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William (Billy) Meredith was born in Black Park, Wales on 28th July 1874. He worked as a coal-miner and played local football for Chirk. At the age of 18 he signed as an amateur with Northwich Victoria.
An extremely talented outside right he joined Manchester City in 1894. The following year he won his first international cap for Wales. However, he continued to work underground during the week until 1896, when his club finally insisted that he give up his colliery job.
The fans loved the skills of Meredith and was dubbed the "Welsh Wizard" by his admirers. In the 1898-99 season Billy Meredith helped Manchester City win promotion to the First Division of the Football League. He scored four hat-tricks and ended up the season with 29 goals. Billy Gillespie was also prolific that season and added 17 to the 18 he scored the previous season.
Manchester City did not find it easy in its first season in the top division and finished in eighth place. The following season was even worse and the club finished eleventh. Joe Cassidy was top scorer with 14 goals but he was sold to Middlesbrough at the end of the season for £75 on the grounds he was not worth his £4 a week wages. The manager, Sam Ormerod, complained about this decision but it was now clear that the directors of the club had lost confidence in him and he was no longer making the key decisions.
In the 1901-02 season Manchester City was relegated. Sam Ormerod resigned and was replaced by Tom Maley, the former Preston North End player. In a pre-season public practice game, Di Jones, who played with Billy Meredith in the Welsh national team, gashed his knee. Despite treatment from the club doctor, within a week the wound had turned septic and the player died.
Tom Maley decided to build a team around his star players, Billy Gillespie and Billy Meredith. This included players such as Billy Jones, Herbert Burgess, Sandy Turnbull, Irvine Thornley, and Jimmy Bannister. That season Manchester City won the Second Division championship by scoring 95 goals in 34 games. The top marksmen were Gillespie (30), Meredith (23), Turnbull (12) and Bannister (12).
In the 1903-04 season Manchester City finished in second place in the First Division. They also had a good FA Cup run defeating Sunderland (3-2), Arsenal (2-0), Middlesbrough (3-1) and Sheffield Wednesday (3-0). Manchester City played Bolton Wanderers in the final at Crystal Palace. The only goal of the game was scored by Billy Meredith.
The Football Association was amazed by Manchester City's rapid improvement and that summer they decided to carry out an investigation into the way the club was being run. However, the officials only discovered some minor irregularities and no case was brought against the club.
The following season Manchester City again challenged for the championship. City needed to beat Aston Villa on the final day of the season. Sandy Turnbull gave Alex Leake, the Villa captain, a torrid time during the game. Leake threw some mud at him and he responded with a two-fingered gesture. Leake then punched Turnbull. According to some journalists, at the end of the game, Turnbull was dragged into the Villa dressing-room and beaten-up. Villa won the game 3-1 and Manchester City finished third, two points behind Newcastle United.
After the game Alex Leake claimed that Billy Meredith had offered him £10 to throw the game. Meredith was found guilty of this offence by the Football Association and was fined and suspended from playing football for a year. Manchester City refused to provide financial help for Meredith and so he decided to go public about what really was going on at the club: "What was the secret of the success of the Manchester City team? In my opinion, the fact that the club put aside the rule that no player should receive more than four pounds a week... The team delivered the goods, the club paid for the goods delivered and both sides were satisfied."
The Football Association was now forced to carry out another investigation into the financial activities of Manchester City. They discovered that City had been making additional payments to all their players. Tom Maley was suspended from football for life. Seventeen players were fined and suspended until January 1907.
Manchester City was also forced to sell their players and at an auction at the Queen's Hotel in Manchester. The Manchester United manager, Ernest Mangnal signed Billy Meredith for only £500. While at City he scored 145 goals in 338 games. Mangnal also purchased three other talented members of the City side, Herbert Burgess, Sandy Turnbull and Jimmy Bannister.
In 1906 John Henry Davies, the chairman of Manchester United, provided the funds for Billy Meredith to set up a sports-equipment shop in St Peter's Square, Manchester.
These new players did not make their debuts until the 1st January 1907. Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0. The only goal of the game was scored by Sandy Turnbull from a Billy Meredith cross. United only lost four games during the remainder of the season and climbed to an eighth-place finish. Meredith managed to score five goals in 16 games that season.
In 1907 the Welsh team beat Ireland (3-2) and Scotland (1-0). They clinched their first Home Nations Championship with a 1-1 draw with England. Meredith and the goalkeeper Leigh Roose, were outstanding in these games. This was a fantastic achievement as in none of the three games had Wales managed to field the side originally selected. The main reason for this was that Football League clubs often refused to allow Welsh players to represent their country in international fixtures. As Meredith pointed out: "In those days, Wales was never really sure of a first team and there used to be a sigh of relief when the party trickled up in twos or threes. Reserves were usually standing by, but a reserve goalkeeper was not thought of when Dick (Leigh) Roose was holding down the position."
