|Full name||Gilbert Harold Merrick|
|Date of birth||26 January 1922|
|Place of birth||Sparkhill, Birmingham, England|
Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league
† Appearances (Goals).
Gilbert Harold "Gil" Merrick (born 26 January 1922) is a former 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 football team, and played in the 1954 World Cup.
Merrick was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham. He signed professional terms with Birmingham in August 1939, and would remain with the team until his retirement in 1960, and would also manage the club from 1960 to 1964. At first, Merrick was third choice keeper behind boyhood hero Harry Hibbs and Jack Wheeler, and this meant that Merrick would have to wait until 20 May 1940 to make his debut in the Birmingham first team, but the club was only playing in the Midland Regional League due to the Second World War. With the retirement of Hibbs, Merrick gained the chance to play more competitive football, and by the end of the second world war had amassed 170 appearances for the Blues, including a FA Cup Semi-Final against Derby County, which Derby won 4–0 after a replay.
When the football league re-started in 1946, Merrick found himself playing regularly for the recently renamed Birmingham City. In 1948, Merrick helped guide Birmingham City to the Division Two title, only missing six games along the way. He played regularly for the Blues up until the end of the 1954–55 season when another Blues prodigy, Johnny Schofield replaced him in goal due to injury. During this time, Merrick achieved an amazing 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 Division One, and reaching the FA Cup Final, where 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 1956–58 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, where Birmingham reached the semi-final, and were knocked out by Barcelona 2–1 after a replay at the St. Jakob Stadium. 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 so loyally for more than 20 years.
Merrick was also capped 23 times by England, making his debut against Ireland on the 14 November 1951. His last International appearance came against Uruguay on the 26 June 1954. He is perhaps best known for being the last line of defence against Ferenc Puskas's Hungary side, when England lost 3-6 at Wembley, and 1-7 at the Nepstadion in 1953 and 1954.
Merrick also represented England at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, where England reached to Quarter-Final before going out to Uruguay. The tournament also marked the last appearance of Merrick as England's first choice goal keeper.
The following is a complete list of all the international games that Merrick played in.
|1||14 November 1951||Ireland||2-0||Home Championship||Villa Park, Birmingham|
|2||28 November 1951||Austria||2-2||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|3||5 April 1952||Scotland||2-1||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||Home Championship||Windsor Park, Belfast|
|8||12 November 1952||Wales||5-2||Home Championship||Wembley, London|
|9||26 November 1952||Belgium||5-0||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|10||18 April 1953||Scotland||2-2||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||Home Championship||Ninian Park, Cardiff|
|15||21 October 1953||FIFA XI||4-4||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|16||11 November 1953||Ireland||3-1||Home Championship||Goodison Park, Liverpool|
|17||25 November 1953||Hungary||3-6||Friendly||Wembley, London|
|18||3 April 1954||Scotland||4-2||Home Championship||Hampden Park, Glasgow|
|19||16 May 1954||Yugoslavia||0-1||Friendly||JNA, Belgrade|
|20||23 May 1954||Hungary||1-7||Friendly||Nepstadion|
|21||17 June 1954||Belgium||4-4||1954 World Cup||St Jakob, Basle|
|22||20 June 1954||Switzerland||2-0||1954 World Cup||Wankdorf, Berne|
|23||26 June 1954||Uruguay||2-4||1954 World Cup||St Jakob, Basle|
After his retirement, Merrick took over from Pat Beasley at the helm of Birmingham City in May 1960. Merrick's first competitive game in charge was a 2-2 draw away at Bolton Wanderers on the 20 August 1960, and his first home game 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 the lost to Roma. The 1960-61 tournament did produce a win for Birmingham at the San Siro against Internazionale in the Semi-Final, and 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 James Harris and Welshman Ken Leek, Blues failed to make much impact on Division One, and finished 17th in the 1961-62 season (although Harris had actually been brought the year before). Blues once again entered the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, but disappointingly went out in the 2nd Round to Espanyol
By far the best achievement in Merrick's rein at the club came in the 1962-63 season, when he successfully lead the Blues to the League Cup title, beating Aston Villa in the final, thanks to goals from Ken Leek (2) and James Bloomfield. Birmingham finished a disappointing 20th in Division One.
Merrick's last season in charge in Birmingham City was another disappointing season, where the Blues once again failed to make much impact in Division One, and finished 20th again. This was the last time he would manage in the league, as he handed over to new manager Joe Mallett.
Merrick would have two more spells in management, with Bromsgrove Rovers and Atherstone Town.
|Birmingham City||May 1960||June 1964||202||64||46||92||31.7|