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Football and the First World War

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Billy Meredith

The "Welsh Wizard"

 

One of Wales’ first football superstars, Meredith played for both Manchester City and United in a career that lasted over thirty years.  An outstanding players he was a regular choice for the Welsh national team, with whom he won 48 caps.

Meredith was born in 1874 in Black Park, Chirk, Wales and started work at Black Park colliery as a pit pony driver.  After spells at Chirk and Northwich Victoria, Billy joined Manchester City in October 1894. He made his debut against Newcastle in the same month, when City lost 5-4, but the following week Meredith would take the first step to becoming a legend in Manchester by scoring two goals against Newton Heath - who would later become Manchester United - in the first Manchester derby. 

Meredith made his debut for United on 1 January 1907 in a 1-0 win against Aston Villa, and quickly became a firm favourite amongst the fans there. In 1921 he returned to City where he continued to play until the age of 47. In 1924 he played for City in the FA Cup where he was still able to score against Brighton. His last match was against Newcastle in the semi-finals at the age of 49 years and 245 days, making him the oldest player ever to play in the FA Cup. In total, Billy appeared 390 times for Man City and scored 150 goals.

He was loved by the City fans and would draw huge crowds for any public event he attended. Billy Meredith's trademark was a toothpick he chewed while playing to aid concentration. He first chewed tobacco, until the cleaners refused to wash the spit off his shirts!

In 1926 Meredith starred in a feature film, playing himself as a trainer. By the time of his retirement he had played in some 1100 matches.  He later worked as coach and scout as well as running a Manchester pub.

Billy Meredith died in Withington, Manchester, in 1958 at the age of 83.  After spending many years in an unmarked grave, the Professional Footballers Association, the Welsh FA, Manchester United and Manchester City agreed to cover the cost and upkeep on a new headstone in honour of one of football's greatest players.