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.
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.
Please feel free to add your comments / memories about Gil.
Image used by permission John Baker ©