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Meredith, 1934: Some versatile footballers

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-04-18 22:02:01

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Stars who shone anywhere — any time
Billy Meredith | 23/12/1934

Memories of some versatile old-timers in football.
In this, my concluding article of outstanding footballers past and present, I want to refer to those players who were of the utility class — men, who were efficient in more than one position and, believe me, considering the thousands of players who take part in football week after week they comprise a very small number.
First and foremost I must mention the late Bobby Walker, of Heart of Midlothian, whose twenty-nine international appearances for his native Scotland has only been surpassed — and that quite recently — by Alan Morton, the Little Blue Devil of whom I spoke last week.
Walker will not be remembered by the younger generation, so that in describing him as a better player than Alex James one will have an idea of how brilliant he was.
At inside right or outside right Bobby was equally facile and for sheer ball control and swerve he was the greatest player of all time. Hearts had his valuable services for seventeen years.
Then there was Nick Ross of the 'eighties. A Scot of Preston North End and a brother of Jimmy Ross. Nick was supposed to be the greatest back who ever kicked a ball, claiming fearlessness and wonderful ball control as his greatest assets. Football tragedy.
This perhaps was borne out when it is known that he became equally famous as a centre-forward when he went to Everton, while before his departure he also appeared at half-back for Preston.
Ross was the only full back I have seen in action with whom I never actually came in contact. He was playing just before I started professional football and died at the early age of twenty-eight. A football tragedy, indeed! His full name was Nicholas Jack Ross, but he was always referred to as Nick.
My observations of Ross were confined to watching him as a schoolboy. But early as that was I still cherish memories of his brilliant play.
Jimmy Crabtree comes next in my list. He was one of the greatest all-rounders who have ever played the game! This Heywood Central man saw service with Burnley and Aston Villa, and although often described as the English international outside left, he actually played for his country at left back, left hafl-back and right half-back! Altogether he received fourteen caps.
His versatility was astounding. So astounding, in fact, that I believe he figured in every position for Aston Villa, even to keeping goal.
Andy Aitken, a Scot, who is now scouting for Arsenal, is another great player who readily comes to my mind. He was with Newcastle as an inside left. I remember it particularly well because he was one of my rivals in my first game in League football for Manchester City.
Aitken afterwards occupied positions at right half, centre-half and left back, and I feel sure he was found equally clever in other positions, too. A great player.
Without a doubt, he was a great player anywhere. Scotland honoured him in two positions — left half-back and right half-back, and altogether he played against England on ten occasions. In all, I think he had fourteen caps.
Mick Hamill, an Irishman, of Manchester City, Manchester United and Belfast Celtic fame, is also a player for whom I had the greatest admiration.
He was quite a boy when, in 1907-8, he joined Manchester United, whom he assisted until the war. Mick appeared in many positions. Often he was inside right to me. At other times he played left half-back, right half-back, centre-half and left back.
Hamill was what they call a bonny fighter. How well Manchester City knew this when he helped them in many positions after the war. To-day he is a director of Belfast Celtic and on the management committee of the Irish League. He knows what is wanted, for he played on eight occasions for his country.
Lot Jones, a Welshman, was another outstanding personality. He and I went to school together. Jones joined the famous Druids' club, a semi-amateur team, and later signed for Manchester City in 1902-3. When he made his name.
He made his name with the City, appearing at inside left, left half and outside left, while on several occasions he played inside right to me in international matches.
Colin Veitch, an Englishman, of Newcastle United, was at ease in all half-back positions and was good enough to appear at inside left and left half for England.
Veitch's best position was probably centre half — his original place — but he was capable enough to play in almost any position. He became chairman of the Players' Union and did a lot of good work for footballers.
Let us look at the utility players of to-day. Baxter, of Middlesbrough, is an outstanding case. He has, I believe, played in six different positions for the Boro'.
Then there is Hugh M'Lenahan, who has appeared for Manchester United in three forward positions, the three half-back places and also at left back! On either wing.
Cook, of Bolton, a Scottish international outside left or outside right, has wonderful ball control, and Brook of Manchester City, an English international outside left, has frequently gone into the City goal in emergency.
Jimmy Gordon, of Glasgow Rangers, must not be forgotten. He played in four of five positions for Scotland, while Alex Jackson (Huddersfield and Chelsea) was just as prominent at outside right, inside right or centre forward, and Tommy Muirhead (Glasgow Rangers) also played in two or three positions for his country.
Fred Keenor, that upstanding Welsh captain of Cardiff City, was just as prominent in any of the three half-back posts, and also at full back on occasions.
Sammy Hopkinson, Manchester United, is another fine utility player, a left wing forward, left half-back, or left full back, and I recall David Meiklejohn playing in several different positions for the Rangers.