All at Brentford Football Club were saddened to learn last night that former player Bill Slater had died, at the age of 91, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s and illness. Slater had two spells at Griffin Park, either side of a glittering career with Wolverhampton Wanderers and England.
Born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, on 29 April 1927, Slater began his career as a 16-year-old amateur at Blackpool in 1944 and played in the 1951 FA Cup Final in which Blackpool lost to Newcastle United, becoming the last amateur to play in an FA Cup Final at Wembley.
After finishing college, in December 1951, Slater moved to Brentford and made his Division Two debut in a 2-1 win away at Birmingham City on 5 January. The 24-year-old would go on to play eight games in total before the end of the campaign, scoring in the 1-1 home draw against Blackburn in late April.
Despite only playing a handful of times for The Bees, First Division Wolverhampton Wanderers came calling in the summer of 1952, signing Slater as a part-time professional. Over the next 11 years, the half-back proved himself to be an integral part of Wolves’ all-conquering side under Stan Cullis, winning three league titles, an FA Cup, and a Charity Shield.
In total, Slater made 339 appearances, scoring 25 goals, and was voted the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year in 1960, the same year Wolves won the FA Cup.
At international level, Slater earned 12 caps for England, as well as 20 amateur caps, playing all four games at left-half during the 1958 World Cup. He also represented Great Britain at the 1952 Olympics, scoring one of the goals as Britain were knocked out 5-3 by Luxembourg in the Preliminary Round.
After leaving Wolves in the summer of 1963, Slater returned to Griffin Park, playing a further five league games. He netted twice in a 4-2 win over Wrexham in early October and was also part of the team which won the return fixture 9-0 a week later, which still remains the club’s biggest-ever league win, before retiring at the end of the season.
After his playing days were over, he became deputy director of Crystal Palace Sports Centre, while also working as director of PE at both Liverpool and Birmingham University. In 1989 Slater became president of the British Gymnastics Association and later joined the National Olympic Committee, after his daughter Barbara represented her country at the 1976 Olympics Games as a gymnast.
Slater, a father of four and grandfather of eight, received public recognition in his later years in the form of a 1982 OBE and 1998 CBE at Buckingham Palace.
The thoughts of everyone at Brentford are with Bill’s family and friends at this time.