Blackburn, Lancashire born goalkeeper Billy McOwen began his football career with Cherry Tree and played for Blackburn Olympic between 1886 and 1888, from where he joined hometown Football League club Blackburn Rovers, making his Football League debut against Preston North End in January 1889. He made 5 appearances as understudy to Herbie Arthur and 10 further appearances in 1889-90, although he didn’t play in Blackburn’s 1890 FA Cup Final team and didn’t play at all the following season. After joining Darwen in the summer of 1891 he made 19 appearances during Darwen’s 1891-92 campaign before joining newly formed Lancashire League club Liverpool in July 1892.
“Many supporters of the Darwen Football Club will regret to hear that W McOwen, the former goalkeeper, has severed his connection with the club. Some time ago the committee engaged Chalmers, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, and it was thought that the club would retain the services of the little champion from Blackburn. McOwen has, however, obtained his release from the club in the “Salmon Town”, and signed for the Liverpool club. The popular custodian was formally transferred by the Darwen committee on Monday last,” reported the Blackburn Standard on Saturday 30th July 1892. This article signalled the beginning of Billy McOwen’s Liverpool career.
McOwen was not a regular in Liverpool’s first-ever season in the Lancashire League making just one appearance as Sidney Ross stood in goal, but after Ross retired through injury McOwen had the honour of being Liverpool’s first-ever goalkeeper in a Football League match at Middlesbrough Ironopolis on 2nd September 1893. He played in 23 of the 28 Second Division matches and conceded only 16 goals without losing a single match during the whole campaign as Liverpool won the Second Division Championship.
McOwen left Liverpool after the promotion and was reinstated as an amateur. He joined Lancashire League club Blackpool for two seasons and later played with Nelson from 1896, his final recorded club. McOwen was an expert in saving penalties – during his career he faced 13 penalty kicks and saved 12 of them!