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Hansons is offering a watch given to Billy Meredith, who scored the winning goal and captained the Sky Blues when they beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at Crystal Palace in the 1904 FA Cup final. It was the club’s first major honour.

Inscription revealed

Until Sheila Stevenson had taken the gold pocket-watch to a jeweller’s to be cleaned up she had no idea it bore an inscription honouring Meredith.

But even after the careful clean decades ago uncovered the inscription, Presented to W. Meredith, Manchester City FC, to commemorate winning the English Cup (FA Cup), 1903-1904, she was unaware how important he was. So, the watch was tucked away in a drawer for 51 years.

Sheila, 87, a retired welfare officer from Cosby, Leicestershire, said: “Neither myself or my son, Simon, are big football fans. We follow rugby and Leicester Tigers. So, we didn’t realise the significance.”

But now, 51 years after Simon, a 57-year-old police community support officer, also from Cosby, inherited the watch, it is set to go into Hansons’ August 22 Football in Focus sale in Etwall, Derbyshire, with an estimate of £2000-4000.

Billy Meredith watch - credit Hansons (1).jpg

A gold pocket watch given to Manchester City and Manchester United footballer Billy Meredith to mark City's first FA Cup win in 1904 is up for auction at Hansons on August 22 estimated at £2000-4000.

In a drawer for decades

Sheila said: “The watch was left to Simon when he was six by his great-grandfather Jack Reid. I never thought anything of it, just that it was a nice gold watch. I put it away in a drawer. When Simon became a teenager, I thought he might like to use it so took it along to a jeweller’s to get it cleaned. It was only then that we discovered the inscription to Billy Meredith.

“The watch stayed in the drawer for decades. Then one day I mentioned to a visitor who supported Manchester United that I had ‘a gold watch from some footballer’. When he saw it had been presented to Billy Meredith he couldn’t believe it, he was on cloud nine.

“After that we did some research and discovered what an important player Meredith was. We’re not related to Meredith but think the watch may have come into our family through friendship. Jack Reid’s wife was a Cowan and a Samuel Cowan signed for Manchester City in 1924 and later managed them in 1946. Jack’s daughter, Catherine, said the watch had been given to her father by his best friend.”

Hansons’ sports valuer Alistair Lofley added: “Cowan and Meredith would certainly have known each other as Billy’s last playing season was in 1924 at Manchester City.”

Sky Blue and Red Devil

Billy (William) Meredith actually played for both Manchester teams. Born in Chirk, Denbighshire, Wales, in 1874, he went on to play for Northwich Victoria, Manchester City and Manchester United and gained 48 caps for Wales.

His United record was also impressive: league titles in 1907-08 and 1910-11, and another FA Cup in 1909.

In 27 seasons in the Football League from 1892-1924, not including four seasons lost to the First World War - and the 1905-06 season in which he was banned for bribing an opposition player - he scored 176 goals in 740 league and cup appearances.

He retired from football at the age of 47 in 1924, making him the oldest ever Manchester City player. Lofley said: “His gimmick was to chew on a toothpick during games.”

Meredith died in Withington, Manchester, in 1958 at the age of 83.