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Billy Meredith: Giants of Soccer V.
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-16 15:30:38
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CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO GREAT PIVOTS
— Billy Meredith | 04/11/1934 —
There has been a surfeit of good centre half-backs in my time, and the best I ever knew was Charlie Roberts, of Manchester United fame.
Every enthusiast who remembers Roberts will know what a great upstanding player he was. A perfect specimen of an athlete, Roberts was an inspiration to his side, a great captain who could rouse his men to get out of them that extra ounce of energy which means so much in a "hard" match.
Roberts joined Manchester United from Grimsby — he actually hailed from Darlington — and I believe his transfer fee was about 600. Never was 600 better spent on a player than on that occasion in 1902-3, for he rendered valiant service to Manchester United with Duckworth and Bell (noew trainer to Manchester City).
I may be taken to task by Bristol City followers in giving first choice to Roberts over that great personality, Wedlock, who was chosen so many times by the F.A. in preference to Roberts.
FIRST FOOTBALL STRIKE.
But I always have held the opinion that in his efforts to do something for footballers, Roberts was a victim of circumstances. He is still to-day a prominent member of the Players' Union, and in those early days he worked untiringly on their behalf.
In 1908-9 Charlie, myself and thirteen other United players, staunch members of the Players' Union went "on strike." We thought we were entitled to better wages and other things, and stated that we would refuse to play in the opening match of the season at Clayton against Bradford City.
We did our training privately at Fallowfield — outcasts as we were commonly called — and Roberts went to Birminghamto attend a conference of football officials and stated the case of the Manchester United players.
This was two or three days before the match in question. What happened at the meeting does not matter now, but we played the game, beat Bradford City — and then had a hard fight to get the summer wages which we had not drawn owing to our attitude.
Roberts played in three representative matches in 1905, but afterwards he was never chosen again although the League honoured him several times. I may be wrong but I shall always think that the F.A. bore him a grudge.
LIMP AS LEGACY.
Charlie left the United in 1912-13 — he was skipper of the team that practically remained unchanged for six seasons from 1906-7 and won the League twice and the F.A. Cup once in the space of four years — and joined Oldham.
He kept out of the Athletic team that great player Arthur Dixon, now trainer to Glasgow Rangers. Now Dixon played for the Rangers for about fourteen years, so you may gauge what a brilliant pivot was Roberts.
Unfortunately Charlie met with an injury which put paid to his playing career. To-day he walks with a limp — his legacy of football.
Billy Wedlock, although not as good a player as Roberts, was capped nineteen times for England. He had not Robert's towering figure, but he was a brilliant player for all that.
Alec Raisbeck, the Liverpool and Scottish international, Frank Barson (Aston Villa and Manchester United), Charlie Thomson, of Sunderland, Fred Keenor (Cardiff City) and Arthur Dixon, Glasgow Rangers, also have claims to greatness.
Coming to the present time I single out Barker, of Derby County, as the best of to-day's centre halves.
PLEASE WATCH GRIMSBY.
A strong player equally facile in attack and defence, Derby County may be said to be moulded round him. Small wonder he is England's first choice at the moment.
Another player for whom I express great satisfaction is Betmead, of Grimsby. He has made amazing strides recently, and it might pay the authorities to see Grimsby in action more often. Betmead is not their only player commanding attention!
Tommy Graham, of Nottingham Forest, is another great pivot. And without disparaging the qualities of Barker, I can truthfully say that Graham's display against Bolton eight days ago was the best I have seen this season.
For future reference I single out a young player, Holley, of Barnsley — a son of the former Sunderland international who curiously enough is trainer of the same club. I have only seen Holley, junior, once or twice, but he has the makings of a brilliant centre half-back.
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