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Billy Meredith: Giants of Soccer VI.
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-16 15:30:38
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PETER MCWILLIAM — PRINCE OF LEFT HALF BACKS
— Billy Meredith | 11/11/1934 —
Having played against the majority of Britain's most famous left half backs, you will pardon me, I feel sure, for claiming to be able to talk with greater authority than ever on the pick of the players in this position.
The best man undoubtedly was Peter McWilliam, of Newcastle and Scotland fame. The younger generation know Peter better as manager — first with the Spurts and then Middlesbrough — and now "scout" for the Arsenal. But, whatever his fame as an official on the administrative side of the game, it is incomparable with his playing ability.
Peter McWilliam helped Scotland on five occasions against England and three times against Wales. He was the model left half — neat and effective, cool and calculating.
Never did you see, or hear of, McWilliam stooping to a low trick. If Peter was beaten — and it had to be done on merit — he would "come again" and endeavour to make the man part with the ball without any back-sliding tackles or unfair attempts to regain the ball.
He was a gentleman footballer and a man for whom I always had — and still have — the greatest respect and fondest football memories.
McWilliam's forte was in attack — the type of play which is so essential to success to-day. I knew of no other left half who had such a perfect understanding with his full back for defensive purposes, and with his forwards for attacking movements.
But Peter had a memorable and unfortunate ending to his career as a player. Time will never rob from my mind that tragic — for him — Wales v. Scotland match at Cardiff in 1911. I was playing against Peter that day. He was drawn out of position to go over and tackle our inside left, Gren Morris who played for Nottingham Forest.
AS PETER WENT OFF.
In making the tackle Peter wrenched his knee badly, and was taken off the field. As he was going off I told him he had better stay off. I realised that something serious had occurred, and, to be perfectly frank, I knew that Wales stood a better chance of success with him away!
McWilliam, however, came back. What a pity it was. He was hurt again — or at least he aggravated the injury — but his return robbed Wales of the victory, for we were only able to draw 2—2.
That accident was the beginning of the end of Peter's playing career, while it also prevented him from playing in the Cup Final against Bradford City at Old Trafford, which the Yorkshire side won 1—0. He made a few fleeting appearances later, but to all intents and purposes that knee injury at Cardiff spelt "finis."
Peter's greatest rival, about the time he was playing, was, perhaps, Nudger Needham, of Sheffield United, who represented England on sixteen occasions and six times in inter-League games besides securing cup and championship medals. There was scarcely anything to choose between the two, but Peter's Scottish style and better ball control gave him, in my opinion, first choice.
Other famous left halves who come to mind are Arthur Grimsdell (Spurs), Bill Hardy (Cardiff and now manager at Bradford Park-avenue) and Evelyn Lintott.
I cannot also overlook such brilliant men as Jimmy McMullan (Manchester City, now manager of the Villa), Billy Waton (Burnley), George Jobey (Newcastle, and now manager of Derby), Jimmy Hay (Glasgow Celtic), Tommy Bromilow (Liverpool, now manager of Burnley) and Jackie Roberton (Glasgow Rangers).
To-day's best left half, in my opinion, is George Brown, of Glasgow Rangers. An ideal player, purposeful in his movements, and a typical Scot. Beautiful to watch, he, too, is another example of the skilful attacking half.
He went to Glasgow Rangers with Sam English (now at Liverpool) from Yoker Athletic. They made two brilliant captures.
Actually Brown is a counterpart of Peter McWilliam. He delighted Manchester football lovers some weeks ago with his picturesque play at Maine-road. He should be first choice for Scotland for many years.
Copping, of Arsenal, and formerly of Leeds, is perhaps the best in England at the moment. He is more of the "fighter" type than Brown, and England will not be let down by him in Wednesday's match against Italy.
Bray, of Manchester City, need not be discouraged in being overlooked. I like the youthful Manchester City left half, who has plenty of time in front of him to secure further honours.
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