Corbolis, Ireland born left back Billy “Pat” McConnell moved to Slough with his family when he was four years old, and it was there that he began his footballing career. At the age of 15 he played for Slough YMCA in 1920, and then Slough Town in 1921 helping them to the Berks & Bucks Cup. He was on the books at Arsenal in 1922-23 without making a first team appearance, eventually making it to senior football with Reading in 1924, for whom he made his Football League debut against Swansea Town that September . He quickly established himself in The Royals’ first eleven and is still regarded among the club’s greatest ever left-backs. In 1926 he helped them to win the Division Three (South) Championship and to the 1927 FA Cup semi-final where they lost out to eventual winners, Cardiff City at Molineux.
A “finely built player” who “used his physical strength to the limit”, McConnell earned a number of representative honours. He played for the Professionals of the South against the Amateurs of the South in a match that tried out a new form of the offside law. In April 1925 he won the first of ten consecutive selections for Ireland, though due to injury and club commitments he was able to accept only eight of them, playing against Wales in a 0-0 draw at Wrexham. Five of his international appearances saw him line up in the same team as club-mate Hugh Davey. McConnell’s total of eight caps remained a Reading club record for 60 years.
McConnell scored just once in his 162 appearance Football League career, against Middlesbrough in 1927. Unfortunately, in scoring against the Second Division Champions-elect he picked up an injury that would eventually force him to retire from playing at the top level in 1928. He returned to play for Slough Town in 1930. Later he qualified as a Football League linesman and played cricked for Berkshire.
This photograph was taken on 26th February 1927 when Ireland played Scotland at Belfast, a match they lost 2-0. Club mate Hugh Davey is in the foreground.