Williams Billy Image 2 West Bromwich Albion 1896

Williams Billy Image 2 West Bromwich Albion 1896


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West Smethwick, Staffordshire born left back Billy Williams played for Hawthorn Villa before joining West Smethwick in 1892, playing for Old Hill Wanderers in 1893 before signing for First Division West Bromwich Albion in May 1894 for a £20 transfer fee as a replacement for Mark Nicholson who had left to join Luton Town. Williams went straight into the first team making his Football League debut at Sheffield United that September, and despite a modest League season, Albion did well in the FA Cup. Williams scored from the penalty spot in their FA Cup semi final win over Sunderland following a foul on Billy Bassett, thus helping Albion secure their fifth FA Cup Final appearance, however they were beaten in the FA Cup Final at The Crystal Palace against local rivals Aston Villa, who scored the fastest goal in FA Cup history, scored after just 30 seconds when Bob Chatt’s shot was half saved by goalkeeper Joe Reader and the ball rolled over the line.

Williams was ever present the following seasonin a defence that conceded 59 goals as Albion struggled throughout the year. They finished the season at the foot of the table and had to enter the end of season Test Matches involving the two teams finishing at the foot of the First Division and the two who finished at the top of the Second Division. Williams scored in a 6-1 victory over Manchester City and in a 2-0 victory over Liverpool, and as a result Albion retained their First Division status with Liverpool replacing Small Heath.

The 1896-97 season was yet again disappointing for Albion as they finished the season in twelfth place. For Williams however, it heralded the start of his England career, when he was called up to play at left back in the British Home Championship match against Ireland at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in February 1897. England “totally dominated the game” winning 6-0, with a hat-trick from Fred Wheldon (also making his international debut) and a brace from Steve Bloomer.

1897-98 proved more successful for Albion and at the end of March they still had faint hopes of a high finish, but four defeats in April saw them slip to seventh place. Williams was called back into the England team for the 1898 British Home Championship against Ireland played at the Solitude Ground, Belfast on 5th March 1898. In a close match, England defeated the Irish by three goals to two. Williams retained his place for the match against Wales on 28th March, when he was joined by his West Bromwich Albion colleague Tom Perry who was making his single international appearance at right half. England won the match comfortably 3-0, with two goals from Fred Wheldon. The final match of the international season was against Scotland and was to decide the 1898 British Home Championship with both teams level on points. In the match, played at Celtic Park, Glasgow on 2nd April, Scotland were defeated by a fast and powerful England side, who emerged victorious by three goals to one, with Steve Bloomer scoring twice. Despite playing all three matches away, England claimed the British Home Championship after a two-year gap.

Williams was again selected for the 1899 British Home Championship matches against Ireland and Wales. The first match against Ireland was played at Roker Park, Sunderland’s newly opened ground on 18th February, and ended in a 13-2 victory for England, with four goals from Gilbert Smith and three from Jimmy Settle. This match is still both the record number of goals scored by England in a single match and the highest aggregate of goals in a game involving England. England defeated the Welsh at Ashton Gate in the next match 4-0 on 20th March with a pair of goals from Steve Bloomer Williams was expected to play in the deciding match against Scotland a few weeks later, but a niggling cartilage injury ruled him out and he was unable to reclaim his place the following season. In his England career, he played six matches all of which ended in victories, with only five goals conceded. He also represented The Football League 5 times between April 1896 and November 1899.

He continued to play on for West Bromwich Albion until the 1900-01 season but the cartilage injury forced him to retire in June 1901. In his West Bromwich Albion career he scored 12 goals in 207 appearances. After retiring from playing, Williams became a trainer and later a scout for West Bromwich Albion.

NB this photograph was taken before the Football League match with The Scottish League in Glasgow in April 1896.


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