AUTHOR: – D’Manc
Billy Meredith is still the oldest player ever to feature for Manchester United aged 46 years old. Ok, that was 90 years ago in May – but Meredith is considered by some to be the first footballing superstar. The Welshman had a, shall we say, eventful career – winning the Championship with United in 1907/08 and 1910/11. He was also part of the first ever Manchester United FA Cup winning side in 1909 – a 1-0 victory over Bristol City thanks to a Sandy Turnbull goal.
This is an old article that was created when the website was in its early days, however all the points are still valid and is still a very informative account of Meredith’s career at Manchester United.
Billy Meredith Profile
Full name: William Henry Meredith
Birthplace: 30.7.1874. Chirk, Denbighshire, Wales
Height: 5ft 9
Weight: 12st 3lb’s
Nickname: the Welsh Wizard
Played: 670 games Goals 181
Wales: played 48 goals 11
Teams played for:
- Northwich Victoria
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Manchester City
Meredith is often named as the first football superstar, he had the attitude of a Cantona combined with the playing style reminiscent of a George Best or Ryan Giggs. His bursts of speed and mazy runs down the wing coupled with his deadly crosses earned him the title the “Welsh Wizard” and made him the undoubted star of the team and a hero with fans. Meredith was also nicknamed “Old Skinny” for his lean, slim, frame.
Billy joined Manchester City in October 1984 after playing for Northwich Victoria and Wrexham. He became a firm crowd favourite. At City he won the Second Division title twice in 1899 and 1903 and captained the team to an F.A. Cup Final victory in 1904. In 1904 Umpire magazine run a competition to discover the most popular player in the League. Meredith won and became arguably, the first genuine football superstar. Hundreds if not thousands would turn out at the public events he attended.
Everything was going so well then in 1905 a bribery scandal erupted – the FA accused him of bribing an Aston Villa player. Meredith denied the charge but the Football Association banned him for 18 months along with other City players. The scandal was to play a critical role in the development of Manchester United.
1907 was the year that Manchester United finally took centre stage as a major force in the footballing world. The attacking nature of the club can be traced back to this period. The exciting lineup and playing a brand of football that was to become a hallmark at the club. The heart of the team had made the short journey from their rivals Man City after the scandal had erupted. Players were all supposed to be on a fixed wage of 4 pounds per game, however it was discovered that City had been paying 6 or 7 pounds a week per player. The FA were furious and dismissed five of the Man City directors and banned 17 of its players from ever appearing in a blue shirt again. Mangnall the United manager managed first of all to sign Billy Meredith (in 1906) later adding four other City players.
Meredith had also been involved in a bribe fiasco and it is said he was lucky not to be banned from the game for life. Even though the players were signed in 1906, they all had to serve the FA mandated suspensions, consequently they did not make their debuts until 1907.
Questions were asked whether Meredith could regain his touch after his personal problems and such a long lay off about the player’s, these questions were answered on his debut against Aston Villa. Meredith dazzled and tourmented the Villa defense all afternoon, finally pllaying the killer cross for Turnball to tutn into the net.
United finished 8th, but their unique brand of attacking football with Meredith at the heart of most attacking moves became the talk of footballBy the end of the season United had climbed to 8th place and their brand of football. Moreover they were on the brink of the major breakthrough, the Championship !
Along with the manager Ernest Mangall, Meredith was instrumental in helping United to achieve their first major trophies He won two League Championship medals in 1908 and 1911, and an FA Cup winners’ medal in 1909. Meredith along with others fought the FA rule that outlawed Unions, they were known as “The Outcasts FC” and finally the FA relented in 1910
World War One broke out and by the time Meredith returned to United he had lost critical parts of his game, he was sold back to Manchester City in 1921 where he continued to play until 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.
Merdedith held the record until recently as the oldest international soccer player when he played for Wales v England at Highbury, London, England, on March 15, 1920, aged 45 years 229 days.
The Professional Footballers Association, the Welsh FA, Manchester United and Manchester City, joined forces and agreed to pay for a new headstone and to up keep of the grave after learning about the unmarked grave which had gone unattended for many years. This should help understand how highly many in the game perceive his influence to have been.
Billy Meredith Trivia
Billy Meredith’s trademark was a toothpick he chewed while playing; he believed it assisted his concentration. He originally used chewing tobacco, however the cleaners refused to wash the spit off his shirts! In 1926 Meredith starred in a feature film, playing himself as a trainer.