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Gilbert Harold "Gil" Merrick (26 January 1922 – 3 February 2010) was an English footballer and football manager. Considered one of the best goalkeepers in the UK during the mid-1950s, Merrick was one in a long line of great Birmingham City keepers which included the likes of Johnny Schofield and Harry Hibbs. Merrick spent his entire career at Birmingham City, playing more than 700 times between 1939 and 1960. He made 170 appearances during the Second World War and 485 in the Football League following the end of the war. He won 23 caps for the England national team, and played in the 1954 World Cup. After retirement as a player, he managed the club for four years.
|Full name||Gilbert Harold Merrick|
|Date of birth||26 January 1922|
|Place of birth||Sparkhill, Birmingham, England|
|Date of death||3 February 2010(aged 88)|
|Place of death||Birmingham, England|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Birmingham City renamed the Railway Stand at their St Andrew's stadium the Gil Merrick Stand for the start of the 2009–10 season.
Merrick was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham. He signed professional terms with Birmingham in August 1939, and remained with the team until his retirement as a player in 1960. At first, Merrick was third-choice goalkeeper behind boyhood hero Harry Hibbs and Jack Wheeler. This meant that Merrick had to wait until 20 May 1940 to make his debut in the Birmingham first team, then playing in the Midland Regional League because of the Second World War. With the retirement of Hibbs, Merrick gained the chance to play more competitive football, and by the end of the war he had amassed 170 appearances for the "Blues", including an FA Cup semi-final against Derby County, which Derby won 4–0 after a replay.
When the Football League resumed in 1946, Merrick found himself playing regularly for the recently renamed Birmingham City. In 1948, Merrick helped the club win the Second Division Two, missing only six games along the way. He played regularly for the Blues until the end of the 1954–55 season, when another Blues prodigy, Johnny Schofield replaced him in goal because of injury. During this time, Merrick achieved 126 league games in a row, from 15 April 1949 to 5 April 1952. He also played in every FA Cup game during this time, another nine games, including an FA Cup semi-final appearance against Blackpool, which the Blues lost 2–1.
By the 1955–56 season, Merrick had once again firmly established himself in the Birmingham City goal, as the Blues produced their best ever season, finishing sixth in the First Division and reaching the 1956 FA Cup Final, which they lost to Manchester City. Merrick was also the keeper when Birmingham reached the FA Cup semi-final the following year, only to be knocked out by Manchester United.
Merrick also played in the 1955–58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, in which Birmingham were knocked out at the semi-final stage by Barcelona, losing 2–1 in a replay at the St. Jakob Stadium in Basel. He also played some part in the 1958–60 tournament, but had lost his place in the Birmingham team to Schofield when Birmingham lost to Barcelona in the final.
After only playing one game in the 1959–60 season, Merrick retired to become manager of the team he had served loyally for more than 20 years.
Merrick was capped 23 times by England. He made his debut against Ireland on 14 November 1951 at Wembley in the 1952 British Home Championship. He was first-choice goalkeeper for England in the 1954 World Cup, his last international appearance coming against Uruguay on 26 June 1954, as England were eliminated at the quarter-final stage. All of Merrick's caps were gained when Birmingham City were a Second Division club. He is perhaps best known for being the last line of defence against the Hungary side of Ferenc Puskás and Nándor Hidegkuti, the "Magnificent Magyars" who beat England 6–3 at Wembley in 1953 and 7–1 at the Nepstadion in 1954.
The following is a complete list of Merrick's England appearances.
- England score given first.
