The Bellwether Pub
by Eileen L. Ward
Wednesbury has been the birthplace of many worthy to be called a hero, you can see their names on the war memorials and streets of the town; but did you know that Wednesbury was also the birthplace of a man who set two footballing records several decades ago that still stand today? William Henry (Billy) Walker was born in Wednesbury in 1897, and is the only man to have been with three different cup-winning teams; once as a player (Villa 1920) and twice as a manager: (Sheffield Wednesday 1935 and Nottingham Forest 1959). Billy admits in his autobiography (Soccer in the Blood) that his love of football dominated every spare minute of his young life and he would play at every opportunity he got. He also went to great lengths as a toddler to watch his father, George (also Wednesbury born), play for Wolverhampton Wanderers, and even escaping via the cellar door of their home in Waterloo Road to go and knock on the gates of Molineux where he was allowed in. The family moved, with George’s transfer, to Crystal Palace in 1905, so Billy must have been very small to be so adventurous. Unfortunately, Billy’s love of football, and his urge to play it under all conditions, nearly led to his downfall when he contracted tuberculosis and had to spend three months in a sanatorium near Wolverhampton. We don’t know which one. No sooner was he home, than he started getting back into football and playing for a local team. In a way the TB was a stroke of luck as it prevented his conscription into the forces when WWI came along. This is when he started to play for Aston Villa, the only professional team he played for, and where he won his eighteen caps for England, scoring nine goals in the process. During this time, he played four hundred and seventy eight times for Villa and scored two hundred and fourteen goals. He won his first FA Cup in 1920. After retiring as a player, Billy went on to manage Sheffield Wednesday from 1933 to 1937, winning his second FA Cup with them in 1935. They parted company and Billy went to Chelmsford as manager for one season before moving to his greatest managerial achievement with Nottingham Forrest. At Nottingham, he introduced several innovations for the benefit of the players and their families. He went on to lift the FA Cup for a second time as manager in 1959. He also became their longest serving manager,, before retiring in 1960. With three FA Cup wins with three teams, Billy became only the second manager to do this and he holds the record for the longest time between wins. With a record like this you would think each of his cup teams would have done something to commemorate him, but there is nothing. Today he might well have been offered a knighthood, but had no such honours. There isn’t even a memorial in his hometown of Wednesbury. Three times a winner and there is nothing to say who he was.