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Billie Gillespie

Billy gillespie

Profile of Billie Gillespie

Date of birth: 6th August 1891
Place of birth: Kerrykeel, Donegal
Died: Bexley, Kent, 2nd July 1981 (aged 89)
Clubs: Derry Institute; Leeds City (May 1910); Sheffield United (December 1911); Derry City (as manager 1932-1941)
N.Ireland debut: 15th February 1913; home v. England (W 2-1)
Caps: 25
Goals: 13

WHEN David Healy struck his 14th international goal in Northern Ireland’s 2004 summer tour of the Caribbean, he finally overtook Billy Gillespie’s 13-goal international record that had stood for an amazing 78 years.

Billy’s tally, which was subsequently equalled by former Portsmouth and Southampton striker Colin Clarke in 1992, was an impressive total especially when you consider that in his era the only international matches that took place were against the three other home nations. 

He spent the early part of his playing career in junior football in Londonderry, but it did not take long for his talent to be spotted, and at the tender age of just 17 Derry Institute captured his signature. 

By the close season of 1910 he was on his way across the water to sign for Second Division Leeds City, who were to be expelled from the league just nine years later because of financial irregularities. 

However, Billy spent barely 18 months with City before moving to another Yorkshire outfit Sheffield United where he was to win all of his 25 caps for Ireland to make him to this day the Blades most capped international. 

Billy’s career at Bramall Lane spanned an astonishing 20 years during which time he scored over 130 goals in nearly 500 games for the club. Although he missed out on an FA Cup winners medal with United in 1915 because of a broken leg, he was instrumental in the Blades lifting the trophy again 10 years later when they defeated Cardiff City 1-0 in the final. 

In 1932, he left England and returned to Ireland for a nine-year stint as manager of Derry City. During his tenure as Brandywell boss, he not only changed the club’s strip to their present day red and white stripes, but he also guided them to two City Cup triumphs as well as four successive Irish League runners-up spots. 

He also led them to the 1936 Irish Cup final where they eventually lost 2-1 to Linfield after the first game had ended in a goalless draw in front of a 23,000 strong crowd at Celtic Park. 

His career at international level got off to an explosive start when on his debut he scored twice as Ireland marked their first ever victory over England. The following year in 1914, he was a member of the first ever Irish side to win the British Championship following victories over England and Wales and a draw against Scotland at Windsor Park. 

In fact Billy had a quite an incredible record against the English with seven of his 13 goals being scored against the old enemy. 

When he left Derry City as manager in 1941 he settled in Kent, the Garden of England, where he died just a month short of his 90th birthday in July 1981.

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