Manchester United started off the 1907-08 season with three straight wins. They were then beaten 2-1 by Middlesbrough. However, this was followed by another ten wins and United quickly built up a good advantage over the rest of the First Division. Although Liverpool beat them 7-4 on 25th March, 1908, Manchester United went on to win the title by nine points. Meredith scored 10 goals that season. However, he made many more for other forwards such as Sandy Turnbull (25) and George Wall (19).
The following season Manchester United enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup. They beat Brighton & Hove Albion (1-0), Everton (1-0), Blackburn Rovers (6-1), Burnley (3-2) and Newcastle United (1-0) to reach the final. Newcastle, who went onto win the league that season, was obviously disappointed by being prevented from winning the double. However, the whole of the Newcastle team waited for 15 minutes in torrential rain aboard an open coach so they could applaud their conquerors after the game.
Jimmy Turnbull (5), Harold Halse (4) and Sandy Turnbull (3) got the goals during the successful cup run that got them to the final at Crystal Palace against Bristol City. The game was disappointing and Sandy Turnbull scored the only goal in the 22nd minute.
Billy Meredith was always concerned about the way clubs treated their players. Jimmy Ross played with Meredith at Manchester City until his early death in 1902. Despite his successful football career, Ross had been unable to save any money for his wife and children.
Another of Meredith's friends at Manchester City, left-back David Jones, died in 1902, after suffering an injury during a pre-season game. The club claimed he was not "working" at the time as the game was a friendly, even though a paying crowd of 20,000 people watched the game. Jones's widow and children were left with no insurance cover and had to rely on the proceeds of a collection and a benefit match with Bolton Wanderers. According to Meredith, the game raised very little money for the family.
In April 1907 Thomas Blackstock, a colleague at Manchester United, collapsed after heading a ball during a reserve game against St. Helens. 25 year old Blackstock died soon afterwards. An inquest into his death returned a verdict of "Natural Causes" and once again a football player's family received no compensation.
In 1907 Billy Meredith and several colleagues at Manchester United, including Charlie Roberts, Charlie Sagar, Herbert Burgess and Sandy Turnbull, decided to form a new Players' Union. The first meeting was held on 2nd December, 1907, at the Imperial Hotel, Manchester. Also at the meeting were players from Manchester City, Newcastle United, Bradford City, West Bromwich Albion, Notts County, Sheffield United, and Tottenham Hotspur. Jack Bell, the former chairman of the Association Footballers' Union (AFU) also attended the meeting.
Herbert Broomfield was appointed as the new secretary of the Association Football Players Union (AFPU). It was decided to charge an entrance fee of 5s plus subs of 6d a week. Billy Meredith chaired meetings in London and Nottingham and within a few weeks the majority of players in the Football League had joined the union. This included Andrew McCombie, Jim Lawrence and Colin Veitch of Newcastle United who were to become important figures in the AFPU.
The Professional Footballers' Association also got support from administrators of the clubs. J. J. Bentley (president) and John Henry Davies (chairman) of Manchester United joined the campaign to abolish the £4 ceiling on wages.
When Frank Levick of Sheffield United died aged 26 in 1908, the AFPU sent his family £20. They also entered into negotiations with his club about the compensation to be paid to his wife. The AFPU also explored the ways that football players could make use of the Workman's Compensation Act (1906).
At the 1908 Annual General Meeting the Football Association decided to reaffirm the maximum wage. However, they did raise the possibility of a bonus system being introduced whereby players would receive 50% of club profits at the end of the season.
In November 1908 Thompson's Weekly News announced that several leaders of the AFPU, including Billy Meredith, Jim Lawrence and Colin Veitch, would be writing regular articles for the newspaper. For the next six years, this newspaper with a circulation of 300,000, provided a forum for the views of union officials.
The AFPU continued to have negotiations with the Football Association but in April 1909 these came to an end without agreement. In June the FA ordered that all players should leave the AFPU. They were warned that if they did not do so by the 1st July, their registrations as professionals would be cancelled. The AFPU responded by joining the General Federation of Trades Unions.
Most players resigned from the union. All 28 professionals at Aston Villa signed a public declaration that they had left the AFPU and would not rejoin until given permission by the FA. However, the whole of the Manchester United team refused to back down. As a result they were all suspended by their club. The same thing happened to seventeen Sunderland players who also refused to leave the AFPU.
The players put their careers in jeopardy by staying in the union. As Charlie Roberts, the Manchester United captain pointed out: "I had a benefit due with a guarantee of £500 at the time and if the sentence was not removed I would lose that also, besides my wages, so that it was quite a serious matter for me."
Billy Meredith also got into financial difficulties when there was a fire destroyed most of the stock in his sports-equipment shop in St Peter's Square, Manchester. He was not insured and he was forced into bankruptcy.
Colin Veitch, who had resigned from the AFPU in order to carry on negotiations with the Football Association, led the struggle to have players reinstated. At a meeting in Birmingham on 31st August 1909, the FA agreed that professional players could be members of the AFPU and the dispute came to an end.
