side, but once again the closest he came to success with a club was in the FA Cup, playing in every game for Chelsea en route to the semi-finals in 1911, where they lost to Newcastle United at St Andrews, Birmingham. In 101 matches, he scored five goals for Chelsea.
However, his playing career was to end prematurely and tragically. Warren sustained a knee injury whilst playing for Chelsea in a 4-1 win over Clapton Orient in October 1911, sparking a dramatic decline in his mental health. Faced with a long lay-off, and with a young family to support in the days before footballers were well-paid, Warren suffered a mental breakdown and began to be plagued by hallucinations and delusions he was being poisoned. By 1912 he had been declared insane and admitted to a lunatic asylum in Mickleover, Derbyshire. In 1914, two testimonials were held for Warren and his family which raised £653. However his condition deteriorated to such an extent that he was placed on suicide watch. He died of tuberculosis whilst still an inmate of the asylum in January 1917.
He left a widow, Minnie, and four children, of whom Harry Warren also became a footballer, playing for Blackpool, Exeter City, Merthyr Town and Sheffield United in the 1920’s and later became a manager. He was one of Southend United’s most successful managers, being their manager from 1940 to 1956, and also managed Coventry City from 1956 to 1957.