|1||14 November 1951||Ireland||2–0||1952 Home Championship||Villa Park, Birmingham|
|2||28 November 1951||Austria||2–2||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|3||5 April 1952||Scotland||2–1||1952 Home Championship||Hampden Park, Glasgow|
|4||18 May 1952||Italy||1–1||Friendly||Comunale, Florence|
|5||25 May 1952||Austria||3–2||Friendly||Prater, Vienna|
|6||28 May 1952||Switzerland||3–0||Friendly||Hardturm, Zurich|
|7||4 October 1952||Ireland||2–2||1953 Home Championship||Windsor Park, Belfast|
|8||12 November 1952||Wales||5–2||1953 Home Championship||Wembley, London|
|9||26 November 1952||Belgium||5–0||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|10||18 April 1953||Scotland||2–2||1953 Home Championship||Wembley, London|
|11||17 May 1953||Argentina||0–0||Friendly||Monumental, Buenos Aires|
|12||24 May 1953||Chile||2–1||Friendly||Nacional, Santiago|
|13||31 May 1953||Uruguay||1–2||Friendly||Centenario, Montevideo|
|14||10 October 1953||Wales||4–1||1954 Home Championship||Ninian Park, Cardiff|
|15||21 October 1953||FIFA XI||4–4||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|16||11 November 1953||Ireland||3–1||1954 Home Championship||Goodison Park, Liverpool|
|17||25 November 1953||Hungary||3–6||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|18||3 April 1954||Scotland||4–2||1954 Home Championship||Hampden Park, Glasgow|
|19||16 May 1954||Yugoslavia||0–1||Friendly||JNA, Belgrade|
|20||23 May 1954||Hungary||1–7||Friendly||Nepstadion, Budapest|
|21||17 June 1954||Belgium||4–4||1954 World Cup||St Jakob, Basel|
|22||20 June 1954||Switzerland||2–0||1954 World Cup||Wankdorf, Bern|
|23||26 June 1954||Uruguay||2–4||1954 World Cup||St Jakob, Basel|
After his retirement, Merrick took over from Pat Beasley as manager of Birmingham City in May 1960. Merrick's first competitive game in charge was a 2–2 draw away at Bolton Wanderers on 20 August 1960, and his first home game was against Sheffield Wednesday where his side drew 1–1. His side would go on to finish 19th in Division One. The Blues had another good run in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, reaching the final where they lost to Roma. The 1960-61 tournament did produce a win for Birmingham at the San Siro against Internazionale in the semi-final; they were the only English team to achieve this for around 40 years.
Although Merrick spent well in the transfer market, bringing in such players as Jimmy Harris and Welshman Ken Leek, Blues failed to make much impact on the First Division, and finished 17th in the 1961–62 season. Blues once again entered the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, but went out in the second round to Espanyol.
By far the best achievement in Merrick's reign at the club came in the 1962–63 season, when he successfully led the Blues to the League Cup title, beating Aston Villa in the final thanks to goals from Ken Leek (2) and Jimmy Bloomfield. Birmingham finished 20th in the First Division. At the end of the 1963–64 season, in which Birmingham City again failed to make much impact in the league and finished 20th, the club requested Merrick's resignation.
|Birmingham City||May 1960||June 1964||202||64||46||92||31.7|
As Birmingham City player
- Football League South war league champions: 1945–46
- Football League Second Division champions: 1947–48, 1954–55
- FA Cup runners-up: 1955–56
As Birmingham City manager
- In April 2009, Birmingham City F.C. announced their intention of renaming one of the stands at their St Andrew's stadium in Merrick's honour. From the 2009–10 season, the Railway Stand would be known as the Gil Merrick Stand.
- In August 2009, Merrick was chosen by public vote as Birmingham City's representative on the Birmingham Walk of Stars.
- In October 2009, Merrick was the first inductee to the Birmingham City F.C. Hall of Fame.
- Birmingham City A Complete Record by Tony Matthews (1995)
- FA Website (www.thefa.com)
- Gil Merrick – Daily Telegraph obituary
- Ponting, Ivan (6 February 2010). "Gil Merrick: England goalkeeper unfairly blamed for the heavy defeats against Hungary in 1953 and 1954". The Independent. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
- "Gil Merrick". Englandstats. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "England in World Cup 1954 - Final Tournament". England Football Online. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "Birmingham City ask Merrick to resign". The Guardian. 29 April 1964. p. 16.
Yesterday Mr W. Adams, the secretary of Birmingham City, issued the following statement: 'Mr Gil Merrick met the board this morning who notified him that changes and complete reorganisation of the club were to take place, and asked him to resign. To this Mr Merrick agreed.'
- "Gil Merrick passes away". Atherstone Town F.C. 7 February 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.[dead link]
- "Ten point pledge: The Gil Merrick Stand". Birmingham City F.C. 25 April 2009. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Evans, Gregg (15 August 2009). "Birmingham City legend Gil Merrick to get Walk of Stars plaque". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- Tattum, Colin (5 February 2010). "Colin Tattum tribute to the great Gil Merrick". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 15 August 2015.