100 Years Ago Today: The Great Billy Meredith

100 years ago today the great Billy Meredith returned to Manchester City from Manchester United. This was the third time the legendary Welsh player had joined the Blues – a club he continued to watch and support until his death in 1958. I discussed his life and career with his daughter Winifred (who was 98 at the time) and his grandson Ian Pringle many years ago and they both talked fondly and passionately about his Manchester City connections.

Here for subscribers is a detailed profile of Billy Meredith I wrote about 16 years ago. It appeared in my Hall Of Fame book. Enjoy….

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The Death Of Jimmy Ross

One of the earliest stars of League Football died on this day (12th June) in 1902. Jimmy Ross, who was a major figure for almost three seasons with Manchester City and had competed in every season of League football since the League was established in 1888, died with an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross was one of the Preston ‘Invincibles’ in 1888-89 and also scored 7 (sometimes reported as 8) against Hyde in the famous FA Cup record breaking game (read more on that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

At the time of his death Ross was a Manchester City player. His last first team appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  

City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral and he was buried at Southern Cemetery (according to newspaper reports of the time he was buried in a grave that contained another City player – Bride – who had died a couple of years earlier). Several City players/personalities carried the coffin, including Billy Meredith.

More can be read on Ross’ life here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/?p=1799

Manchester’s First Great Season

“Not a little of the success the City club has achieved is due to the indefatigable labours of the secretary, Mr T.E. Maley, who came to Manchester three years ago, when the City were in the Second Division.  He brought to his duties valuable experience gained with the famous Celtic club, and he has had the benefit of being a player, a club official, a legislator, and a selector.  His splendid services to the City are reflected in the position they at present occupy – the holders of the English Cup – the most coveted of football prizes, and one of the leading clubs in the League.”The Manchester Evening Chronicle, 12 November 1904

This season became Manchester’s first major trophy-winning season. It established the city’s trophy-winning heritage and it helped transform Manchester from a rugby playing city to a footballing one. Every Mancunian needs to know the story of this season. The following 10,000 word article tells the story of that season.

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Billy Meredith’s Last Game: 1924 FA Cup Semi

On this day (29th March) in 1924 Manchester City faced Newcastle United in the FA Cup semi-final. Not only that but the game was to be the last competitive game played by City’s legendary winger Billy Meredith. Meredith’s Manchester career began in 1894 when he joined City.

Here for subscribers is the story of that game, plus a contemporary match report and links to a film of Meredith’s last game. Enjoy!

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The Great Jimmy Ross

On this day (24th February) in 1899 the great Jimmy Ross signed for Manchester City.  Ross was one of football’s leading names and earliest heroes when he played for the famous Preston side that won the League and Cup double of 1889. He had scored an incredible eight goals when Preston beat Hyde 26-0 in the record breaking F.A. Cup tie of 15th October 1887 – a game in which the referee is reputed to have lost his watch and allowed play to last two hours!  (you can read about that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

In addition, he was the Football League’s top scorer in 1890 (24 goals), and was quite a character.

He signed for Manchester City from Burnley for a reported £50 after previously captaining Liverpool to promotion. He had also played for the Football League.  

At City he was influential from the start. He netted an incredible seven goals in the final nine games of the 1898-99 season (his first nine games at City too!) brought the Division Two title for the first time – this was the first national success of either of Manchester’s professional clubs.  

Years later the legendary Billy Meredith, looking back on his City days, remembered Ross with great affection: “I must confess that Ross will always be my favourite hero.  He was good at everything he put his hand to and what he didn’t know about football wasn’t worth knowing.  At billiards and card games he was an expert.  Though he must have been thirty-four at least when he joined us, he was able to win seventy yards handicaps with ease and did so.  He could talk like a lawyer and on and off the pitch his comic sayings had us in stitches.”  

Today many of the heroes of football’s earliest years as a professional sport are forgotten and in Manchester’s case people often talk about Meredith as if he was the first and only hero in the city. But Jimmy Ross was a major figure and he was absolutely essential in City’s early development. Without him they may not have achieved that first Second Division title success. He helped develop Meredith into a star and should never be forgotten.

The leading sports newspaper of the day, the Athletic News, often praised Ross. When the club was making its first steps in the top flight the newspaper talked of City’s right sided players and stressed the importance of Ross and of course Meredith:  “For real brilliance the right wing took the biscuit….In fact, there are few, if any, better men at outside right  (Meredith).  His partner, the veteran Ross, of whom it is predicted every season that he has had his day, is in reality taking a second lease of footballing life, despite the paucity of head-covering, and as a wing the two will cause some trouble”.