Billy Meredith saw the decision as a defeat for the Association Football Players Union: "The unfortunate thing is that so many players refuse to take things seriously but are content to live a kind of schoolboy life and to do just what they are told ... instead of thinking and acting for himself and his class."
When the Manchester United team played in the first match of the season on 1st September, 1909, they all wore AFPU arm-bands. However, it took six months for the players to receive their back wages. Charlie Roberts never got his benefit match and several union activists were never picked again to play for their country.
In June 1910 Ernest Mangnal purchased Enoch West from Nottingham Forest. West formed a good partnership with Sandy Turnbull and Harold Halse. Meredith supplied them with the kind of service that allowed them to score plenty of goals that season: West (20), Turnbull (19) and Halse (10). On the last Saturday of the season Aston Villa led Manchester United by one point. United had to play third-place Sunderland at Old Trafford whereas Aston Villa had to go to Liverpool.
Manchester United won their game 5-1. Charlie Roberts told the Manchester Saturday Post what happened next: "At the end of the game our supporters rushed across the ground in front of the stand to wait for the final news from Liverpool. Suddenly a tremendous cheer rent the air and was renewed again and again and we knew we were the champions once again." Aston Villa had been beaten 3-1 and Manchester United had won their second championship in four years. Meredith now had two championship and two FA Cup winning medals.
Meredith was 40 years old on the outbreak of the First World War. It was thought that this meant the end of his career. However, Meredith continued to play for Manchester United and Wales when football began again in 1919.
In 1920 Meredith was transferred to Manchester City. During his time at Manchester United he scored 35 goals in 303 games. He played in his last game for Wales in 1922 at the age of 48. The following year he took part in a FA Cup semi-final. He finally retired from the game at the end of the 1923-24 season.
Billy Meredith died at his home in Manchester on 19th April 1958.
Although born at Chirk, the nursery of Welsh football, and taught football by the local schoolmaster, Mr. T.E. Thomas, Meredith never spoke Welsh, and he was "hot and bothered" when compatriots began to shower congratulations and compliments upon him in their native Celtic tongue. He seemed more annoyed than pleased, but his mixed feelings can easily be understood.
More of a footballer than a linguist, he was one of the greatest outside-rights who ever played. There can be argument without end when the champions of W.I. Bassett, "Jocky" Simpson and Meredith meet.
A man who always kept himself in perfect condition by an abstemious life, his sole method of training was ball practice. Being spare of habit and lean in limb, two days a week sufficed to keep him fit for the game during 25 years.
An expert dribbler, blessed with sufficient speed, he hugged the touch line, and very often took the ball up to the corner flag before making his centre. His defence of going so far was that all his fellow forwards were on-side when they were behind the ball. This was good logic, even if it be not a fashionable plan in these days.
Not only was he a great dribbler, but he was crafty and cunning in hoodwinking opponents. No man was ever more wary of the outstretched leg for a trip. He hopped over the trap as if it was a twig.
Of the back-heel pass he was a ready exponent, and he remains the only man I have ever seen chewing a quill toothpick while playing in the hardest of matches. Indeed, his toothpick was just as characteristic of him as his bandy legs.
In his day he was a splendid raider, and one of the Manchester City directors, Mr. Joshua Parlby, always declared that he should have been a centre-forward. Possibly goalkeepers were thankful that he was not, for he obtained over 200 goals from outside right.
A good story relates to the Wales v. England match on Wrexham racecourse, in 1908. It was disastrous to Wales, for that was the occasion when L.R. Roose was injured, and in the second half Dai Davies was allowed to keep goal.
Evelyn Lintott, the talented schoolmaster, who was so fine a left half-back, played in all the big matches of 1907-08, and on this occasion he was ordered never to leave Meredith. He clung to him like an affectionate brother.
At last the patience of Meredith gave out and he turned on Lintott with these words: "Go away, you confounded schoolboy. Go away! Do you hear? You have got seven cursed goals, how many more do you want?"
Lintott was silent, but he continued to haunt his jaded adversary. Wales have had lots of fine players, but their football prince remains Meredith the magnificent.
Long years ago it was my lot to see much of Meredith in international struggles. Football annuals state that he has played in fifty-one matches for Wales. If any sceptic troubled to write Meredith about these figures, which have been disputed, he would supply all the dates to substantiate this amazing record. He took great pride in playing for Wales, and was one of those rare persons who put all such performances in a book.
My experience is that as a rule sportsmen are most careless about preserving notes of their career. Not so Meredith. One would think that with his love of the red dragon Meredith would be a most enthusiastic Welshman; that he would be quite a fanatic for gallant little Wales.
Yet I remember that one day, as we were walking about the streets of Cardiff after England had won by 1-0, he revealed a troubled soul, for he muttered: "I wish I had been born in England." This surprised me.
