Billy McCullough (born 27 July 1935 – full name William James McCullough) was born in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland.
He played initially for Portadown a club in the Province with a long history and tradition. The club was formed in 1887, and for much of its history, it was a regular run of the mill club – which is what it was when Billy McCullough played there. In fact their rise to stardom didn’t happen until the late 1980s when the club won the Irish League, the Ulster Cup, and the Budweiser Cup.
Billy missed all this – and also the club’s first run in Europe with an appearance in 1962 in the Cup Winners Cup.
But back to Billy himself – in 1958 he moved from N Ireland to London and was signed by Arsenal playing his first game on Boxing Day that year against Luton Town. I believe he was signed in the summer of 1958, and thus would be one of George Swindin’s first signings, he having taken over Jack Crayston in June.
When he arrived Dennis Evans was the regular number three – although for a handful of games at the end of the 1958/9 season Evans moved to right back so McCullough could play left back. It is suggested in some reports this was a long term move – but it wasn’t – it just occurred in five games in the first season.
In 1959/60 McCullough replaced Evans for a major part of the season, I believe because of injury to Evans, with Billy making 33 league appearances.
Then in 1960/1 he made the left back position his own when he only missed a single league match.
Swindin had moved Len Wills to right back in this season but in 1961/2 Arsenal played mostly with Magill at right back and McCullough at left back.
Finally in 1962/3 Billy McCullough did what he had been threatening to do for some time – he played all 42 league games – and all four FA Cup games in one season
The sadness of McCullough must have been that he came to the club at such a bad time, as this table shows:
|Season||League Games||League position||FA Cup||Manager|
|1958/9||10||3rd||5th round (Sheffield United)||Swindin|
|1959/60||33||13th||3rd round (Rotherham United)||Swindin|
|1960/1||41||11th||3rd round (Sunderland)||Swindin|
|1961/2||40||10th||4th round (Manchester United)||Swindin|
|1962/3||42||7th||5th round (Liverpool)||Wright|
|1963/4||40||8th||5th round (Liverpool)||Wright|
|1964/5||30||13th||4th round (Peterborough U)||Wright|
|1965/6||17||14th||3rd round (Blackburn R)||Wright|
Billy McCullough therefore had the great misfortune to play under two managers who managed to achieve precious little beyond keeping Arsenal in the first division. The league position and cup record were awful, and Arsenal were always seen as a good chance for a Cup shock.
But at least during this time Billy was able to notch up some caps for Northern Ireland. His first was achieved in April 1961 and he played ten times for the province, ending in 1966.
He was replaced at Arsenal by Peter Storey, and when Bertie Mee took over in 1966 he made McCullough (then31) available for transfer.
He made his final appearance for Arsenal on 19 March 1966 against Manchester United, away, wherein he was substituted and replaced by Peter Simpson. Arsenal lost 2-1.
Billy then moved to Millwall in August 1966, and later played for Bedford Town, Cork Celtic and Derry City.
Billy must now be 78 years old, but I am sorry to say I don’t know what he did after playing for Derry City. If you know, please do tell.
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