At one point a newspaper article claimed that Meredith was absolutely brilliant when he was being well served by Ross but when the going got tough, Meredith disappeared.  It seems that at this stage in the Welshman’s career he needed the experienced Jimmy Ross more than Ross needed him.  One article claimed that Meredith: “doesn’t like donkey-work and if his partner is off, Meredith is off too.”

By the end of the 1901-02 season it looked as if Ross and Meredith, despite Ross’ age, would go on forever. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1902. Ross died on 12th June that year after an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross’ last appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  Ross died of an infectious skin condition.  City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral.

Ross helped Meredith develop and over time the legend of Meredith grew, while Ross’ name has slowly faded. This is a major shame as Ross’ influence on Preston, Liverpool and City’s development is immense. Ross helped City establish their name at a time when Meredith was not quite the finished article. So many players have been described as legends in the decades that have followed. Many of them become forgotten over time, but it is important that once in a while we pause and remember those players. 

Today let’s think about Jimmy Ross and remember him as one of the men who made Manchester City.

Why not now read about the game when Ross played for Preston against Hyde? It already appears on my blog here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/

Manchester City V Brighton – The Story And Film Of The First Ever Meeting

Tomorrow (13th January 2021) Manchester City and Brighton meet in the Premier League. So far there have only been 24 games between the two clubs with the first coming in 1924. This game was a newsworthy FA Cup tie due to the return of a legend to the City team. In fact it was so newsworthy that a movie company sent their camera (you’ll see from the footage it never moved!) to Brighton’s Goldstone Ground to capture the return of a true Blue hero.

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Football Focus, Colin Bell and the 1904 FA Cup’s Significance

There was an absolutely brilliant, emotional tribute to Colin Bell on the BBC’s Football Focus yesterday by ‘James Bond’ actor and MCFC fan Timothy Dalton. Everyone should watch it. It really was a nice piece.

Plus I was surprised to see myself later in the programme talking about Manchester City and the recent purchase of the FA Cup they won in 1904. The reason I was surprised is that I filmed the piece for MCFC and didn’t think the BBC would bother showing me and would just focus on the trophy itself.

I was delighted it appeared because it was so important the story of the significance of that trophy to Manchester is fully known. It was the point when Manchester became a Footballing City.

The BBC Iplayer has the episode available for the next 6 days. Watch it while you can:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000r753/football-focus-09012021

Manchester’s First Major Trophy Success – The Video

Following the purchase of the oldest surviving FA Cup by Sheikh Mansour I helped Manchester City with the story of the cup and its significance to Manchester. They’ve produced a video telling the story and it can be viewed here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/manchesters-first-trophy-1904-fa-cup-documentary-63745781

For more on the significance of this FA Cup trophy check out the category 1903-04 in the drop down list below.

The ‘English Cup’ Has Been Saved

I’m delighted that today it can be revealed that Sheikh Mansour has bought the oldest surviving FA Cup, ensuring it will stay in England – and importantly Manchester. This is absolutely brilliant news as there had been fears the trophy would leave the city and the country when it was put up for auction by its previous owner.

This trophy is the first major trophy won by either of today’s Manchester giants. When Manchester City won this in 1904 it set the tone for everything that has followed and helped transform Manchester from a rugby playing city to a football one.

The homecoming was remarkable and meant that, for the first time ever, football mattered to the wider population of the city.

I could go on but Earlier I posted articles on the significance of this trophy and Manchester’s first success on this website for subscribers. Take a look at:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/08/manchesters-first-great-season/

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/07/fa-cup-success-football-infrastructure-and-the-establishment-of-manchesters-footballing-identity/

Manchester City have posted their story here:

https://www.mancity.com/news/mens/fa-cup-1904-his-highness-sheikh-mansour-bin-zayed-63745630

FA Cup success, football infrastructure and the establishment of Manchester’s footballing identity

ABSTRACT: Contemporary Manchester is recognized internationally as a footballing city, with both Manchester United and Manchester City acknowledged as prominent clubs. However, the city has not always been a force in the game, nor has the game always been important across Manchester’s social spectrum. This paper examines how Manchester first became established as a footballing city, identify- ing that success in the FA Cup in 1904 stimulated interest in the game and con- siders how the legacy of that victory enabled the game to develop in terms of participation and spectating. It also considers the social mix of attendees at pro- fessional games in the city, and closes by concluding that footballing success generated increased interest and was the catalyst for improvement in the infra- structure for both participation and attendance, enabling Manchester’s footballing identity to become established.

If you would like to read the full article and other pieces like this then please subscribe below. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 100+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

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