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Meredith, 1909: The game of my life

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-04-26 14:09:35

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Billy Meredith | 24/09/1909

In many seasons of football numberless games are forgotten, but certain days there are which in after years remain green in memory and which persist in coming into the mind again and again when one smokes a meditative pipe before the blazing fire. So it is that being asked to write on the "hardest games of my career," some of the matches in which I took part come at once to my mind. They were particularly strenuous ones, and I shall often think about them when I have done with chasing the ball. A WIN WITH NINE MEN
There is no doubt about which was the hardest game of all — it was the Manchester City and Sunderland League match at Manchester in 1903-4, the season in which the City won the cup and did splendidly in the League too. The Wearsiders game was a magnificent game, and, a faster ninety minutes I never experienced. It was ding dong, end to end, football all the way through, hard knocks being handed out all the time. Sunderland scored first after about a quarter of an hour, and seeing their chance made a tremendous effort to help us out. I shall never forget how splendidly Doig kept the Sunderland goal that day, or how finely McCombie and Watson kicked in front of him. Hogg, Craggs, and I think Gemmell, played brilliantly in the forward line. While they were lending by the goal I have mentioned we had Gillespie and Holmes laid out and carried off the field. The match seemed to belong to Sunderland then. Left with nine men we played two half-backs and four forwards. Frost and Hynds were the middle men; Bannister, Sandy Turnbull, Booth and myself made up the attacking division. We made a big fight, and quarter of an hour from time I got in a centre which Turnbull put through. Booth got the winning goal, and we scraped home in the end. Willie Hogg played like a lion that afternoon — at his best he has always been of one of the greatest of forwards — going ahead with a pace and dash that made him terribly hard to stop. A TOUGH TASK
Another never-to-be-forgotten game was the Wales and England match at Cardiff in 1900, when the final was one goal each after a terrific struggle. England led at half-time by a goal, scored by S. H. Day. In the second half I got through and managed to equalise, though Jimmy Crabtree and the amateur, Oakley, were hanging on to me. It was a fine side, the English team, with J. W. Robinson in goal, Lodge end Oakley at back, and Crabtree, Athersmith, S. H. Day, G. O. Smith, Fred Wheldon, and, I think, Spouncer also playing. There were about 20.000 people present, and they went wild when we (Wales) managed to get on level terms. I don't think that I ever faced a tougher task than I had that day against Crabtree and Oakley. Both were fast men, both had a big stride, and, as the reader will know, were very clever. Crabtree took a deal of beating any time, and once past him there was a cool and keen Corinthian back to face. L. V. Lodge was a much easier man to beat than Oakley, though he, too, was a fine back. Lodge was more impetuous than his chum; he would make a neck or nothing rush, and that, of course, gave the forward who could keep his head a chance — a back who can be drawn out and tempted to risk all can always be beaten. I never saw a finer wing half-back than the late James Crabtree, and I never shall play against a more difficult pair to beat than were he and Oakley at their best. To my mind England to-day does not possess two wing half-backs who are in "the same street" as Crabtree and Ernest Needham in the hey-day of their splendid careers. A first class half-back has, or appears to have, "something" that others haven't. What that "something is it is not easy to say — genius seems the word most likely to fit it. Whatever it is, however, both Crabtree and Needham had their full share of it. It was discernible in their every movement, whether they were attacking or defending whether heading the ball or kicking it; whether robbing an opponent or feeding a colleague. That by the way, however, I have told you of two of the most severe struggles in which I have played my humble part, and I confess there is much pleasure in sitting here — enjoying my little weakness, an occasional pipe — calling back to mind the big battles of the by-gone years. I can laugh now at hot words said in those other days, at the heavy charge and the tricky tackle that were little relished in the heat of the game. People little know all the funny, absurd things that are said in the field in moments of anger, disgust, and the like. A TREMENDOUS FINISH
Another game that I can never forget was the Manchester City and Newcastle United match at Hyde, Manchester, in 1904, It was, of course, our big year, and to our dismay the Tyneside men jumped clean into their stride the moment the ball was kicked off. They scored twice in ten minutes, and for a quarter of an hour played football such as is talked of more often than seen. It was a perfect exhibition and we could not find the ball at all. I remember grim Tom Hynds, the Manchester City centre-half, rolling his sleeves up and saying "if they won't let us play we shall have to stop them." Sandy Turnbull and Dorsett each scored, and the last quarter of an hour was fought at wonderful. It was a tremendous finish, and I have seldom seen two teams more excited. The only goal of a desperate second-half arrived three minutes from time. Booth placed a corner kick, and Tom Hynds got the ball in tho net. What a scene there was. To this day Manchester people make all kinds of wagers as to who scored that winning goal and as to the exact score at the interval. WHEN WALES WON
I think the proudest year of my life was that in which gallant little Wales won the International Championship. I can see again, as I write, that match against England at Fulham. The result was a draw of one goal each, but I shall always hold that the match belonged to Wales, because in the last three minutes there ought to have been a penalty kick against Bob Crompton. The English captain was on the goal line when the ball fell on his body and he had it in his hands for just a second, then dropped it to his feet, and cleared. The referee did not see the incident, or if he did took opposite view to mine. Wales had all the honours that day. She led by a splendid goal, which Lot Jones scared, until a quarter of an hour from time, when Stewart, then of Sheffield Wednesday, equalised. In the last minute there occurred the incident I have alluded to so that Wales came very near to winning, did she not? KEEN RIVALS
There are no harder games played than those between the two Manchester clubs, and the hardest ever seen in the city was the meeting of 1907 on the ground of Manchester United. The ground was just a sea of mud, and we soon lost Burgess and Sandy Turnbull. Fancy being left with nine men on a day like that? I can see Charlie Roberts rolling his sleeves up to the elbow when the second man went off, and big, curly-headed Jamie Turnbull ploughing through the mud and the opposing team's defence with almost superhuman energy! Turnbull's stamina that day was one of the most wunderfull things I have ever seen on a football field. We had the lead of 3-1, and how the nine men kept it in the second half none of them can tell to this day. But they did it, and never was a victory better deserved. The two teams were just exhausted at the close. Every man was covered with mud almost from head to foot. Comments by Isaque Argolo
In the second topic of Billy Meredith's article, he mentions the match against England, Cardiff, in 1900. There is some confusion on Meredith's part, for instance, S.H. Day, L.V. Lodge and Fred Wheldon did not play the match. In addition, the English goal was scored by Geoffrey Wilson.