Gilbert Harold 'Gil' Merrick, footballer and manager

Born: 22 January, 1922 in Sparkhill, Birmingham. Died: 3 February, 2010, in Shirley, Birmingham, aged 88.

GIL Merrick was a great goalkeeper whose career was blighted by being involved in two high-profile international defeats. Just as Scottish goalkeepers such as Frank Haffey, Fred Martin and Stewart Kennedy will carry to their graves the scars of heavy Wembley thrashings at the hands of the English, so too will Merrick forever be associated with England's 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in 1953 and their even-bigger 7-1 loss to the same country in Budapest the following year.

Not that the blame for these two defeats should be heaped on the head of the unfortunate goalkeeper; that Hungarian team known as the Mighty Magyars – was simply the best in the world at that time. They played a tactical game far in advance of anything England had ever encountered and had the players able to play that game to wonderful effect. Merrick always maintained that it had been an honour to face Ferenc Pusks and his team.

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Merrick was a self-confessed Aston Villa fan, but his football life was spent – more than 25 years in all – with Villa's great rivals, Birmingham City. He was spotted by a City scout, playing in a trial match for Shirley Town, one of the club's nursery sides, in 1939. He accepted a 10 per week contract and when he joined up at St Andrew's, he found his career over-lapping that of the Birmingham and England goalkeeper Harry Hibbs.

Although, at 6ft 2in, Merrick was considerably taller than Hibbs, he learned at the feet of the master and succeeded him between the sticks for City, playing nearly 200 matches in war-time Regional football. He was, therefore, first-choice when post-war football began and played a big part in getting Birmingham promoted back into the English First Division in 1949. His club form attracted the attention of the England selectors and in late 1951 he won the first of his 23 caps against Northern Ireland in the Home International Championships.

Merrick played in three successive matches against Scotland, with England winning two and drawing the third, he also played against a Fifa team in 1953 and wore the number one jersey in the 1954 World Cup, with England's 4-2 quarter-final loss to defending champions Uruguay – who had earlier thrashed Scotland 7-0, marked his final appearance in his country's jersey.

However, he continued to be a fixture in the Birmingham goal until 1960. He was the goalkeeper at the other end when Manchester City's German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann broke his neck during the 1956 FA Cup final and although he didn't play in Birmingham's losing Fairs Cities Cup final against Barcelona in 1960, he had featured in the earlier rounds.

Although a composite London FA side had contested the inaugural Fairs Cities Cup final in 1958, Birmingham was the first club side from these islands to reach a European final.

He retired from playing after nearly 800 games, but was quickly moved "upstairs" to manage the club, guiding them to a second successive Fairs Cup Final, in which the team, including future Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld, lost to Italy's Roma.

Merrick also managed Birmingham to their first national trophy, when they won the League Cup in 1963, a victory made all the sweeter since it was local rivals Aston Villa who were beaten in the final.

However, the following year, with City involved in a relegation battle, he was sacked, thus ending his long relationship with the club.

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This harsh "divorce" hurt Merrick deeply, he refused to set foot inside St Andrew's for 36 years. But the differences between him and the club were eventually resolved. City honoured him by renaming the Railway End at St Andrew's as "The Gil Merrick Stand" and City fans voted him the Blues player who should represent the club when the Birmingham Walk of Fame in Broad Street was instituted. He was also the first Birmingham player to be inaugurated into the club's Hall of Fame.

After severing his ties with football, he worked with one of the leading companies in motor trade finance, up until his retirement. In his later years, he survived one heart attack and a stroke, before finally passing away at the Shirley nursing home where he spent his final years.

England has long had a reputation for fine goalkeepers; and in spite of those two Hungarian beatings, Merrick was truly international class – perhaps not a Banks, Shilton or Swift, but not far off their high standards.