Top 5 goalkeepers in England: Terry Ainsworth’s 5th choice

William Henry "Fatty" Foulke (12 April 1874 - 1 May 1916) was a professional cricketer and football player in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Foulke was renowned for his great size, 6 feet 4 inches in by some estimates, and weight, reaching perhaps 24 stone at the end of his career, although reports on his weight vary.

He played four first-class matches for Derbyshire County Cricket Club in the 1900 season, but is remembered primarily as a goalkeeper for Sheffield United although he later played for Chelsea and Bradford City.  After being discovered playing for village side Blackwell in a Derbyshire Cup tie at Ilkeston Town, Foulke made his debut for Sheffield United against West Bromwich Albion on 1 September 1894 and led the team to three FA Cup finals (winning two) and a League Championship.

It is highly likely that the chant "Who ate all the pies?" was first sung in 1894 by Sheffield United supporters, and directed at Foulke who weighed in at around 21 stone.

He also won a single international cap for England in 1897 against Wales.

At the end of the first match in the 1902 Cup Final Foulke protested to the officials that Southampton's equalising goal should not have been allowed. Foulke left his dressing room unclothed and pursued the referee, Tom Kirkham, who took refuge in a broom cupboard.  Foulke had to be stopped by a group of F.A. officials from wrenching the cupboard door from its hinges to reach the hapless referee.  In the replay, Sheffield United won 2-1, with Foulke being required to make several saves to keep United in the match.  He was also in goal for United when they suffered an FA Cup exit to Second Division Burslem Port Vale in 1898.

Bradford City in the 1906-07 season

Foulkes centre of the back row

He then moved to Chelsea for a fee of £50 and was made club captain. Foulke by now was remarkably temperamental.  If he thought his defenders were not trying hard enough, he would walk off the field.  Opposing forwards who incurred his displeasure would be picked up and thrown bodily into his goal.  He was, however, a great crowd puller, and Chelsea decided to exploit this. To draw even more attention to his size, they placed two small boys behind his goal in an effort to distract the opposition even more. The boys would sometimes run and return the ball when it went out of play, and quite by accident, ball boys came into being.  Foulke stayed for just one season before moving to his final club, Bradford City.

Foulke died in 1916 and was buried in Burngreave cemetery, Sheffield. His death certificate gives "cirrhosis" as the major cause of death.  Some modern sources contend that, beset by poverty, he was reduced to earning a pittance in a "beat the goalie" sideshow attraction in Blackpool where he caught pneumonia, from which he died. These stories are not supported by contemporary accounts and seem to be apocryphal.

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