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Billy Steel (1 May 1923 – 13 May 1982) was a Scottish footballer who played for St Mirren, Morton, Derby County, Dundee and the Scotland national team.

Billy Steel
Billy Steel 1949.jpg
Personal information
Full name William Steel
Date of birth (1923-05-01)1 May 1923
Place of birth Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Date of death 13 May 1982(1982-05-13) (aged 59)
Place of death Lancaster, California, United States
Playing position Inside-left
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1939–1942 St Mirren 0 (0)
1942–1947 Morton 9 (2)
1947–1950 Derby County 109 (27)
1950–1954 Dundee 94 (27)
National team
1947–1952 Scottish League XI 4 (2)
1947–1953 Scotland 30 (12)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

One of Scotland's greatest inside forwards, Billy Steel combined a brilliant footballing brain with a busy work ethic and explosive shot. Billy was the subject of two record transfer fees during his career. As well as receiving 30 caps for Scotland, Steel made four appearances with the Scottish League, was a Scottish Cup finalist in 1952, and was a Scottish League Cup winner in 1952 and 1953. He scored a memorable goal for a Great Britain XI against the Rest of Europe in 1947. He was inducted into Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2006.[1]

Early careerEdit

Billy began his career at local juvenile side Dunipace Thistle, signing for Junior side Bo'ness Cadora in the summer of 1938, whilst still 15 years of age. He played several games at inside-left before being developed into a winger by Cadora. Leicester City manager Frank Womack was determined to get his man half way through the season and took him on to the Filbert Street ground staff at the end of 1938. Things did not work out as the boss was sacked and nobody remembered to renew his contract[1]. While still contracted to Morton, Billy Steel played for the British Army of the Rhine, (BAOR) who, in 1944 to 1946, were re-establishing footballing connections with other teams on the Continent. The team "visited" France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, the Channel Islands and Germany, and Steel played along with such notables as Leslie Compton, Eddie Hapgood, and Matt Busby. Demobbed in December 1946 he returned to Morton.[2][3]

Derby CountyEdit

His £15,500 transfer from Morton to Derby County in 1947 was a then British transfer record.[4] Billy was not always popular at the Baseball Ground especially among his fellow professionals. One dressing room incident ended in Billy being threatened with being hung on a cloakroom peg by a member of his own team!

Players often accused Steel of saving his best performances for when the Rams travelled down to play the London teams. He was further disliked for his "moonlighting", though in the days of the maximum wage for footballers he could hardly be blamed. But he received payments for articles that he wrote for several newspapers, enabling him to have a more luxurious life style than his teammates. A deal with News Chronicle was said to be worth as much again as his football wage.[5]

Steel was brought to Derby County after playing just a few first team games for Morton and he was a good buy, going on to play for three seasons at the Baseball Ground. In that time he made 124 appearances, scoring 35 goals.


Steel left Derby in September 1950 to return to his native Scotland, Dundee paying a Scottish record transfer fee of £22,500. He helped the club to win the Scottish League Cup in 1951-52[6] and 1952-53.[7] He was also a finalist in the 1951-52 Scottish Cup. He retired as a player in 1954.

In May 2009 Steel was inducted into Dundee F.C.'s Hall of Fame.[8]

International footballEdit

He won a total of 30 caps for Scotland, scoring 12 goals. He was selected for a Great Britain XI for a match against the Rest of Europe in 1947, despite having played only a handful of league games for Morton.

International goalsEdit

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 18 May 1947 Stade Heysel, Brussels   Belgium 1–1 1–2 Friendly
2 24 May 1947 Stade Municipal, Luxembourg City   Luxembourg 2–0 6–0 Friendly
3 24 May 1947 Stade Municipal, Luxembourg City   Luxembourg 3–0 6–0 Friendly
4 9 April 1949 Wembley Stadium, London   England 2–0 3–1 BHC
5 27 April 1949 Hampden Park, Glasgow   France 1–0 2–0 Friendly
6 27 April 1949 Hampden Park, Glasgow   France 2–0 2–0 Friendly
7 1 October 1949 Windsor Park, Belfast   Ireland 3–0 8–2 BHC
8 1 November 1950 Hampden Park, Glasgow   Ireland 3–1 6–1 BHC
9 1 November 1950 Hampden Park, Glasgow   Ireland 4–1 6–1 BHC
10 1 November 1950 Hampden Park, Glasgow   Ireland 5–1 6–1 BHC
11 1 November 1950 Hampden Park, Glasgow   Ireland 6–1 6–1 BHC
12 12 May 1951 Hampden Park, Glasgow   Denmark 1–1 3–1 Friendly

Retirement and emigrationEdit

In 1954 he announced he was emigrating to the US, where he managed the Los Angeles Danes, before later working in advertising.[8]

Playing styleEdit

Billy Steel had springs for muscles, a choirboy's face that masked a devouring, often ruthless determination to achieve football perfection, a caustic tongue that frequently angered team-mates more bitterly than opponents, and a style and ability that, in this modern age, would have the wealthy clubs of Europe bidding frantically for his transfer. Unlike so many of his predecessors, who were indelibly stamped with the style of their birthplace, Steel was classless. No one watching this chirpy little man in action could have said from which soccer school he graduated. His touch was Scottish of course, but later in his career he welded to that eternal grace an iron physique. He belonged to the elite corp of players: the global greats. His secret was that of Denis Law, an agile brain, a puma's pounce, and extraordinary gymnastic ability that put him a move ahead of his colleagues. There was nothing svelte about Steel: he exuded vitality, he had the killer instinct of a boxing champion, he was the type of aggressive attacker who was so keen to win that he would have sworn at his best friend if he felt he hadn't been pulling his weight.[9]


  1. ^ 2006 Hall of Fame inductees at Archived 24 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ How to Play Football by Billy Steel pp.19-28
  3. ^ Billy Steel – Scotland′s Little Maestro by Bob MacAlindin pp.18-21
  4. ^
  5. ^ Garrick, Frank (2003). Raich Carter The Biography. SportsBooks Limited. p. 142. ISBN 1 899807 18 7.
  6. ^ "Soccerbase - 1951-52 Scottish Lge Cup Final". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  7. ^ "Soccerbase - 1952-53 Scottish Lge Cup Final". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  8. ^ a b "League Cup Winner - Steel". Dundee Football Club. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  9. ^ Trevor Royle; Ian Archer (2012). We'll Support You Evermore. Mainstream Sport. ISBN 9781780574219.

External linksEdit