He added: "You know the house where I was born was only 300 yards or so over the border. What a time I should have had if I had been an Englishman. I'm sick of being on the losing side."
Then, after a silence, he burst out again: "Here, take my jersey"-and he gave me the red jersey of Wild Wales in which he had played against England. I thanked him for the sporting treasure and stowed it away at the bottom of my kit-bag as soon as possible in case he repented...
The match between Wales and England at, Wrexham in 1908 lingers in memory for two reasons. First, this was Evelyn Lintott's only game against Wales. I had a liking for Lintott, both as a man, when he was chairman of the Players' Union, and as a player, for I first saw him in the jersey of Queen's Park Rangers, while he was an amateur, and knew him when he moved to Yorkshire.
On this occasion at Wrexham Evelyn Lintott had received instructions that he was not to give Meredith a yard of room; that he was never to leave him. I cannot imagine that this was the style of game which commended itself to such a sporting half-back, as instead of being a mere stumbling-block he would sooner have met skill with skill.
Nevertheless, he carried out his orders so loyally and rigidly that Meredith could not move. In the second half, when England had an overwhelming lead, Meredith turned upon Lintott and said: "For God's sake, go away. England has got seven goals. How many more do you want? Are you frightened of being beaten now?"
The indignation of the wily Welshman amused Lintott, but he never relaxed his grip until time had expired, and then he laughed at Meredith, who had not a smile in him.
It was in this match that Leigh R. Roose was injured in the first half. He remained at his post until the interval. In the dressing-rooms Roose had an unpleasant conversation with the English selectors, who thought that the speech of the goalkeeper was not such as might be expected from a gentleman.
Billy Meredith was my Grandfather's Uncle (Charles Leslie Kington known as Leslie or Les). He told me how sometimes he would as a young lad go with Billy to practice his corner kicks. Grandad would lay his hankercheif in various spots around the goal mouth and Billy would aim to land the ball on there or as close to it as possible. His success rate used to impress Grandad even though he was not a huge football fan. Billy gave him one of his Welsh caps, which he then later passed down to my brother, as he is a bigger football fan than me. Grandad also told me how Billy would walk from work to the game, play 90 minutes, and then walk home, which he said was some distance - no flash cars in those days!
When First Division status - painfully earned on a shoestring budget - was briefly lost in 1901, wholesale changes occurred at Hyde Road, Manchester City's original home. Backed by newspaper millionaire Edward Hulton's money, Scotsman Tom Maley rapidly bought and built a successful new side that swept back into the First Division and took the FA Cup to Manchester for the first time the following year...
The following season, however, City's strong challenge for the League title ended disappointingly: needing to beat Aston Villa in their last match (in the hope that Newcastle might drop a point at lowly Middlesborough), City tried hard but lost 3-2. The match was marred by fighting among the players both during and after the game and, following as it did some ugly incidents in an earlier City versus Everton match, the FA felt obliged to investigate.
The subsequent enquiry revealed startling and totally unexpected evidence of attempted bribery involving of Meredith and, despite his protestations of innocence, he was suspended for a year, banned from City's ground and fined.
More sensations were to follow as Meredith, angered by the attitude of Manchester's City's officials, pestered the club for financial recompense. This led to yet more official investigations with Meredith ultimately turning 'King's Evidence', admitting illegal payments and thus bringing down the whole house of cards City had so carefully constructed.
So outraged was the FA by what had been uncovered that it virtually dismembered the club: the complete Cup-winning side of 1903 was suspended and banned from ever playing for City again; directors (including josh Parlby, one of the original Football League founder members) were banned for life and the club was fined to within an inch of survival.
Meredith, along with other key City players, was subsequently snapped up by Manchester United, a club with just as much ambition as City but with a rather more far-sighted management. Within two years United were League champions, the following year they took the Cup and in 1910 the whole organization moved from east to west across the city to spacious Old Trafford, to a stadium built for the twentieth century and a fitting stage for its talented, attractive team.
What is more reasonable than our plea that a footballer with his uncertain career should have the best money that he can earn? If I can earn £7 a week, why should I be debarred from receiving it? I have devoted my life to football and I have become a better player than most because I have denied myself much that men prize. A man who takes the care of himself that I have ever done and who fights the temptations of all that can injure the system surely deserves some recognition and reward!
They (the players) are, as a whole, an over-generous careless race who do not heed the morrow or prepare for a rainy day as wise men would. This trait in the character of the players has been taken advantage of over and over again by club secretaries in England. Many a lad has been tricked into signing on by vague verbal promises deliberately made to be forgotten once the ink was dry on the form. It is only recently that with steady improvement in the class of men playing the game as professionals the players have seen the folly of the careless life and have realized that they have too long put up with indifferences and injustices of many kinds. The only way to alter this state of things was by united action hence the formation and success of the Players' Union with its 1300 paying members at the end of the first year...
