Looking Back At: Trevor Meath

Welcome to the latest of Malcom Johnson’s articles featuring players from the late sixties / early seventies.

 

Trevor Meath

Date of birth: 20.3.44, Born: Wednesbury, Staffordshire

Height: 5ft 11½ in, Position: Midfield

City appearances: League: 42(1), 5 goals,  FA & League Cups: 6, Total: 48(1), 5 goals

 

Trevor John Meath attracted the attention of no less a club than Chelsea after playing for the East Staffordshire Schools team but turned down the offer of an apprenticeship with the London club in order to train as an electrician and play for his local Birmingham & District League side Darlaston. However, he was then fairly soon signed as a full-time professional by Walsall while being allowed to complete his electrician’s training.

Meath made his first team debut for Walsall at the age of 20 in November 1964 and went on to make irregular appearances for the Third Division club over the next five years both in midfield and up front, scoring 11 goals in a total of 67 league games.

After failing to sustain a promotion challenge in Division Four the previous season Lincoln City had made a disappointing start to 1969/70 and by the end of September were in 17th place with just two wins to their name. The lack of success could be seen as partly due to the lack of an effective partner to leading scorer Rod Fletcher up front, and since the departure of Jim Smith in the summer a lack of strength in midfield. Given his record at Walsall Meath must have been seen as a solution to either one of these problems, and with a record of 11 games and one goal for the Third Division side in the season so far was seen as a good signing for City when manager Ron Gray paid £4,000 for him at the beginning of October.

With an injury to Ray Harford causing Phil Hubbard to drop back into defence Trevor Meath made his debut for the Imps in midfield at Sincil Bank in a 1-0 win over Exeter City, coming close to opening his scoring account straight away by twice hitting the woodwork. A second home game came the following Wednesday night and Ron Gray in his programme notes welcomed the newcomer: “Trevor is renowned to be a very strong and a whole hearted player. Although he adorned the no. 4 shirt for the Red Imps on Saturday and had an admirable debut, he can also play a striking role.” In that game City produced their best performance of the season to beat a promotion-challenging York City side 4-0. The Lincolnshire Chronicle match report singled out Meath for praise as looking like becoming Ron Gray’s best signing as he “set a fine example of determined play in midfield.”

Meath’s first goal for the club, scored in the 88th minute to secure a point in a 1-1 draw at Aldershot, was described by Ron Gray: “Trevor midway inside the opponents’ half collected the ball, with sheer strength brushed off a couple of defenders and crashed the ball home from just inside the goal area”.

The point at Aldershot moved City up to 11th place in the table but a setback came with a home defeat to Scunthorpe which then saw Meath take over in attack from Alick Jeffrey for a 2-2- draw at Swansea. However, he failed to score from that position as mixed results saw City remain below mid-table and exit the FA Cup at the Second Round stage to Third Division Bradford City. Meath reverted to midfield as Jack Lewis was given a turn up front, and scored again in another away draw at Southend as City’s form began to pick up after the Christmas period, his third goal for the club then contributed to the first away win for four months as Chester were beaten 2-1.

City moved up to 9th place with a 2-0 win over Grimsby as Meath made it three goals in two games. Powering his way through the Sincil Bank mud and the Mariners’ defence alike he put City 1-0 up before half time and then sealed victory with a 20-yard shot just before the end, inspiring a classic headline in the Echo: “Big Trevor Makes MinceMeat(h) of Grimsby Town”.

But two days later in a Lincolnshire Cup tie at Gainsborough Meath took a knock on his right knee which later in the week began to feel sore, However, he was included in the side to visit league leaders Chesterfield the following Saturday. Seen to be in some trouble during the pre-match warmup he nevertheless started the game but broke down after ten minutes and could only limp through the rest of the half, not returning after the interval. About three weeks later he went into hospital for what was expected to be a cartilage operation but it was discovered that an abscess had formed at the back of the kneecap which meant it had to be amputated.

With the season over for him it was also the end of a real promotion challenge from City as they once again finished 8th. Trevor Meath’s appearances for the season totalled 16 league and 2 FA Cup games with 5 goals scored.

In order to strengthen his leg muscles in his fight back to fitness the player determined to go over and above the normal course of treatment, cycling to and from the hospital from his North Hykeham home eight times a week. His hard work paid off sufficiently for him to be available for pre-season training in the summer although not initially up to match fitness for the start of the 1970/71 season. Returning to reserve team action at the beginning of September he was back in the first team squad by the end of October, coming off the bench for the last 10 minutes of a 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth. But it was then back to the reserves as still lacking in fitness he was unable to help alleviate a series of injury problems for City.

