Billy Urmson - Remembered

Last updated : 09 January 2005 By Dave Moore
In February 2003, Billy Urmson was asked to step down from his role of senior youth team coach after having been been with the club for 27 years. His assistant, David Cross, was also part of the redundancy package. As a tribute to the sterling work that Billy did, we have collected the following acknowledgements from the people he knew and worked with.

Former Manager Iain Dowie
“Both Billy and David have made my short stay at the club a pleasurable one in terms of their help, both professionally and personally. Billy is an enthusiastic coach with a great record of providing players. It has been Latics' benefit that he has been working at the club for a number of years.

Oldham chief executive Alan Hardy
“My heartfelt gratitude goes to Bill Urmson. These redundancies are something we would have liked to avoid. But due to increasing financial pressures it was necessary that economies were made through all departments, including coaching, as well as the recent redundancies from players, administration and groundstaff. I have known Billy and David as friends for a number of years and to have to sit down and discuss redundancies with them has not been easy.

We have enjoyed some wonderful footballing moments together. I would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the all the hard work and dedication put in by David and Billy over their many years association with the Latics. Although no longer involved in first-team affairs, I hope Billy can work in some part-time capacity in other areas. Billy has been a devoted and loyal servant to Oldham Athletic for 27 years. We cannot praise him enough.”

Former Chairman Ian H. Stott
“Billy Urmson was born in Little Lever, Bolton. He joined Bury, as an amateur in 1955 at the age of 16. He subsequently played at Stockport and Caernarvon but the turning point came when he joined Alan Ball Senior at Nantwich, for it was through him that he became involved and interested in coaching. Indeed he was Alan Ball's demonstrator when Alan ran courses. A return spell at Bury as youth, then first team coach was followed by three years as Manager of Horwich RMI before he was "headhunted" to come and coach the youngsters at Boundary Park in 1974.

Before turning full-time, Billy was once a French Polisher and some of this art must have rubbed off on him to make him the smooth finished talker he is - at least to the office staff. Perhaps the youth team may think otherwise when they are assailed by a voice that needs the assistance of neither a loud hailer nor, I suspect a telephone. But we all know his bark is worse than his bite, and it is all born out of his enthusiasm for and love of the game and the players in his charge.

Terry McDermot passed through his hands at Bury and is Billy's favourite player. Here he thinks of Carl Valentine and Wayne Harrison and can point to the fact Mike Milligan, Nick Henry, Andy Barlow, Paul Bernard and Paul Gerrard, all who featured in the first team squad having survived the Billy Urmson academy. This is surely a record any Premier League Club would be proud of.”

Oldham Chronicle Reporter Tony Bugby
Bill Urmson could have easily been lost to professional football. It took the persuasiveness of former manager Jimmy Frizzell to tempt Bill to quit a job in industry as a French Polisher and return to the game on a full-time basis. That was 19 years ago and Bill now proudly boasts of being the longest serving member of the Latics’ backroom staff.

Terry McDermott, guided by Bill at Bury, was arguably the player who went on to achieve the greatest success with Newcastle, Liverpool and England, winning 25 caps and being named 'Footballer of the year'. Bill estimates that at least 30 of his young trainees have gone on to make a living as full-time professionals. And in view of his success rate, it is hardly surprising that manager Joe Royle describes him as the “best in the business”.

In his youth Bill spent four years at Bury but could not afford to turn professional for £15 a-week, less than he was earning as a French Polisher. He drifted into non-League with Carnarvon,Oswestry and Nantwich where he teamed up with the late Alan Ball.

He returned to Gigg Lane to look after the kids but there were times when he was called upon to look after the first team. The same applied at Latics when Bill Taylor was taken ill, then so tragically died.

Latics Clubcall Editor Jack Dearden
If you wanted to locate Bill at Boundary Park, you would just stand and listen. Certainly you will inevitably hear a monstrous chuckle of laughter, then by walking in the general director of the noise you are sure to find Bill. Even when he is not laughing he's loud and boisterous. Bill doesn't confine himself to the regime of being seen and not heard - in fact it's just the opposite, it's a certainly you will hear him before you see him, thats a fact of Bill’s footballing life. He's a character who can't resist a good laugh - and thats how he prefered his players on the field, with a smile on their faces.

The dedication to football in general and Latics in particular is total. He didn't do things by half measures (unless it was his round). He demanded commitment from the club’s youngsters, and if they couldn't provide it, he didn't understand why. But he wouldn't sulk about it. No way, he just told them straight because that’s the way he is. No beating about the bush.

He gained respect from the clubs senior players as well as the youngsters. He is not a "yes" man, he speaks his mind. His principals on football are strong, his appetite for the game he loves is stronger. Bill's outlook basically is “We enjoy the good times, battle to put it right when things go wrong, and above all else we always retain a sense of humour”. And that just about sums up Bill - life's a laugh - enjoy it!

Publishing Manager Gordon Lawton
The first person I met at Boundary Park back in 1986 was Billy Urmson, and I'll never forget his first words, “Where have you been a grow bag?” From that moment onwards Billy has been one of my best friends both in and out of football.

He is the most enthusiastic person I have ever met when it comes to soccer. He pulls no punches and tells you exactly what he thinks. He calls a shovel a spade. He lives and breathes Oldham Athletic Football Club!!!!

His daughter Rebecca summed up the man...
“Billy Urmson was a man of many personalities. I am still myself trying to get to know Billy Urmson. Me and my sister Emma were adopted at a young age by Mr. & Mrs. Urmson. Little did we realise what a difference our lives would become. I remember Christmas morning, me and my sister would just be getting up to open our presents and he would be off out the door, because there was something important he had to do because of Oldham Athletic, whether it was because he had to watch a new potential player, I don't know!”

“I remember holidays abroad and on long car journeys he used to keep us interested by giving us players initials and we had to work out the players name. I got pretty good. My dad loved Oldham, when he woke up in the morning the first thing on his mind was football, I don't just mean football, I mean Oldham Athletic. I can't describe his love, I really wish I could. His love for Oldham did come before his family Don't get me wrong he loved his family but the love he felt for Oldham Athletic is undescribable. It was like an obsession he needed to be part of the club. He tried so hard he gave his all and more. And yet who is Billy Urmson, I am his daughter and yet I don't know?”

“When I was young I was jealous of Oldham Athletic, for the simple reason my dad wasn't their on my birthday or Christmas, Oldham Athletic had his love, but as the years went by I found myself loving Oldham the way he did, I felt the same obsession, the same addiction. I came to the point were I looked upon Oldham Athletic and it's staff as my family!”

“Then not so long ago the news came that he was being made redundant. It came as shock to all the family. My dad stayed strong!!!!! Then a few weeks later a tumour was found on his lung! The biggest thing that hurt my dad wasn't the tumour, it was the fact that Oldham Athletic was no longer in his life. They had turned his back on him. He deserved a lot more recognition than what he got. Come on he was there for 27 years. But no-one has heard of heard of Billy Urmson. I am asking you now to please let him know he was never just a shadow in the back ground! Right now he is not the same Billy Urmson that we all know and love, he's different, he is a shadow of what he was!”

My dad deserves the recognition, so please give it to him.

When he had to leave Boundary Park Billy Urmson himself said,
"It has been a pleasure to work with Joe and Willie over the last eleven years. Joe is by far the best manager I've ever worked with...! Finally I would like to settle many arguments. I am continually being asked about Joe's best buy over the years...and in my opinion there is no has to be the fridge that was in Joe's office where we kept all the Budweisers!!!"