Bolton born goalkeeper Fred Whalley had a fairly decent few years in the professional ranks after a significant early experience in the First World War. He had enlisted into the 3rd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as a reservist in November 1913 when he was 15 years old and working as a cotton spinner. When War was declared in August 1914, he was mobilised (8th August) and began a short period of training for service overseas. Soon after he sailed to France and joined the 1st Battalion in the field on 22nd September 1914.
Having gone through the Battle of Givenchy in late December 1914, on 7th January 1916 Fred was tried by field general court marshal for falling asleep at his post whilst on sentry duty. He was found guilty and sentenced to one years hard labour which, having reported himself to the hospital in Rouen with trench foot, he served in the UK. In November 1915, having served the majority of his sentence, he was posted back into the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion. He was reprimanded soon after, before the year was out he had made himself AWOL for three days.
In January 1916 Whalley was posted into the 9th Battalion and sent back out to France. He returned from France in May 1916 again with trench foot and was shortly thereafter transferred to Kings Liverpool Regiment. In March 1917 he was transferred again, this time to the 28th Works Battalion of the Labour Corps (No. 130668) and soon then on to 393 Employment company. The beginning of 1918 saw him working with an Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps until the time of his discharge in December 1918 as being no longer fit for war service. He was issued Silver War Badge No. 521607 although his disability of frost bite was considered not permanent, but due to active service.
Medical note upon discharge
He says his feet still give him trouble, becoming cold and numb, and that when they do so he has to sit down or he would fall. There is not much to be made out on examination except that his feet feel cold and are pale in colour. Rheumatism ankles and knees, not very severe due to present service, while standing in wet trenches.
As to his football career, he had played battalion football during World War One and had “also assisted North End in one or two Central League and friendly games in the closing stages of last season” (1918-19), he signed for First Division Preston North End in June 1919. he made his Football League debut aged 23 at home to Oldham Athletic in September 1919, playing in 8 successive matches that autumn against the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle and Chelsea. For whatever reason after a 4-0 defeat to the latter at Stamford Bridge he was dropped and never played for Preston (or in the First Division) again, being transferred to Grimsby Town the following summer.
A season and 26 games on the seaside was enough before Whalley joined Leeds United in 1921, their second season of League football, and he did well at Leeds, as they finished for two seasons in 8th and 7th in the Second Division, Whalley missing 4 games in his first season and being ever present in 1922-23. Whalley thought nothing of chatting to the fans behind his goal when the action was up the other end of the pitch. His antics made him extremely popular at Leeds but beneath the comic exterior was a dedicated professional who excelled at his job.
However the following season started poorly with only one win in the first 6 games, in what would be a Championship winning season for Leeds and their first promotion to the First Division, but Whalley was replaced in goal in September by Billy Down (who he had originally displaced) and played only once more for Leeds, for whom he totalled 91 of his 134 career appearances, before a move to Fulham in March 1924. However, after his debut in March 1924 he couldn’t get in the team, although he had a run of 8 games in the Fulham side from January to March 1925. Those proved his last appearances and after leaving Fulham he left the professional game to become a policeman.