“Edgar Kail in my heart, Keep me Dulwich, Edgar Kail in my heart I pray!” chant the pink and navy-bescarfed fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC, as they make their way along Edgar Kail Way, pass a blue plaque dedicated to Edgar Kail and head up to the bar for a pre-match pint of Edgar Kail pale ale.
All this prompts one question: “There’s a football team that wears pink and navy?” Then a second: “Who’s this Edgar Kail then?”
To Dulwich fans, Kail is a hero of near mythological proportions. Born in Camberwell in November 1900, the boy wonder signed to his local team Dulwich Hamlet at the age of 15. The stands soon fell head over heels: “He could put a ball on a sixpence,” says Dulwich fan Jack McInroy.
The feeling was mutual: even though some of the country’s major football teams vied to sign Kail, he remained at Dulwich pretty much his entire career — with just a single appearance for Queen’s Park FC and a brief fling in an amateur capacity at Chelsea. Kail even wed the Dulwich groundsman’s daughter (insert fertilising joke here). Loyalty like this makes Kail one of the oldest football players anywhere still to be celebrated on the terraces.
But his career is of national interest too. Because while Kail remained devoted to non-league Dulwich, the big bosses at England saw his potential. In May 1929 played in a short continental tour the same year.
In these three matches against France, Belgium and Spain, the Dulwich forward made an immediate impact, netting two goals in his full international debut against France (England won 4-1). But life as an international star was shortlived; Kail only ever earned three full England caps and his career at this level lasted just six days. Still, he’d been the last non-league player ever to don the England strip. (The last amateur was Bernard Joy in 1936.)
Kail remained at Dulwich Hamlet until retirement in 1933, having furnished the club with 427 goals and a legacy that’s almost impossible to equal. His pale ale is delicious too.