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Gil Merrick

Keith Dixon

Known as 'Mr Birmingham City', Gil Merrick's story is one of unstinting loyalty to his home city club. This recently-released biography  gives a fascinating insight into the man who played 551 times across more than two decades, having first signed for Blues in 1938.

Recalling his early days at Blues, Gil reveals: "I was given a 5 signing-on fee, but that was only 50 per cent of it - I got the other half years later! So with 3 10s a week from football, plus 2 a week from my factory job, I was a prosperous young man."

Merrick would have to wait until the 20 May 1940 to make his debut in the Birmingham first team whilst he was still an 18-year-old apprentice: "I worked all day at the factory but left an hour early, and the lads loved that and 'hammered' me out, banging on the benches with their hammers."  

Merrick's career at Birmingham City proved something of a golden age at the club with promotions, FA Cup finals and European success.  In 1948, Merrick helped guide Birmingham City to the Division Two title, only missing 6 games along the way. The biggest game of his long domestic career at Blues was undoubtedly the 1956 FA Cup final at Wembley. But unfortunately the game itself doesn't evoke great memories as Blues lost 3-1 despite being massive post-match favourites.

Gil believes that a half-time bust-up in the changing room was the main reason for the defeat: "It was 1-1 and we knew we were a team that was stronger in the second half; however, instead of using the ten minutes at half-time positively, a huge row broke out between Arthur Turner (the manager) and Len Boyd. As a result it was a de-motivated side that left the Wembley dressing room."  

Merrick was also first choice for England earning 23 caps for his country.  His last International appearance came against Uruguay on the 26 June 1954. He is perhaps best known for being the last line of defence against Puskas's Hungary side, when England lost 3-6 at Wembley, and 1-7 at the Nepstadion in 1953 and 1954.

After hanging up his playing boots, Merrick went on to take on the managerial mantle and led the club to its only major silverware, the 1963 League Cup triumph over local rivals Aston Villa. Just 12 months after that cup success, Merrick found himself out of a job, despite saving Blues from relegation for the fourth time in five years.

In the book Gil talks honestly and openly about how bitter he felt about his departure from the helm, as well as recalling the many happy times he had as a player and manager. Written by lifelong Bluenose Keith Dixon, is must-read for Blues fans young and old.

To order a copy of this book why not visit Breedon Books website at www.breedonbooks.co.uk