Puzzling Journey Of Talented Keeper

Hill’s Sky Blues Made Use Of Wolves Reject

With Wolves and Coventry meeting this Saturday in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, Charles Bamforth researches and relates the unusual tale of a player who sampled life at both clubs and achieved one or two surprise highs elsewhere.
 
Dave Meeson during his professional football career.

I may have mentioned before my bafflement at the number of goalkeepers presently on the books at Molineux, especially as there are a lot fewer teams at the professional level these days.

 
On the staff are Sa, Bentley, King, Moulden, Young, Storer, Amos, Benjamin, Hardy and Kibriya. Three of those are out on loan (Moulden at Northampton, Young at Buxton and Amos at Wolverhampton Casuals) but there is nothing new here in having such big numbers, it seems.
 
The Sports Argus of November 22, 1952, announced that 18-year-old Lionel Gaetto, signed after Wolves watched him in an RAF game at Bridgnorth, had become the ninth keeper on the books. And there were several others among the amateur ranks who seemed to rotate in the third and fourth teams.
 
Wanderers had four professional-level teams – in the old First Division, the Central League, the Birmingham League and the Worcestershire Combination. But that was still a goodly complement of ‘net minders’ to choose from.
 
I wonder what one of those custodians, David Meeson, thought of Gaetto’s arrival, especially as the latter appeared in the Central League twice before he had even signed pro. Meeson never made the second team which, as we will see, is somewhat baffling.
 
Meeson was destined to be a keeper. His father, Arthur Meeson, had started in the same role with Oxford City before signing professional forms with Arsenal in 1927. He did not make the first team but, a year later, played a solitary game after his transfer to Fulham.
 
The next two seasons were spent with Lincoln, where he managed to appear a dozen times. However, he was an amateur and good enough to play for England Amateurs at Hampden Park in 1928.
 
Sammy Chung – a member of the opposition ranks.

Young David (born on July 6, 1934) also started with the famed amateur club of his youth, Oxford City, in the Isthmian League. His abilities earned him selection for the Oxfordshire representative side, the centre-forward for them being a certain Sammy Chung, of Headington United (later to become Oxford United).

 
It was an appearance in an England Youth trial at Villa Park that drew Wolves’ attention to the 5ft 11in, 12st keeper, who Wolves signed on February 20, 1952, after a few games on trial.
 
Meeson’s first game in a Wolves shirt was in the Birmingham Combination at Boldmere St Michaels on January 5, 1952, a 3-2 defeat. He appeared in the third team seven times in his first season and eight times in the fourth team.
 
In 1952-53, the figures were 13 and six games respectively and, in his final season, three and 11. In that last term, his nose was completely pushed out by the new Irish signing, Noel Dwyer (see https://www.wolvesheroes.com/a-glimpse-of-molineux-prominence/), but, as noted earlier, there was plenty of competition.
 
The three senior keepers were headed by the imperious Bert Wiliams, with Dennis Parsons and Nigel Sims as back-up, but there was also Derek Parton and a series of other young challengers.
 
They even included Jack Broadbent, younger brother of the rather better-known Peter. Jack played for Dover and Folkestone and, after failing to make the grade at Molineux, had a similar experience at Charlton.
 
Interestingly, in June, 1952, Wolves signed an unrelated keeper with the same surname, David Broadbent. He had played for Derby Schoolboys.
 
Meeson had clearly decided that his future lay elsewhere. By the end of Wolves’ 1953-54 championship-winning season, he was on the transfer list and the word was that he was on his way to Stoke for a month’s trial.
 
As it happened, he headed to Reading on August 9, 1954. Around this time, he completed his National Service in the RAF but would go on to play 156 games in the Football League Third Division South while at Elm Park.
 
Quite what happened to the Meeson trajectory deserves deeper exploration. But approximately nine months after playing what was probably his last game for Wolves, again against Boldmere St Michaels, this time in the Worcestershire Combination in the fourth team (Wolves won 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Harry Middleton), David Meeson was the reserve goalkeeper for England Under-23s.
 
