Tommy Benfield

Leicester City In 100 Players: Tommy Benfield

Club Historian John Hutchinson's series reviewing the careers of 100 of the most outstanding players to represent Leicester Fosse and Leicester City continues with Tommy Benfield.
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Inside-right Tommy played over 100 games for Leicester Fosse between 1910 and 1914. A talented inside-forward in the side before and during the First World War, he made history by scoring the first ever goal at Highbury.

After representing the Army at Football in 1910, Tommy made his Fosse debut on 12 November 1910 in a Second Division fixture, a 2-0 defeat against Hull City at Filbert Street. Old Fossil, commenting on Benfield’s debut in the Leicester Daily Mercury, wrote ‘Osborn and Benfield, who made a most promising debut, should make a fast, thrusting and effective right wing’.

Tommy’s subsequent career at Filbert Street certainly confirmed this view. The verdict on Tommy’s first season at Filbert Street published in the 1911/12 Fosse photo album publication was that his performances at inside-right were ‘very smart’.

Nearly three years later, on 6 September 1913, Tommy became part of football’s folklore when he scored the first ever goal at Highbury. Leicester Fosse were Woolwich Arsenal’s opponents in their inaugural fixture at the Londoners’ new ground following their relocation from their ground at Plumstead. 

Old Fossil’s description in the Daily Mercury of Tommy’s historic goal highlighted his effectiveness as a player. It read, ‘Waterall trapped the ball and, avoiding the rush, gently tapped the ball to Benfield, who, without wasting time, took deliberate aim and crashed the ball against the rigging - a brilliant shot that left Caldwell helpless’.

At the end of the 1913/14 season, Tommy was the Club’s top scorer but Fosse’s financial difficulties led to him being transferred to Derby County in June 1914 with whom he won the Second Division title at the end of his first season with the Rams. He continued to live in Leicester with his wife Elsie at 31 Woodland Road.

League Football was suspended in April 1915. Tommy, who had been a professional soldier in the Leicestershire Regiment until he joined Leicester Fosse in 1910, guested for Leicester Fosse in wartime regional football on 36 occasions, mainly in 1915/16.

His last game for Leicester Fosse was in March 1918. By this time he was serving as a sergeant in the sixth Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment.

On 19 September 1918, Tommy tragically died of his wounds, eight days after being hit by a sniper’s bullet on the Western Front. On 11 September, the day that Tommy was shot, parts of his Battalion moved to front line positions east of Heudicourt. At some stage, Tommy was hit by a sniper. 

Tommy’s obituary in the Leicester Daily Post stated that 'Followers of Leicester Fosse will learn with regret that Sergeant Tommy Benfield died on 19 September from wounds received in action eight days earlier. A cheery and genial personality he was always popular with the crowd at Fosse and at Derby. Besides being a first-class forward he was a reliable half-back. His last appearance for Fosse was on 16 March this year'.

He is buried at the Varennes Military Cemetery in France.

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