Blues Legend Gil Merrick

Yesterday, it was announced that Gil Merrick died on the 3rd of February 2010 aged 88. Sometimes the word legend is over or misused, but not here. Gil was DEFINITELY a legend.

He played for the club as a goalkeeper and went on to manage the side achieving the success of winning the league cup against some other local club. More of that in a while, back to the beginning.

Gil was a Brummy lad, born January 26th 1922 in Sparkhill. He signed for Blues in 1939 and played for the club over 500 times in all competitions. He set an amazing statistic of playing 126 league games in a row for the club, (between 1949-1952). During this time he also played in all the FA cup games and that included an FA cup semi-final, (his second). At the end of this amazing run, Gil was injured and lost his place to Johnny Schofield.

Gil was regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the country during the early fifties, so it wasn’t surprising that in 1951, Gil won his 1st of 23 caps when he was picked to played for England. He played in the 1954 World Cup when England made it to the quarter finals.

In 1955/56 he had re-established himself as first choice. This was an amazing season for Blues, not only did they finish 6th in the top division – still our best finish – but Gil achieved 1 step further in the FA cup as runners up to Manchester City. The following season, Gil and the side achieved ANOTHER semi-final appearance.

Gil Merrick

Towards the end of his career, Gil also played his part in the Blues European games in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. During the 1956-1958 competition, Blues got through to the Semi-finals only to be beaten by Barcelona. He also played during the 1958-1960 competition. This time Blues made it to the final, but Gil lost his place after the final and only played 1 game the following season. He retired from club football in 1960, however his association with the Blues hadn’t finished.

He became the manager of Blues in 1960. The Blues entered the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup again, and Gil lead the team to another final. Once again, however, we were beaten again this time by Roma. He did lead the side to victory in the San-Siro and Blues were the only English club to win there for 40 years.

He main achievement was winning the recently formed League Cup, (then a two legged final), when we beat Villa over 2 legs 3-1 on aggregate.

After a couple of bad seasons in the league, Gil left his post as manager in 1964. He went on the manage a couple of local non-league sides but never another professional club. The only club he was ever associated with, was the Blues.

The club recently re-named the Railway end after him and he also unvieled the new Jeff Hall Memorial clock. Gil was also named in the Legends XI for the Blues Hall of Fame.

Just a little something that Aff posted on the forum:

Always remember a story told to me by a work colleague. She was best friends with one of Gil’s daughters. One day, she was invited around to Gil’s for dinner. During dinner, she asked Gil what he did for a living. He calmly replied that he was manager of Birmingham City FC – and left it at that.

And it’s a story that you hear over and over about the man. He seemed to have no ego and was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

So what can we say about a man who appeared in 3 FA Cup semi-finals and 1 final, who played / managed the club in a semi final and 2 finals of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, won a domestic trophy and played for England for 23 times including a World Cup, and played and managed only one club and clearly was a gentleman – obviously one word. LEGEND.

RIP Gil.

Please feel free to add your comments / memories about Gil.

Image used by permission John Baker ©

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4 Comments on Blues Legend Gil Merrick

  1. The loss of Gil has brought me very near to tears as I link him very strongly with my grandad, Wal Milner, who passed away two years ago but whom I still think about as much as ever. Having regularly attended Birmingham matches in the 50’s, Gil Merrick stood out to be his favourite player and I can remember hearing the name from an early age. My grandad had a very deep respect for Gil, and that has transferred to me. At my age, I’ve obviously never seen him play – but I feel I have through my grandad sharing his experiences with me.

    I was, however, lucky enough to meet him. I remember going to a Birmingham City game as a VIP thanks to a .com competition win and he was one of the players floating around the corporate rooms. He was an absolute gent, a fantastic guy to talk to and yes – his hands are absolutely huge! I have his autograph somewhere, I think I may well dig it out and have it framed!

    He’s clearly much loved and respected by all associated with Birmingham City, from having a stand named after him, being inducted into the Legends XI and being presented with a star on Birmingham’s Walk of Fame. I hope that love and respect continues to be present for a long time, and as new generations of fans enter St. Andrews, we can pass on our first, second and third hand accounts as to how great this man was.

    Gil Merrick – RIP.

  2. Gil Merrick was part of my boyhood and and the great memories I have of steam train journeys to Bordesley from Spring Road Station, watching Blues with my mates at the Tilton End. He always seemed a giant of a man and definitely deserves his place on Birmingham’s Walk of Fame.

  3. Gil was a great goalkeeper who had no need tp pull off flashy saves as he was always in the right place. His positioning was unbelievable and there were no histrionics with Gil and he played in the days when centre forwards took no prisoners. I’ll always remember the penalty save against Stan Lynn, a Villa player
    then but later to be great servant of Blues. Stan reckoned Gil just happened to be in the way and the ball hit him but that was Gil, always in the right place. Stan had a rocket of a shot and scored no end of goals even playing the full back role.

    I’ve seen many a comment today from people who say Gil was their hero, he was mine as well. There can’t be too many goalkeepers who get called that by so many people.

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