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Billy Meredith: Giants of Soccer I.

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-13 21:59:18

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Billy Meredith | 07/10/1934 —

When speaking of goalkeepers, past and present, let me say at the outset that there has never been, in my time anyway, one who came anywhere near to the great Jack Hillman.
Jack was associated with Dundee, Everton, Burnley, Manchester City and Millwall, and it was with the latter club that he finished his playing career; sustaining an injury to his shoulder. It was with Manchester City that I knew Jack Hillman to be the greatest goalkeeper of all time.
Hillman joined Manchester City soon after he had been capped by England against Ireland in 1899, when he was with Burnley, and he was a member of the successful Cup-winning Manchester City team in 1903-4 season when Bolton Wanderers were beaten 1—0.
Hillman possessed nearly all nature's gifts. He was over 6 ft. in height and weighed between 13 st. and 14 st., and, surprising as it may seem, he could get down to a low ball with wonderful agility — indeed it was one his strong suits. WAS NOT HIS WEAKNESS.
You may have been told that most tall goalkeepers show a weakness for the low shoot. Not so Hillman, who was a peer in this direction. So much so in fact that I declare no present goalkeeper can ever hope to become more accomplished than Hillman.
Jack had all the qualities that go to make a great goalkeeper, and as I had many thrilling times when playing with and against him, and knew him personally as well as any other player in my career, I can speak with authority.
To see him take a dead-ball kick and land it well over the half-way line — and in that uncanny way to place it at the feet of one of his own players — was a treat to watch.
You may not know, but it is a fact that Hillman, more than anybody else, was responsible for the chanings of the penalty kick law as it stood in the early 'nineties, and, strange as it may sound, Hillman taught me how to beat a goalkeeper with the penalty kick.
It was not such an easy matter in those days. The goalkeeper was allowed to stand on the six-yards line, and naturally it was a most difficult matter to score.
One day, when Manchester City were training at Blackpool in preparation for a Cup-tie — yes, we did special training in those days — Jack Hillman, who has always been full of ideas, said to me: "Billy, we've got to get a plan to beat the goalkeeper from the penalty spot."
So we went to the training ground, and Jack suggested I should try to lob the ball over his head. It worked! And that was how, in future games, I came to beat the goalkeeper with the lob ball from the penalty spot, and why, later, the penalty law was changed. TYPICAL OF HIM.
That was typical of Hillman. As I have said, he was full of ideas, while he was also always trying to perfect himself — as if he needed it.
It was ceaseless practice which made Jack Hillman the great goalkeeper he was. His understanding with his full backs was great, and his anticipation of a ball, delivered from any angle, was uncanny. In this latter respect I should say only Sam Hardy was anything like his equal.
Of the present-day goalkeepers I choose Frank Moss, of the Arsenal, as my subject. This will cause controversy I feel sure, especially after the recent performances of Hibbs (Birmingham) and Sagar (Everton). But Moss, besides being one of the best of our modern men, is a young man and more likely to gain honours in the years to come.
I knew Moss better when he was at Oldham. They have a way with them for finding goalkeepers at Boundary Park. Remember Howard Matthews, Ted Taylor, Jack Hacking, and so on.
Moss has a fine sense of positional play, two safe hands, and he is a member of a great side.
You rarely hear of Moss letting a "soft" one through. That is because he is so finely covered by two good full backs, and with "policeman" Roberts there to help in stemming the tide.
As a last line of defence, however, I consider Moss a grand player, who simply oozes with enthusiasm — and the enthusiastic player is the one I would have in my side every time.
Moss, in my opinion, scarcely approaches the brilliance of Hillman, but in this respect he is no better or worse off in any way than a dozen or so of the modern goalkeepers whom it is difficult to separate.
I like Moss's confident way in getting up to a ball. He is not a very tall man, but he has a way of pulling out an extra few inches when necessary.