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Billy Meredith: Giants of Soccer III.

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-13 22:00:56

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Billy Meredith | 21/10/1934 —

There have been many outstanding left full backs of my time, but without any hesitation — or doubts — I "plump" for Harry Burgess, who joined Manchester City about 1902 and gained three international caps in 1904-05. He was recently appointed trainer to Ashton National F.C.
Burgess was previously with Glossop, and before that Openshaw Clarence. When he signed for Glossop he actually displaced an amateur international back, Herbert Rothwell, who then found a place in the side at half-back.
It was not long before Burgess attracted the attentions of League managers, and Manchester City obtained his transfer at a fee between £400 and £500, which although small in comparison with to-day's figures, may be said to have been forerunner of big transfer fees. In 1905 Middlesbrough paid £1,000 for Alf Common — the first four-figure transfer fee.
Burgess was a mite as far as height and weight were concerned — je stood only about 5ft. 5in. and scaled a mere 10st. — yet he was, in my opinion, one of the wonders of the game.
Many may wonder why I do not give priority of place to the famous Jesse Pennington, the West Bromwich Albion star, who partnered Bob Crompton, my last week's first-choice selection at right back.
Jesse Pennington was certainly a great player but he was not, in my opinion, as good as Burgess. I have played against both — internationals — and I know that Burgess was the more difficult to beat. 100 PER CENT. PLAYER.
Also it must not be forgotten that had Burgess not been hurt in 1909, when with Manchester United — this injury brought about his premature departure from the football field — he would have kept Pennington out of the England team for some years. The latter player only came into the England side on Burgess being hurt.
There was everything about Burgess to be admired. His kicking, his tackling and his beautiful positional play were characteristics of the man that made him the 100 per cent. player.
And although he was so small, his headwork was a delight to watch. To volley a ball was also to see him at his daintiest, and with such consummate ease did he clear his lines that football looked easy to him.
Burgess was the type of back who would not go out to meet the wing man, but would wait for the outside forward to bring the ball to him — a most disconcerting affair for the wing man, and I speak from experience Jimmy Sharp, of the Arsenal, another fine back, adopted similar tactics in this respect. NEVER THE SAME.
Burgess played several games after that unfortunate collision with Jock Rutherford, the Newcastle outside right, at Clayton in 1909 — he badly hurt his knee, and cartilage trouble was feared — but he was never the same Herbert Burgess. A great pity.
To close this particular reminiscence without a mention of some other great full backs would be entirely wrong. Eli Fletcher, also with Manchester City some years ago, Jack Silcock, recently Manchester United and now with Oldham, and Charlie Morris, Derby County's Welsh international, were outstanding personalities besides being brilliant players. Coming to more modern times, I would select Hapgood, of Arsenal, as the best defender of to-day. I give him first choice because he possesses all the outstanding arts that a full back should have. He is my ideal left back and, what is more, I have rarely seen him play an indifferent game.
Others who come to mind are Sam Barkas, now with Manchester City and formerly of Bradford City, McGonagle of Glasgow Celtic, for whom I have the greatest admiration, and Spencer, of Stoke about whom we shall be hearing more. ENGLAND'S No. 1 BACK.
But I still maintain that Hapgood is the automatic choice of England's No. 1 for the position at the moment.
I like his long-range clearances — but never haphazard kicking — which usually find a colleague. He also has a happy way of being in the right place at the right moment.
You will notice this particularly when he drops back to defend his goal when Moss has gone out to clear.
One never knows what may happen if a goalkeeper has to go out to fist clear or punch away from over the heads of a crowd of players. Then it is that Hapgood shows that uncanny foresight of being there in case of emergency.
I particularly like to mention a player who is clean in his tackles and never stoops to an unfair tactic. Such is Hapgood.