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Billy Lacey

Billy Lacey

Irish Footballers that Played for Liverpool - Billy Lacey

Billy Lacey - Introduction

Billy Lacey was born in Wexford in the south of Ireland on 24 September 1889. Lacey was a talented quick winger that was extremely versatile. He is one of a number of Irish dual internationals that played for both IFA and the FAI Ireland teams. In fact he began his international career playing for a unified all-Ireland team and despite the establishment of the the Irish Free State in 1921, covering the county of his birth, he continued to represent the IFA while confusion reigned.

Late in his football career he subsequently went on to play for the new Irish Free State on three occasions. This was not the first contentious switch of his football career. Billy Lacey was part of a swap deal between the two Merseyside clubs that saw him swap the Everton blue for a Liverpool red jersey. Harold Uren crossed Stanley Park in the opposite direction in February 1912. Consequently Billy Lacey became the first player from the south of Ireland to play for Liverpool.

Billy Lacey & Liverpool

Billy Lacey made his Liverpool debut on 2 March 1912 against Middlesboro in a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Lacey scored the first of his 29 goals for his new club two weeks later in a 1-2 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

For a player of such skill and ability he was not a prolific goal scorer and his most successful season with Liverpool in the scoring stakes was the 1913/14 season. Lacey scored 11 times that season, six in the League and five in the FA Cup. Two of his League goals came against his former club, Everton, at Goodison Park in a 1-2 win for Liverpool.

Lacey's last goal for the Anfield club was when he scored Liverpool's third goal in the 34th minute against West Ham United at Anfield on 25 February 1914. It was a third round FA Cup tie that Liverpool won 5-1 and Billy Lacey also scored the opening goal after six minutes. These were his fourth and fifth goals in the FA Cup that year as Liverpool reached the final against Burnley. Unfortunately for Liverpool and Lacey, Burnley claimed the trophy through a single goal from Bert Freeman.

Billy Lacey made an average of 30 appearances for Liverpool over the next five full seasons with the club. Those seasons were interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War when effectively five seasons were lost. Following the resumption of First Division football Liverpool re-established a credible platform to challenge for the title. The Merseysiders finished in fourth place in consecutive seasons before claiming their third league title. In the 1921/22 season Liverpool won the First division by six points from Tottenham Hotspur. Billy Lacey starred on the wing for the Reds on 39 out of 42 League matches - his highest ever number of appearances for the Anfield cub in a single season. In 30 League appearances Lacey helped Liverpool to win their first ever back-to-back league titles in the following season.

The Wexford man was approaching his mid-thirties and the many knocks that he had taken from robust defenders over the years had taken their toll. With just eight appearances in the 1923/24 season his career with the Merseysiders came to an end as Billy Lacey played his last match for Liverpool against Bolton Wanderers on 12 March 1924 at Burnden Park.

Some publications of the time give an insight into the special characteristics and qualities that he brought to the football pitch and as to why he was a firm favourite at Anfield. A 1923 match report states "As for kicking Lacey as a hobby, I can assure you it’s a waste of time, the boy is made from Solid Rock. Dynamite could not shift him off the ball." Following his debut the Liverpool Echo wrote"... was there ever a transfer that turned out so profitable to the Livers! ... while he is capable of clever work, is also a dashing, fearless forward. He was distinctly the personality on the home side against Middlesborough, and had there been another of equal calibre I am sure we must have won."

Billy Lacey - Ireland Career

As stated earlier Billy Lacey was a dual international beginning his career playing for a united Ireland team under the auspices of the Irish Football Federation (IFA). He made his debut for Ireland against England on 13 February 1909. It was a crushing 4-0 away defeat against England in the British Home Championship. The Irish also suffered defeats against Scotland and Wales in that championship however Billy Lacey did score his first international goal against the Welsh at the Solitude Ground in Belfast on 20 March 1909.

With the establishment of the Irish Free State there was a concomitant split in Irish football in 1921 and the Irish Free State Football Association (the precursor to the FAI) was established. While the confusion in Irish football reigned Billy Lacey continued to play for the IFA until 22 October 1924 when he ended this phase of his international career. It ended as it began, with a loss to England, however a highlight of his international career was a 0-3 victory over England at Ayresome Park, Middlesborough in 1914. Lacey scored two of the goals to add to one from Billy Giillespie.

Back playing his football in Ireland for Shelbourne, Billy Lacey made his second international debut for Ireland on April 23 1927, at the age of 37. The oldest player to ever make a debut for Ireland (of the Southern variety). Italy B beat Ireland 1-2 at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium). In his next match for Ireland he scored a goal to inspire a dramatic Irish comeback from 2-0 down to win 2-4 against Belgium in the Standard Liege Stadium. Billy Lacey's third and last cap for Ireland was on 11 May 1930, over 21 years since he won his first international cap. The versatile Lacey played at fullback as the Irish once against beat the Belgians, this time at Parc Astrid. At just a few months short of his 41st birthday this makes Billy Lacey the oldest player to be capped by Ireland ever.

Billy Lacey - Liverpool & Republic of Ireland Statistics

Billy Lacey was born on
24 September 1889 in Wexford
Playing Position
Inside Forward
Joined Liverpool
28 February 1912
Liverpool Debut
2 March 1912
Last Appearance for Liverpool
12 March 1924
Left Liverpool
June 1924
No. of Games Played for Liverpool
259
Goals scored for Liverpool
29
Honours Won by Billy Lacey with Liverpool
First Division 1922; 1923
Other Clubs
Shelbourne; Everton; New Brighton; Cork Bohemians
Ireland Caps (IFA)
23
Goals scored for Ireland (IFA)
3
Ireland Caps (Irish Free State)
3
Goals scored for Ireland (Irish Free State)
1

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