Player name in full: William Henry Meredith
To/from dates:1894-1906 and 1921-1924
Number of appearances: 394
Goals scored: 152
Biography and City Career:
Meredith was born in Chirk, North Wales on the 30th July, 1874. He left school at just 12 years of age and began working as a pony driver in the nearby Black Park Colliery. Football was his true passion however and like many others working in the mining industry he would spend most of his free time watching and playing the game. Football in the North East of Wales was being played at an incredibly high standard towards the end of the 19th century and Meredith’s hometown club Chirk were a dominant force winning the Welsh Cup five times between 1887 and 1894. With many talented players in the region, Billy Meredith was amongst the best.
His brother Sam had already become a professional footballer playing as a full back for Stoke City, but many believed that it was Billy who was the greater prospect and in 1894, following a short spell playing for Northwich Victoria, he joined Manchester City.
Meredith made his Manchester City debut on the 27th October 1894 in a 5-4 defeat by Newcastle United before making his second appearance against Newton Heath, the club that would later change its name to Manchester United. During his first 6 months at the club, Meredith would continue to work at the Black Park Colliery and travelled to Manchester for the games at the weekends. In January 1895, he followed his brother Sam in becoming a professional and finished his first full season at the club as the joint top goal scorer with 13 goals, this was made even more impressive by the fact that he played as a winger and not a centre-forward. Meredith very quickly established himself as a fan favourite and became renowned for the quality and accuracy of his crosses. He would later become captain of Manchester City and scored the only goal in the 1904 FA Cup Final, securing the clubs’ first major honour.
At the end of the 1904-05 season, Meredith was accused and found guilty of attempting to bribe Aston Villa player Alex Leake, apparently offering Leake £10 to throw the game. This resulted in Meredith being banned for 18 months and brought an end to his first spell at Manchester City.
Meredith eventually returned to Manchester City in 1921 and continued to play until he was nearly 50 years of age. Often playing with a toothpick clasped firmly in his mouth, Meredith made his final appearance for the club against Newcastle United in the semi-final of the FA Cup at the extraordinary age of 49 years and 245 days.
Whilst still serving his bribery ban, Meredith signed for Manchester United in 1906 and by 1908 he had helped them clinch the Football League Division One title.
Meredith was loved by the fans of both Manchester clubs and by all those in Wales for whom he gained 48 caps and scored 11 goals. In what was an incredible career Meredith made over 700 appearances for both Manchester clubs scoring over 170 goals.