Meath was back in the squad as substitute for a home defeat to Colchester on Boxing Day then started up front in the absence of Percy Freeman in another defeat at Northampton but was then out of the side again for three games as it was clear he was still not fully fit. But after a strong performance in a reserve match he was back for a couple of games in midfield as Derek Trevis now filled the injured Freeman’s place up front. Replaced by new signing Nobby Lawton for a home defeat to Notts County Meath was then called upon for a run of seven out of nine games as City’s injury woes continued requiring him to play in some of these either in central defence or at right back. Back in midfield for a couple of games injury then kept him out until the last game of the season to leave him with a final total of 14 appearances in a season which had never really seen him back to a full level of fitness. Despite having been in and out of the side since the appointment of David Herd as manager in an unsuccessful attempt to keep City out of the re-election zone, Herd had evidently seen enough of Meath to include him amongst the players retained during the summer.

With the pre-season behind him Meath was now fully fit and went straight into the side for the start of the 1971/72 season although playing alongside Terry Branston in the centre of defence. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported the pair formed an “unshakeable barrier” in an opening day 2-0 win over Colchester United, going on to say their strong play provided the base for the victory. More “stout play” followed as Scunthorpe were beaten in the League Cup although defeat then followed in an immediate return to the Old Showground in Division Four action.

After five games in defence the return to fitness of Percy Freeman allowed Derek Trevis to move back to play alongside Branston and Meath then began to show what he could do in midfield again. Playing alongside the skilful Dave Smith and hardworking newcomer Frankie McMahon Meath supplied the steel in the centre of what was to be a successful 4-3-3 formation. All three were outstanding as a Blackburn Rovers side newly relegated from the Second Division were beaten 4-1 in a League Cup replay at Sincil Bank.

City’s excellent home form saw them in 7th place in the league table after another 4-1 win, this time over Exeter City. Setbacks then came with defeats at Colchester and Doncaster and in the second of these, tragedy struck for Meath. On a heavy pitch he twisted his right knee under a challenge and was stretchered off after 34 minutes. The diagnosis was torn cruciate ligaments and once again he was forced into a long battle to regain fitness. Three months later it seemed the knee might be improving and a specialist’s opinion gave hope that he could get back to training and playing again. He was in fact able to return to light training but was nowhere near to fitness as City finished the season one point shy of a promotion place, Meath’s contribution being a total of 17 appearances in the league and League Cup.

During the summer Trevor Meath’s second fight back to fitness continued with strengthening exercises on the knee followed by light training involving jogging and weights. He was able to make a playing comeback towards the end of August 1972, scoring in an A team match against Brigg Town and also began to feature regularly for the Reserves. A return to first team action of a sort came when he played in a Lincolnshire Cup tie against Scunthorpe at the beginning of September, and he was considered for the subs’ bench for the following Saturday’s meeting with Hereford. But with no real improvement by mid-October, Meath at the age of 28 finally had to admit defeat in his chances of playing league football again.

Manager David Herd was able to call on his top-level contacts as a former Manchester United player and arranged a star-studded testimonial match for Meath which took place at the beginning of December, the evening before Herd was sacked following an up-and-down season for City. In front of a rather disappointing attendance of around 2,000 a Lincoln City All-Star XI including current international and later Imps manager Allan Clarke beat a strong Crystal Palace line-up 3-1 with goals from Herd himself, Tony Brown of West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City’s Terry Conroy.

Meath unsuccessfully attempted a comeback with Boston United, playing for their reserve side later in the season and later spent time with United Counties League side Holbeach United while continuing to live at North Hykeham and taking up his pre-football career as an electrician once again.

One player doesn’t make a team (although the performances of Bob Cumming in City’s 1987/88 Conference-winning season could argue otherwise) but to some of us who were around at the time the injury immediately after big Trevor’s ‘MinceMeat(h)’ performance against Grimsby cost City promotion that season. His second injury to the same knee in the failed promotion campaign of 1971/72 was arguably less critical to City’s cause as John Kurila eventually came into the side and did a pretty good job in providing the strength in midfield.

Trevor Meath’s Football League record totalled 110 appearances with 16 goals scored and his career can’t be better summed up than by quoting from the Pen Picture of him that appeared in away match programmes in the 1971/72 season: “Tremendously strong player…Has been unlucky with injuries.”

Thanks to Gary Parle for some of the information contained in this article.

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