The Football League and FA Cup halted when war was declared in 1939, but that was just the beginning of another story

By Richard Foster for the Guardian Sport Network

When the 1939-40 Football League season kicked off on Saturday 26 August 1939, players were wearing numbered shirts for the first time. Bigger changes were to come. Germany invaded Poland the following Friday and the four divisions and FA Cup were halted once war was declared on 3 September. The action stopped after three rounds of fixtures, with Blackpool boasting the only 100% record in the top flight and Leeds bottom of the table having failed to score a goal.

Clubs arranged some friendlies but, when the threatened bombings did not materialise, the thirst for competitive football resurfaced and the Home Office agreed to a restructured football programme. Aston Villa and Derby County were among half a dozen clubs who withdrew, principally because many of their players were enlisting for the armed forces.

Related: When football played on during world war one and inflamed a London derby

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