What opens the door to irregular payments is the rank injustice of the £4 per week limit and of the transfer system which gives a club £1000 for a player and allows the latter - one really ought to call him the goods -£10. If the £10 went to the club and the £1000 to the man whose ability it is the agreed value of, there would be more justice in it.
I met Billy Meredith at his home in Manchester when he was in his eighties. My father in law, Charles Leslie Kingston, was his nephew and he took me to meet the great man. I had a long and interesting conversation with him. He was a strong character and was not reticent in giving his opinions on the "modern game". Some of his comments were: Stanley Mathews - a good player but not half as good as BM who scored more than 200 goals in his career. Penalties - In BM's day goalies were allowed to move so they usually charged forward as the kick was taken so he calmly lobbed them and rarely missed. Man City / Utd - Now preferred to watch City as they treated him as a VIP whereas he had to pay for his ticket at Utd. Drinking - Nothing in excess but always drank mild rather bitter. A fascinating character.
The True History of the First Mrs Meredith review – no longer hidden
F ifty years ago biography wasn’t much interested in people like Mary Ellen Peacock Meredith. Her life was deemed “lesser”, although of course it didn’t feel like that to her. Born in 1821 to the poet Thomas Love Peacock, as a little girl she had bobbed in the shallows of second generation Romantic culture. Her dad had a lock of Shelley’s hair, and the family lived in North Wales, which was craggy enough to pass as “sublime”. Her mother, a local Welsh girl, went mad and joined that distinguished club of literary wives who were confined to an asylum. Mary would grow up to marry the novelist George Meredith, whose great masterworks Modern Love (1862) and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) are generally agreed to be a forensic account of their mutual misery.
Everything was in place, then, for Mary to become a perfectly serviceable footnote in other peoples’ stories. But in 1972 an American writer called Diane Johnson decided that this really wouldn’t do. Second wave feminism was beginning to throw the spotlight on all those over-looked women who had been “hidden from history”, especially literary history. Perhaps they’d been omitted because someone had decided, on no particular authority, that their poems or novels weren’t very good maybe they’d been overshadowed by the men in their life who spoke or wrote with a louder voice. Finally, there was that select sub-group who had been redacted from the record simply because they were “bad” women about whom the less said the better. Mary fell into the latter thrilling camp.
In this short, spirited book Johnson sets about to rescue Mary from history’s purse-lipped amnesia. She gives us a stirring tale of a headstrong girl, brought up under the old licence of the 18th century but obliged to knuckle down to the stern realities of the new Victorian age. Except Mary never did. After all, a woman who jots down in her Commonplace book that “the wicked are in earnest and the good are lukewarm”, has what you might call an interesting point of view. Having recklessly married a dashing young naval officer who died saving someone else’s life, Mary Peacock found herself on the receiving end of an adolescent crush by the younger novelist George Meredith. She married him by mistake and then left him for the artist Henry Wallis, the painter of The Death of Chatterton (1856), that stunning oil painting which has been read as a eulogy for the extended Romantic age. Just to make it all weirder, the model for the sprawled-out poet-suicide Chatterton was none other than George Meredith.
The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis. Photograph: Chronicle/Alamy
It all caused a hoo-hah at the time. But Johnson’s ambition goes far beyond reheating stale gossip under cover of feminist scholarship. Her mission here is to make a generous gesture towards all the lesser lives who brush shoulders with history’s featured players. For instance, when writing about Meredith’s hated dad, she tells us that he took up with a servant called Matilda Bucket. “How one longs to know more about Matilda Bucket,” she writes and, just at that moment, so do we. There is a virtuoso sequence too where Johnson painstakingly goes through the letters of potential London landladies who have written in response to a newspaper ad of Henry and Mary Ellen seeking accommodation. What about Mrs Holloway, who promises that her Kensington property is “genteelly furnished”? Or Mrs Newbold, who explains that she is looking for “respectable persons as permanent inmates” but is probably able to overlook the fact that Henry and Mary are nothing of the kind? Finally there is the lady from Bloomsbury who is particularly proud of the fact that the watercloset is on the same floor as the bedrooms. Each of these little rills opens up a window on a whole new life that, Johnson suggests, is worthy of our full consideration.
Like much the feminist literary scholarship of the 1970s, The True History of The First Mrs Meredith bears an obvious debt to the critical work of Virginia Woolf, who, 50 years earlier, had asked pointed questions about what qualified as a “great” and thus write-able life, and what as an “obscure” and therefore ineligible one. In its jaunty generalisations about the 19th century, though, Johnson’s book claims clearest descent from Lytton Strachey’s satire Eminent Victorians (1918). In one striking passage Johnson wonders out loud whether Mary could really be bothered to commit adultery with Henry since it involved taking off so many layers of camisole, chemise, corset, petticoats, stockings and garters. But then, in one of her subversive self-cancelling footnotes, she informs us that all this biographical speculation about mid-Victorian women undressing for sex is probably beside the point when you remember that, at this point in history, nice women didn’t wear drawers.
