November 5, 2010 § 1 Comment
Billy Meredith is intimately bound up with the early history of football in Manchester. He inspired both Manchester clubs to their first honours – first City’s FA Cup win in 1904, then United to the league title in 1908 - having scored twice against Newton Heath in 1894, the first of the fixtures that would become the Manchester derby.
He was, by all accounts, a hero to the northern Edwardian working class, who turned out in their thousands to watch him play no matter which side of the city he was representing. Yet he was a controversial figure too: his transfer to United from City was triggered following an allegation (always denied) of bribing an opponent. City refused to oppose the suspension passed down by the FA, and in response he exposed the club’s practice of regularly violating the £4-a-week maximum wage. Meredith, along with three other players, was sold to United at a knock-down price.
A willowy and quick outside-right, Meredith played with a trademark toothpick poking out from under his moustache, having been forced to abandon chewing tobacco following complaints from kit staff. At a time when English football was designed for dribblers, Meredith was the very finest, and the Manchester Guardian eulogised his “consummate ball control and trickery”. He was also, at least during his first spell at City, a prolific scorer, notching 129 goals in 339 games. While the goals dried up somewhat after his move across town, where he played as a more traditional winger, he retained his exceptional technical ability and creative instincts throughout what would be an exceptionally long and fruitful career. « Read the rest of this entry »