The ascent of Billy Kirsopp in the mid-1910s carried elements of Roy of the Rovers fantasy. Spotted playing for Wallasey Borough against Ormskirk in the obscurity of the Liverpool Combination in March 1914 by Harry Makepeace, he was trailed over the following month by Everton who, when they got scent of interest by Blackburn Rovers, signed him up. Within a year he was a League Champion.
On 1 January 1915 injury to Frank Jefferis saw Kirsopp called up to the first-team fold for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. He scored Everton’s only goal in a 1-1 draw that was described as ‘exceedingly fortunate’. But it put Everton up to second place and in many ways launched a league title challenge. For the rest of the season Kirsopp, a small, slight inside right, who barely weighed 10 stone, occupied Jefferis’s shirt and contributed nine goals in just 16 appearances, which were to prove crucial in Everton’s eventual title victory by a single point over Oldham.
AND YET FOR all his goals, Kirsopp won only grudging praise. When he scored journalists seemed obliged to highlight his shortcomings. Even the Everton programme damned him with faint praise. ‘Possessing a good knowledge of the requirements of an inside forward, he needs to be more alert in dealing with a pass and transferring the ball to a favourably-placed comrade,’ it sniped. ‘There is a tendency on his part to keep the ball too long, thereby enabling the opposing half back to baffle him. Quickness of action and rapidity in making an opening are essential qualities for an inside forward to show if he means to be a success.’
Kirsopp played regularly in the regional leagues during the First World War until the end of 1916, when he was presumably called into action. He resurfaced for the 1919/20 season, where he scored almost a goal every other game, but never seemed to win the adulation of the crowd. He lost his place to Stan Fazackerley the following campaign and was sold to Bury for £450 in May 1921. His departure came on the same day another 1915 hero, Bobby Parker, joined Nottingham Forest.