Riots over desegregation of Ole Miss
In Oxford, Mississippi, James H. Meredith, an African American student, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, setting off a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, Meredith successfully enrolled and began to attend classes amid continuing disruption.
A former serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, Meredith applied and was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the registrar learned of his race. A federal court ordered “Ole Miss” to admit him, but when he tried to register on September 20, 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. On September 28, the governor was found guilty of civil contempt and was ordered to cease his interference with desegregation at the university or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. Two days later, Meredith was escorted onto the Ole Miss campus by U.S. Marshals. Turned back by violence, he returned the next day and began classes. Meredith, who was a transfer student from all-Black Jackson State College, graduated with a degree in political science in 1963.
In 1966, Meredith returned to the public eye when he began a lone civil rights march in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the South. During this March Against Fear, Meredith intended to walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. However, on June 6, just two days into the march, he was sent to a hospital by a sniper’s bullet.
Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael, arrived to continue the march on his behalf. It was during the March Against Fear that Carmichael, who was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first spoke publicly of 𠇋lack Power”–his concept of militant African American nationalism. James Meredith later recovered and rejoined the march he had originated, and on June 26 the marchers successfully reached Jackson, Mississippi.
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.
My training is, and always has been, ball practice. You cannot have too much ball practice, and that is one thing I wish the youngsters of today would take to heart. … If you cannot control the ball you are no good.
Meredith made his first-team debut at the age of 18 for Chirk AAA FC, a hotbed of Welsh footballing talent, and played his games against other provincial Welsh teams and the reserves of more established English clubs in the Combination league. Some 31 years later, after almost 1,500 games, he made his last appearance at the grand old age of 49 years and 245 days, in a 2-1 FA Cup semi-final loss to Newcastle. By this time he had returned to City following a clash with United’s management, and throughout his career achievement went hand in hand with antagonism.
As well as the bribery scandal, Meredith was instrumental in the establishment of the AFPTU, the Players’ Union, forerunner of today’s Professional Footballers Association. The Players’ Union had two complementary purposes: the first was to work toward the increase or removal of the maximum wage the second was to ensure that footballers received adequate protection and compensation in the event of career-ending injury, or that their families were looked after in the event of their death. Meredith was inspired in this second regard by the untimely demise of teammates at both Manchester clubs, and the subsequent abdication of responsibility by the FA. The union was outlawed, and he, along with most of his Manchester United teammates, spent a fair chunk of 1909 on strike eventually the union was recognised, though the maximum wage was retained.
For Wales, Meredith was selected for 71 consecutive internationals, but release from English clubs was infrequent and grudging, and he only played 48 of those fixtures. As Meredith said, “In those days, Wales was never really sure of a first team and there used to be a sigh of relief when the party trickled up in twos or threes.” Nevertheless, 48 caps was still a record for the time, and all the more impressive given that Wales only played three internationals a year: England, Scotland and Ireland in the Home Championships. Pre-World War One success was minimal, though Meredith did star in Wales’ first ever tournament victory in 1907.
Immediately after the war, Wales played England in an unofficial Victory international in 1919. Playing alongside debutant Fred Keenor, Meredith led the Welsh to a 2-1 win over their imperial oppressors – the first for 37 years – though he was reportedly furious that the game, and so the result, was not recognised as a full international. But it didn’t matter for too long. In 1920, draws with Ireland (away) and Scotland (home) were followed by a 2-1 away win against England at Highbury, and Meredith and Wales’ won their second Home Championship.
Meredith was the first great Welsh professional, and arguably the first footballing superstar. Adored by his crowds, lauded by his team-mates, and loathed by football’s administrators, he appeared in music hall songs and newspaper cartoons as a footballer, agitator and a working-class hero. But where today’s footballers can occasionally appear to be self-aggrandising egoists, Meredith’s concerns about the treatment of players of his generation echoes those of union men of any profession throughout history:
They [the players] are, as a whole, an over-generous careless race who do not heed the morrow or prepare for a rainy day as wise men would. This trait in the character of the players has been taken advantage of over and over again … Many a lad has been tricked into signing on by vague verbal promises deliberately made to be forgotten once the ink was dry on the form. It is only recently that with steady improvement in the class of men playing the game as professionals the players have seen the folly of the careless life and have realised that they have too long put up with indifferences and injustices of many kinds. The only way to alter this state of things was by united action.
We will sadly never know what Meredith – who earned his political spurs guiding pit-ponies in the mines at the age of 12 – would make of the bloated pay packets of modern footballers. But it is beyond doubt that they owe a word of thanks to the belligerence of the moustachioed, pipe-smoking genius the Welsh Wizard.
Veteran winger Billy Meredith played for both major Manchester Clubs in a long career featuring moments of brilliance and controversy. The determined and outspoken Welshman was to have a lasting impact on the game in his advocacy for 'player power', contributing to the creation of what is now the Professional Footballers' Association.
