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Billy Meredith: Soccer Giants IX.
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-12 14:30:12
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GREAT MEN IN THE CENTRE
— Billy Meredith | 02/12/1934 —
Football is, in my opinion, the greatest sport in the world. And most certainly, the cheapest. Yet we are inclined to forget — or perhaps the majority do not appreciate — those men who were the pioneers of this game.
A monument should have been erected long ago to Johnny Goodall, who was the greatest centre forward I knew. He played for Great Lever, Bolton, in the early 'eighties and then went to Preston North End and afterwards to Derby County.
Goodall was a member of that side which we know as the Preston team of Invincibles. He did more than probably any other player to put professional football on the map.
Johnny was a professional with the first professional side in the country — Preston North End — in 1888, when the League was formed, roughly three years after professionalism was legalised.
Johnny assisted England fourteen times and could play in any of the three inside forward positions. What a fine dribbler he was; what a delightful schemer, and what a remarkable shot! There are no Goodalls to-day — unfortunately!
I am not going to be drawn into the controversy as to whether football was different then; all I know is that I played against some of the best teams I have ever known — and I include many of the present class clubs — and Goodall was the best centre forward I have ever seen.
What would be his worth to-day? Even the wealthy Arsenal might not be able to pay for a man like Goodall. And that is no idle boast in order to boost a brilliant player.
Johnny was a member of the Invincibles team which won the English Cup and the League championship in the season 1888-89. It was a great side, yet I believe that no player in the team received more than 50s. a week.
WHEN CORINTH WAS FEARED.
G. O. Smith was another brilliant centre-forward. He was an amateur and a member of the Corinthians football team when the famous amateurs were feared by any side.
Smith, who is, I believe, now a schoolmaster in the South, played for England between the seasons 1890 and 1901 — twenty times in all.
Occasionally he and Goodall played in the same England team, when Goodall, because of his utility, would fill one of the inside forward positions alongside G. O.
In 1895 I played against G. O. Smith in my first international against England at West Kensington, Londo, and, believe it or not, the whole of the Corinthians side represented England! A unique example of a team playing en bloc for England.
Wales drew 1—1. The Corinthians were absolutely outstanding. They had a wonder side.
That season, I remember particularly well, because I played for Wales against Ireland on the Saturday, against England on the Monday, and against Scotland on the following Saturday — and we drew all three matches.
Bob McColl (Queen's Park and Newcastle) was another great amateur centre forward — one of the best, in fact — and then Johnny Campbell (Sunderland), Jack Southworth (Blackburn and Everton), Fred Geary (Everton) and the famous Harry Hampton (Aston Villa), come to mind.
These names are probably unknown to the younger generation, though they may have heard frequent references to them. But I can assure modern followers that there have never been such brilliant centre forwards since.
The best to-day? It offers a problem, but after much thought I "plump" for Hughie Gallacher, of Derby County, Chelsea and Newcastle United fame. I consider him to be the best in England at the moment.
He may have lost a little of his craft and his cunning, and may not be so speedy as in his palmy days, but thee is no one better than Hughie, when he is on his form.
HUGHIE A WONDER.
Temperamental we know he is, and that may have spoiled him from becoming one of the greatest of all times. But this wee player, who has represented Scotland on eighteen occasions, is a wonder.
I will always remember his display against Manchester City at Maine-road two years ago when he scored four goals, and materially helped Chelsea to escape relegation. It was as fine a display as I have seen from any leader.
Hunt, of Tottenham Hotspur, is, in my opinion, the best English-born centre forward to-day. A fine go-ahead player, he earns full marks for his earnestness. Another is W. G. Richardson, of West Bromwich Albion, and with him I should like to add the names of Dixie Dean (Everton), Jack Glover (Grimsby Town), and Bowers, of Derby County.
Tilson, of Manchester City, who has represented England as a centre forward, is a hrd player, but I still regard him as a much better inside left.
It is only to fill the requirements of Manchester City he is playing centre forward, but I should like to see him again at inside left where he and Brook on the left flank, developed an understanding that dates back some years when they were together at Barnsley.
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