Billy Meredith or the Welsh Wizard as he was also known is one of the most colourful characters to ever have graced the game of football.
Incredibly the controversial Welshman's career spanned the best part of 30 years in which he played for his home town club of Chirk, helping them to lift the Welsh F.A. Cup in 1890 & 1892, Northwich Victoria, Manchester City, who he won his first F.A. Cup medal with in 1904, Manchester United, where he added another F.A. Cup winners medal in 1909 and two League Championship winning medals in 1908 and 1911 and finally Wales, scoring 11 goals in 48 appearances.
After he had plied his trade with the likes of Chirk and Northwich Victoria Meredith signed for Manchester City in 1894 for an unknown fee. He made his debut in City's 5-4 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United in October 1894.
On 3 November 1894 the Welsh Wizard scored two goals in Manchester City's 5-2 win over Newton Heath at Bank Street. and doing so set himself on the road into becoming a Manchester footballing legend.
On 23 April 1904, it can be argued that he sealed his legacy as a Manchester City great, when his team took on Lancashire rivals Bolton Wanderers in the F.A. Cup final at Crystal Palace. Wearing the Captain's armband, Meredith danced through the opposition's defence to score the only goal of the game and take the cup back to their Hyde Road ground.
A year after the proudest moment of his career up to that point, came his lowest point. in 1905 he was handed a 3 year suspension for allegedly trying to bribe an Aston Villa player into throwing a game, and then for illegally trying to obtain payment from Manchester City while under suspension. So severe was his punishment, he wasn't even allowed to visit any football ground.
Manchester United Career
In May 1906 Manchester United manager Ernest Mangnall signed Billy Meredith for £500, even though he still had 11 months of his ban remaining. However, luckily for the forward and Manchester United, the F.A. reduced his ban by 3 months, in order to fit in with the suspensions given to his former collegues at Hyde Road.
On New Years Day 1907 in front of a 40,000 strong Bank Street crowd Billy Meredith made his Manchester United debut ironically against Aston Villa, with Sandy Turnbull scoring the only goal of the game.
Just a year after he had signed for The Reds he helped inspire the team to win the Championship for the first time in the club's history by scoring ten goals in thirty-seven matches and as well as setting up many goalscoring opportunites for his team mates.
One year on a 34 year old Billy Meredith had the chance to add to his two Welsh Cup, one F.A. Cup and One League Championship winning medals when Manchester United took on underdogs, Bristol City in the F.A. Cup final on 24 April 1909 at Crystal Palace. On the fine Spring day the Welsh Wizard stole the show with an man-of-the-match winning performance as The Reds ran out 1-0 winners, with Sandy Turnbull grabbing the solitary goal.
In 1911 and now at the age of 36 many players would be thinking of hanging up their boots, but not the enigmatic Meredith. His insatiable appetite for football and all the joys that came with it drove him on and on, and it was this drive that helped Manchester United pick up their second League title within the space of four seasons, when they pipped Aston Villa to the crown by one point, after they hammered 3rd placed Sunderland 5-1 in their last game of the season.
After the 1911 title winning season Billy Meredith went on to play a further 166 times for Manchester United and bagging himself 10 goals. In 1921 he returned to Manchester City at the grand old age of 46 and played a further 32 games for them until he retired, just a few months shy of his 50th birthday.
The charasmatic Meredith holds the distinction of being the oldest player to have ever appeared for both Manchester United and Manchester City and is also one of the oldest players to have scored in the F.A. Cup, doing so in a 3rd round tie against Brighton and Hove Albion on 23 February 1924 aged 49 years 208 days.
Billy Meredith Honours
Welsh Cup: 1892, 1894
F.A. Cup: 1904
F.A. Cup: 1909
First Division: 1908, 1911
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