Initially he played for City, joining in 1894, helping them to two Second Division championships (1899 and 1903) and one FA Cup (1904). In the 1898-99 season Meredith scored 29 goals (including four hat-tricks). The ruthless combination of Meredith and Billy Gillespie helped City climb to promotion. In 1903-4 City finished second in the First Division, and beat Bolton Wanderers in the FA cup final, the only goal being scored by Meredith.
The end of Meredith’s time with the club however was marred in controversy. Accused of attempted bribery by the Aston Villa captain Alex Leake, Meredith was fined and suspended by the Football Association. The charge resulted in further investigations into City’s finances. City was found guilty of paying extra for their players in total seventeen players were suspended.
In 1906, alongside three others embroiled in the scandal, Meredith was signed by Manchester United after being sold at auction. The first decade of the 20th century proved fruitful for Meredith. He won two League Championship medals in 1908 and 1911, and the FA Cup in 1909. In 1907 Meredith was also instrumental in Wales’ winning the Home nations Cup.
Meredith’s contribution to the game went far beyond his playing skills. The winger had been affected by the deaths of players throughout his career. Initially involved with the Association Footballers’ Union, Meredith went on to help form the Players’ Union in 1907. The union sought better wages for players. The FA banned players from joining the union. Only Manchester United stood firm in their decision to continue the union. The players were consequently suspended by the FA and Meredith became part of the aptly named ‘Outcasts FC’. Eventually the Players’ Union was recognised by the Football Association.
On the pitch, Meredith continued to deliver the goods. The winger was known for his skill and trickery. His runs and precise crosses mark him as one of the greats of the game. He took the honour of becoming Manchester United's oldest player when turning out against Derby County aged 46.
In a final twist to his playing story, Meredith returned to Manchester City in 1921 on a free transfer. Turning out at City's Hyde Road ground as well as the then new Maine Road in his remaining career, he became City's oldest appearance-maker in a 1924 FA Cup semi-final against Newcastle United, aged 49.
The original ‘Welsh Wizard’ died aged 83 in 1958, shortly after the Munich Air Disaster. After he spent many years in an unmarked grave, the PFA, the Welsh FA, Manchester City and Manchester United all agreed to cover the cost for a new headstone.
Principle English Clubs: Manchester City, Manchester United
Honours: 2 Division One Championships, 2 FA Cups
Caps: 48 (Wales), 11 goals
7 Cristina Never Fully Approved Of McDreamy
Meredith and Cristina made sure to support one another while never being afraid to let the other know when they thought they were making a mistake. While Meredith was worried about Cristina marrying Owen after the shooting, Cristina shared similar concerns about Derek on more than one occasion.
When Meredith and Derek got back together in Season 5, Cristina gave Meredith some home truths shortly before being karmically impaled by an icicle. She also gave Meredith some last-minute advice about her marriage before she left in Season 10. It is the strongest kind of friendships that can survive the truth, and their friendship is still going strong today.
Billy Meredith – Chirk’s most famous son.
Meredith was the best of his day.
George Best was once the idol of the football fans. In the ‘forties it was Stanley Matthews, in the ‘thirties Dixie Dean, but in the ‘twenties it was Billy Meredith a man who became a legend in his own lifetime, who played first-class football till he was 50, yet never really looked like a footballer.
Chirk’s most famous son, born a few hundred yards on “the right side” of the border, had bony, bow legs and he acquired the curious habit of always playing with a tooth pick in his mouth.
His razor-sharp runs, his amazing ball control, his uncannily accurate centres and his ability to shoot hard and straight with either foot made him the uncrowned King of Wingers and of Manchester sport.
Only one player has since emerged as a challenger for Meredith’s title England’s Stanley Matthews, who also graced first-class football with Stoke City until the age of 50.
Meredith, who was born in 1875 and died in 1958 in Manchester, played in 1,568 games for the two Manchester clubs and Wales and scored 470 goals. He played 50 times for Wales 48 times in the international championship and twice in “victory” matches in 1919.
He won 40 medals, including two English Cup, one Welsh Cup, two First Division championships, one Second Division championship and six Manchester Cup medals. Yet the medal he prized most was one awarded to him at Chirk School for dribbling.
Meredith owed much to the keenness on football of his schoolmaster, Mr T. E. Thomas, who was also treasurer of the Football Association of Wales.
Meredith acquired, among other things, his amazing ability to centre accurately in the East Denbighshire schoolyard. Mr Thomas used to place pennies on the ground as “targets” for little Billy’s centres. Every time the lad hit one he kept it.
Meredith always used to contend that if a winger put in six accurate centres during a game he had done his job. But Billy used to work overtime by scoring too. As well as being the King of Wingers he was the Prince of the Penalty Spot.
Meredith played in first class football for more than 25 years. He first made his reputation with Manchester City, the club he joined when he was 18, but in 1908, when his career seemed almost over, Manchester United obtained him for a transfer fee of £150.
