A Newcastle United eleven were on show at Bradford Park Avenue on Sunday, for a friendly game to honour a hero – Donald Bell VC.

Donald Simpson Bell was the first professional footballer to enlist in the Great War and remains the only one ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross, in recognition of his exceptional valour when serving in northern France on 5 July 1916. Just five days later, he was killed during a similar brave attack (read more about him below)

The Newcastle United starting eleven:

Smith, Satka, Gillesphey, Findlay, Gibson, Bigirimana, Gilliead, Vuckic, Smith, Roberts, Toney

There were five players with first team experience – Satka, Roberts, Bigirimana, Toney and Vuckic.

Whilst Stuart Findlay who signed on Friday after Celtic failed to offer him a new deal, made his first appearance in a Newcastle shirt.

A crowd of 675 watched a decent game as Newcastle looked the better team throughout, once Ivan Toney scored United’s first goal of pre-season in the 13th minute after good work by winger Callum Roberts.

Bradford Park Avenue battled well and it wasn’t until 10 minutes into the second half when Newcastle doubled their lead, by then a whole different eleven had taken the field after the break.

The Newcastle United second half eleven:

Harker, Ward, Ede, Williams, Cameron, Broccoli, Barlaser, Da Silva, Longstaff, Harvey, Holmes

It was Sean Longstaff who coolly finished to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

For the Newcastle fans who had travelled, three players were of particular interest in that second period.

There had been no publicity beforehand but United had three trialists on show in George Ede, Tyler Harvey and Flavio da Silva.

Not much background info on Ede who did ok but Harvey is 21 and has just been released by Plymouth Argyle, the attacking midfielder/striker making only six League Two appearances last season and also sent out on loan to non-league Bath.

The now former Plymouth player had gone close with a couple of strikes on goal before rounding off the scoring with the third goal of the game.

Da Silva is a striker who was on the books of Benfica before his release this year, he’s played for the Portugal under 19s and spent time out on loan at Sporting Covilha and SCU Torreense in the lower leagues of Portuguese football.

The 20 year old was born in Guinea-Bissau but with a Portuguese passport is entitled to play in England and whilst it wasn’t the highest standard at Bradford, he acquitted himself well and looked decent on the ball.

Interesting that Rafa Benitez is active across all aspects of the club this summer, with already four senior signings (soon to become five or six possibly with Hayden and Hanley), plus the Newcastle boss obviously seeing the need to strengthen the youth ranks at St James Park as well.

Final score:

Bradford Park Avenue 0 Newcastle United 3

We carried an article last month by Martin Scott on NUFC VC hero Donald Bell (read it HERE) which included the following description of his bravery:

‘During one encounter on July 5th 1916, Donald and his battalion were attempting to capture a position called “Horseshoe Trench”, his actions were described as ‘of his own initiative leading two others, he crept up a communication trench and then rushed across open ground under heavy gunfire to attack a hostile machine gun which was holding back the British advance, he managed to make it across and shot the machine gunner with a revolver and destroyed the gun post with a grenade and also throw grenades into a nearby trench killing over 50 enemy soldiers’.

The act was described as a tremendous act of bravery which saved many soldier’s lives. At the time of the event, Donald modestly made light of his achievement, saying his accuracy with the grenades had been a total fluke and he was doing what anyone else would have done to protect his fellow men.’

Donald Bell played five times for Newcastle as an amateur before moving back to his native Yorkshire where he played for Bradford Park Avenue from 1912 until November 1914 when he then enlisted with the 9th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards) going on to serve on the front line in the Battle of the Somme.

Brighton Park Avenue chairman John Dean:

“It is clear that Second Lieutenant Bell was an exceptional man whose conduct on and off the battlefield was exemplary, as well as his skill and integrity on the football pitch.

“He is an important figure in our proud club history but, more than that, he is an enduring role model for today’s players and for all of us in the footballing community.

“The board felt it was fitting to dedicate our entire season to Donald Bell in this centenary year and the match against the Magpies is the first of many activities we’re planning.

“We hope that not only football fans but the whole community will turn out to honour him.”

The match was attended by army representatives and some of Donald Bell’s descendants.

Donald Bell’s Victoria Cross was bought at auction by the Professional Footballers’ Association for a record price in 2010 and the medal is on display in the Football Museum in Manchester. A permanent memorial stands at the place where Donald was killed and, to this day, the site of his act of bravery is called Bell’s Redoubt in his honour.

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