Billy Steel

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Billy Steel
Billy Steel 1949.jpg
Personal information
Full name William Steel[1]
Date of birth (1923-05-01)1 May 1923[1]
Place of birth Denny, Stirlingshire,[1] Scotland
Date of death 13 May 1982(1982-05-13) (aged 59)
Place of death Lancaster, California, United States
Playing position(s) Inside-left
Youth career
Dunipace Thistle
1938 Bo'ness Cadora
1938–1939 Leicester City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1939–1942 St Mirren 0 (0)
1942–1947 Morton 9 (2)
1947–1950 Derby County 109 (27)
1950–1954 Dundee 94 (27)
National team
1947–1952 Scottish League XI 4 (2)
1947–1953 Scotland 30 (12)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William Steel (1 May 1923 – 13 May 1982) was a Scottish professional footballer who played for St Mirren, Morton, Derby County, Dundee and the Scotland national team.

One of Scotland's greatest inside forwards, Billy Steel combined a brilliant footballing brain with a busy work ethic and explosive shot. Steel was the subject of two record transfer fees during his career. As well as receiving 30 caps for Scotland, Steel made four appearances with the Scottish League, was a Scottish Cup finalist in 1952, and was a Scottish League Cup winner in 1952 and 1953. He scored a memorable goal for a Great Britain XI against the Rest of Europe in 1947. He was inducted into Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2006.[2]

Early career[edit]

Steel began his career at local juvenile side Dunipace Thistle, signing for Junior side Bo'ness Cadora in the summer of 1938, whilst still 15 years of age. He played several games at inside-left before being developed into a winger by Cadora. Leicester City manager Frank Womack was determined to get his man halfway through the season and took him on to the Filbert Street ground staff at the end of 1938; things did not work out as the boss was sacked and nobody remembered to renew his contract.[3]

While still contracted to Morton, Steel played for the British Army of the Rhine, (BAOR) who, in 1944 to 1946, were re-establishing footballing connections with other teams on the Continent. The team "visited" France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, the Channel Islands and Germany, and Steel played along with such notables as Leslie Compton, Eddie Hapgood, and Matt Busby. Demobbed in December 1946 he returned to Morton.[4][5]

1947 Billy Steel Liverpool Offer.jpg

Derby County[edit]

His £15,500 transfer from Morton to Derby County in 1947 was a then British transfer record. He was brought to Derby County after playing just a few first team games for Morton and was a good buy, going on to play for three seasons at the Baseball Ground. In that time he made 124 appearances, scoring 35 goals.[6] Steel was not always popular at Derby, especially among his fellow professionals: one dressing room incident ended in Steel being threatened with being hung on a cloakroom peg by a member of his own team. Players often accused Steel of saving his best performances for when the Rams travelled down to play the London teams. He was further disliked for his "moonlighting" (though in the days of the maximum wage for footballers he could hardly be blamed); he received payments for articles that he wrote for several newspapers, enabling him to have a more luxurious life style than his teammates. A deal with News Chronicle was said to be worth as much again as his football wage.[7]


Steel left Derby in September 1950 to return to his native Scotland, Dundee paying a Scottish record transfer fee of £22,500. He helped the club to win the Scottish League Cup in 1951–52[8] and 1952–53.[9] He was also a finalist in the 1951–52 Scottish Cup. He retired as a player in 1954.

In May 2009, Steel was inducted into Dundee F.C.'s Hall of Fame.[10]

International career[edit]

He won a total of 30 caps for Scotland, scoring 12 goals.[11] He was selected for a Great Britain XI for a match against the Rest of Europe in 1947,[12] despite having played only a handful of league games for Morton.

Retirement and emigration[edit]

In 1954 he announced he was emigrating to the US, where he managed the Los Angeles Danes, before later working in advertising.[10]

Playing style[edit]

Billy Steel had springs for muscles, a choirboy's face that masked a devouring, often ruthless determination to achieve football perfection, a caustic tongue that frequently angered team-mates more bitterly than opponents, and a style and ability that, in this modern age, would have the wealthy clubs of Europe bidding frantically for his transfer. Unlike so many of his predecessors, who were indelibly stamped with the style of their birthplace, Steel was classless. No one watching this chirpy little man in action could have said from which soccer school he graduated. His touch was Scottish of course, but later in his career he welded to that eternal grace an iron physique. He belonged to the elite corp of players: the global greats. His secret was that of Denis Law, an agile brain, a puma's pounce, and extraordinary gymnastic ability that put him a move ahead of his colleagues. There was nothing svelte about Steel: he exuded vitality, he had the killer instinct of a boxing champion, he was the type of aggressive attacker who was so keen to win that he would have sworn at his best friend if he felt he hadn't been pulling his weight.[13]

Career statistics[edit]

International appearances[edit]

Appearances and goals by national team and year[11]
National team Year Apps Goals
Scotland 1947 5 3
1948 4 0
1949 4 4
1950 7 4
1951 6 1
1952 2 0
1953 2 0
Total 30 12

International goals[edit]

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition Ref
1. 18 May 1947 Stade Heysel, Brussels  Belgium 1–1 1–2 Friendly match [11][14]
2. 24 May 1947 Stade Municipal, Luxembourg City  Luxembourg 2–0 6–0 Friendly match [11][14]
3. 3–0 [11][14]
4. 9 April 1949 Wembley Stadium, London  England 2–0 3–1 1948–49 British Home Championship [11][14]
5. 27 April 1949 Hampden Park, Glasgow  France 1–0 2–0 Friendly [11][14]
6. 2–0 [11][14]
7. 1 October 1949 Windsor Park, Belfast  Ireland 3–0 8–2 1949–50 British Home Championship [11][14]
8. 1 November 1950 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Ireland 3–1 6–1 1950–51 British Home Championship [11][14]
9. 4–1 [11][14]
10. 5–1 [11][14]
11. 6–1 [11][14]
12. 12 May 1951 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Denmark 1–1 3–1 Friendly match [11][15]


  1. ^ a b c "Billy Steel". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  2. ^ 2006 Hall of Fame inductees at Archived 24 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Billy Steel profile, Dundee FC, 29 March 2016
  4. ^ How to Play Football by Billy Steel pp.19-28
  5. ^ Billy Steel – Scotland′s Little Maestro by Bob MacAlindin pp.18-21
  6. ^
  7. ^ Garrick, Frank (2003). Raich Carter The Biography. SportsBooks Limited. p. 142. ISBN 1 899807 18 7.
  8. ^ "Soccerbase - 1951-52 Scottish Lge Cup Final". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  9. ^ "Soccerbase - 1952-53 Scottish Lge Cup Final". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  10. ^ a b "League Cup Winner - Steel". Dundee Football Club. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Billy Steel at the Scottish Football Association
  12. ^ England Player Honours - International Representative Teams, England Football Online
  13. ^ Trevor Royle; Ian Archer (2012). We'll Support You Evermore. Mainstream Sport. ISBN 9781780574219.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brown, Alan; Tossani, Gabriele (11 April 2019). "Scotland - International Matches 1946-1950". RSSSF. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  15. ^ Brown, Alan; Tossani, Gabriele (11 April 2019). "Scotland - International Matches 1951-1955". RSSSF. Retrieved 26 February 2020.

External links[edit]