Later, however, he was transferred back to City and actually played in an F.A. Cup Tie for them against Brighton in 1924 when he was 50.
Meredith’s ability to cross pin-point centres was not the only uncanny thing about this soccer genius. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about him was that he was never injured sufficiently to keep him out of a game. In his first seven years with Manchester City, he played in every match.
That Meredith could take scoring chances as well as make them was never in doubt. For example, in season 1898-99 he scored 32 goals in 37 League matches for Manchester City.
He gained his first Welsh cap in 1895, and his last in 1920 and he was a member of the Welsh team that won the international championship for the first time in season 1906-7.
In 1920 Meredith was presented with a silver plate by the Welsh FA. to commemorate his jubilee for Wales and in 1925 he retired. Meredith could, and did, pass on many tips to young players but perhaps the best one of all was on the occasion when a crowd of youngsters came to see his array of cups and medals. One boy said: “What a fine collection of caps, Meredith replied: “Yes, and they are all six and seven eighths”.
English football bribery scandal
The 1905 English football bribery scandal was an event of corruption that surfaced at the conclusion of the 1904–05 football season in England. It centred on the accusations that Manchester City player Billy Meredith had offered a rival player from Aston Villa a bribe to purposely lose their final league match of the season between the teams.
It resulted in the Manchester City manager Tom Maley) and former chairman (W. Forrest) being banned from English football sine die, two directors (Allison and Davies) suspended for seven months, a further five directors dismissed, and a total of 17 players banned from ever playing for the club again. Among the players was Billy Meredith, who was banned from football for 18 months and transferred to City's local rivals Manchester United before the end of his ban. 
Billy Meredith had played for Manchester City since 1894. He was the key participant in the 1905 scandal, where he allegedly tried to bribe Alex Leake, a rival player with Aston Villa, a sum of £10 to throw the final match of the 1904–05 English football season (City were in contention for the title, while Villa had dropped out of the running). Aston Villa won the match 3–2.  After losing the match and thus any hopes of winning the league, Manchester City player Sandy Turnbull physically fought with Alex Leake, and the resulting investigation into the violence revealed the bribery scandal, Leake turning Meredith in to The Football Association when asked about the incident however, Meredith always pleaded innocence.  Although no evidence was taken from Meredith, he was suspended for one year and fined. Manchester City refused to pay him, as they did not want to upset the Football Association, and Meredith retaliated by exposing Manchester City's illegal payments to their players of over £4 (which was the set wage given at the time).  In his statement to the press, he said, "What was the secret of the success of the Manchester City team? In my opinion, the fact that the club put aside the rule that no player should receive more than four pounds a week. The team delivered the goods, the club paid for the goods delivered and both sides were satisfied"  As a result, he claimed, "You approve of the severe punishment administered by the Commission AGAINST ME and state that the offence I committed at Aston Villa should have wiped me out of football forever. Why ME ALONE? when I was only the spokesman of others equally guilty" in a letter to the Athletic News.
After the Football Association looked into and verified Meredith's accusations of overpaying players, Manchester City's manager Tom Maley was suspended from football for life. Maley was pointed out by name by Meredith, who claimed that Maley ordered him to bribe Leake, also stating that corruption was common among Manchester City's administration.
As a result of the scandal at Manchester City, the club was forced to pay £900. 17 players were fined individually and were suspended until New Year's Day 1907. The Football Association also forced Manchester City to auction off all of their players at the Queen's Hotel in Manchester.  Manchester United's manager, Ernest Mangnall, bought up many of the most talented players, including Billy Meredith (for £500), Herbert Burgess, Sandy Turnbull, and Jimmy Bannister.  In fact, Meredith moved to Manchester United in May 1906, while still banned he soon became the heart of the United team  as they proceeded to win the 1907–08 championship. All of the Manchester City players' bans were lifted on 31 December 1906.
Meredith Vieira's husband survived colon cancer not once, but twice
In addition to MS, Meredith Vieira's husband, Richard Cohen, was diagnosed with colon cancer not once, but twice. The first was in 1999, when he was diagnosed, treated, and sent into remission. But the disease reared its ugly head once again, sending Cohen into a deep depression. "He went into himself like I've never seen," Vieira confessed in an interview with ABC News. "I think he was a much angrier man. That second surgery carried with it a lot of stuff afterwards, the recovery period." And because he had to have a colostomy bag attached temporarily, Vieira said he was also "humiliated."
While things were quite dark for the family for a while, eventually Cohen began to recover both his health and his spirit. And through it all, Vieira and her husband relied on one particular thing to get them through: humor. "Even at the worst, right after the second colon cancer, we always found something to laugh about," she continued. "It's what gets you through."
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.
1 Comment on Legends: Billy Meredith Player Profile
I’ve put “Don’t know”. How could I? What footage I have seen of him is grainy and jumpy.
But he was clearly a valuable player for us at the time and quite the character.