It was only the second ever under-23 international and, like the first one, was against Italy. This time it was at Chelsea, where England won 5-1 on January 19, 1955, and fielded (under the leadership of Walter Winterbottom): Reg MATTHEWS (Coventry), Bill FOULKES (Manchester United), Peter SILLETT (Chelsea, captain), Ron FLOWERS (Wolves), Trevor SMITH (Birmingham), Duncan EDWARDS (Manchester United), Harry HOOPER (West Ham), John ATYEO (Bristol City), Bob AYRE (Charlton), Johnny HAYNES (Fulham), Frank BLUNSTONE (Chelsea). The unused subs were Meeson, Stan Anderson (Sunderland) and Vic Groves (Leyton Orient).
 
Ron Flowers, an England under-23 colleague of David Meeson’s, gives chase at Villa Park to Barry Stobart – a player the keeper knew from an unusual Coventry v Wolves friendly.

It remains a mystery how a player could go in less than a year from being one of a handful of keepers fighting for the role of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ fourth-team keeper to being on the bench for England Under-23s in the shadow of Duncan Edwards, Johnny Haynes, Ron Flowers and future Wolves man Harry Hooper.

Meeson continued to earn rave reviews at Reading and, in August, 1960, legendary ex-Charlton keeper Sam Bartam wanted to sign him for Luton. It came to nought and it was Coventry boss Jimmy Hill who went calling in September, 1962.
 
He had sold Arthur Lightening to Middlesbrough for £11,000 and invested £4,000 of that in the possibility of Meeson becoming the next senior Sky Blues keeper.
 
Meeson’s debut for the Sky Blues was a nightmare (they lost 4-3 to Southend after leading 3-1 with half an hour left) and it is less than clear whether he ever entirely won over the Highfield Road fans.
 
He soon found himself competing for the keeper’s sweater with Bob Wesson. As a football-mad youngster with a special interest in goalkeepers, I always found it charming when devouring the Soccer Star magazine, that the rivalry was between Wesson and Meeson.
 
Then the Sky Blues signed Bill Glazier from Crystal Palace and both the previous keepers were clearly headed elsewhere.
 
It’s worth mentioning that, while at Coventry, David Meeson demonstrated that there was rather more to him than agility between the sticks. One day in September, 1964, he was doing some sightseeing at Coventry Cathedral and encountered a woman on the high battlements in a distressed condition. He led her down to safety, so we can suppose his abilities to save extended beyond the football pitch.
 
Meeson played 24 Third Division games for the Sky Blues, including 17-year-old Bobby Gould among his team-mates.
 
And, in February, 1963, during a notoriously bad English winter, he was part of the Coventry squad who flew to Ireland to meet his old club, Wolves, in a friendly in Belfast. Wanderers cruised to a 6-3 victory, during which Meeson replaced Wesson in the Coventry goal in the second half.
 
Jesse Pye (left) at an England get-together. Manager Walter Winterbottom is in the lighter top.

We have written about this game previously (https://www.wolvesheroes.com/air-lift-to-ireland/). For the record, Wolves fielded Fred DAVIES, George SHOWELL, Bobby THOMSON, John KIRKHAM, David WOODFIELD, Ron FLOWERS, Terry WHARTON, Chris CROWE, Ted FARMER, Barry STOBART, Alan HINTON.

Only Showell and Flowers had been Molineux colleagues of Meeson, who, in February, 1965, turned down the chance of joining Oxford United despite having always kept his home in the city.
 
He was also apparently in touch with his dad’s old team in Lincoln but that link came to nothing. And so, in July, 1966, the keeper made the move to Southern League Wisbech. They had several full-time professionals but perhaps the tilting factor in the move was that the Wisbech player-manager was a certain Jesse Pye.
 
Before long, though, Meeson moved close to his Oxford home and signed for Cheltenham, with whom he played for several seasons. He died in 1991.
 
*We at Wolves Heroes have been saddened by the news that late 1960s Wolves coach Gerry Summers has died at the age of 90. We send our condolences to his family and close friends.

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