A film producer is urging people to support a film which will tell the story of Bolton Wanderers’ war heroes.

David Evans, producer of Wartime Wanderers, made the appeal as he visited the Imperial War Museum North, Salford, which has launched a new display exploring the links between sport and war.

The display features a photograph taken in February, 1941, of the Bolton Wanderers players who, led by club captain Harry Goslin, swapped the football field for the battlefield.

In 1939, in front of a 23,000 crowd at Burnden Park, the 28-year-old captain gave a rousing speech before leading his entire team to sign up at the Territorial Army drill hall.

For six years, the Wanderers first team found themselves in the midst of the Second World War, as gunners in the Royal Artillery.

Goslin, who was promoted to lieutenant, was killed in action when he was hit in the back with shrapnel during battle in Italy — the only Bolton player not to return.

Mr Evans said he is pleased the photograph appears in the display at the museum, as it keeps the story alive and helps to raise its profile.

The Wartime Wanderers film is inspired by a book of the same name by Tim Purcell and Mike Gething, first published in 1996, and a team has been working on the project for several years.

Plans for the film were first mooted in June, 1996, when it was hoped filming would begin the following year with stars including comedian Bradley Walsh, former Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley and ex-EastEnders star Sean Maguire.

Mr Evans, who got involved with the project two years ago, said: “We are about to kick off another serious fundraising drive.

“So few people know about it. It’s an amazing story and the fact that a number of people round Bolton know it and perhaps about 1,000 people around the country know it.

“The thing that we will probably emphasise, potentially a little bit controversially, is the difference in attitude in those players in ’39, compared to the guys today. I wonder whether they would basically abandon the lifestyle.

“They were being paid four or five times what the man in the street got. They weren’t mega-earners but they were significantly better off. They were pulled up on stage at the Bolton Palais.

“They gave all that up to go and fight for their country, and it’s not necessarily down to the individual people, perhaps, but the feeling in the country and the way people were then compared to the way people are now.”

Mr Evans said the script is complete, locations have been scouted, several actors have agreed and a Hollywood distributor is on board.

He visited Bolton last week to meet potential investors and revealed he would like to attract a high-profile footballer to invest and appear in the independent film.

A total of £5.4 million is needed, of which they have raised £3.4 million, and Mr Evans announced they are also creating two supporting films.

He said: “One is the classic, ‘the making of’. The other is a documentary with the working title, Ray Westwood’s Boots.

“The boots were made by a Bolton company, Foster and Sons. The boots were owned by the club, when they went off to the Army they gave them the boots.

“The Wanderers lads became, in effect, the Army team, and, to some degree, the England team.

“The documentary follows the boots from the manufacturer through France, Dunkirk and North Africa before they finished up in the northern parts of Italy. They also went over to Iraq.”

Filming on the documentary is already under way, including an interview with Joe Foster, the son of the owner of the boot-making company, J W Foster and Sons.

JW Foster and Sons was founded in 1895 by Joseph William Foster, a producer of running shoes.

In 1958, two of the founder's grandsons - Joe and Jeff Foster - renamed the company Reebok in the United Kingdom after they found the name in a South African dictionary Joe had won in a race when he was a boy.

It comes from the Afrikaans spelling of rhebok, a type of African antelope or gazelle.

n For more information, visit the website wartimewanderers.co.uk.