William (Billy) McDevitt

Birth Date

5th January 1898





Biographical Text

Arguably the finest manager City ever had, this shrewd Irishman was tailor-made for a club that was living almost from hand to mouth. McDevitt was famous for obtaining good players for practically no financial outlay and then welding them into a successful combination. On the contrary, his least successful period was when he started to spend money on players. Among McDevitt’s most notable signings were goalkeeper Arthur Davies, right-back Jimmy Gray, half-backs Jack Angus and Stan Barber and centre-forward Percy Varco. With a side that cost less than £1,000, they enjoyed that great FA Cup giantkilling run of 1930-31. Moreover, when City went into the hat for the semi-finals, they made a profit without the transfer of players for only the second time in their history! Following on from this, in 1933, Billy McDevitt turned down an offer to become manager of Queen’s park rangers. However, the parting of the ways came on 26 September 1935 when most of his stars had moved elsewhere or retired. On top of that, the season had commenced with only one victory in the first nine games, including three home defeats in a row. A football manager’s past efforts count for little in such circumstances. Prior to the war, McDevitt turned to Belfast and managed Belfast Celtic and Distillery for brief spells.


Exeter's biggest Soccer "bombshell" for years was dropped on
Friday night, September 27th 1935. 

At a meeting of the directors the decision was reached that the engagement of Mr William McDevitt as manager of the Exeter City Football Club should cease. The following official statement was issued by Mr S. H. Thomas, the Club Secretary:

"Arrangements have been come to between the Exeter City F. C. and their manager, Mr McDevitt, that his engagement with the club as their manager shall come to an end. The club will at once be advertising for a new manager." The board meeting had been attended by every member.


Mr McDevitt joined Exeter City eleven years ago. He was signed by Mr Fred Mavin for the centre half-back position, and had previously played in that position for Liverpool and Swansea Town. Shortly after coming to Exeter he was converted into an inside-right, and he was acknowledged one of the best construc tive forwards the City had. His brainy tactics were largely instrumental in the development of Blackmore, who was later transferred to Bolton Wanderers for a big fee. Captaining the side for a number of years, McDevitt was one of the Southern Section's most discussed forwards, and it was only by one odd vote that he missed International honours for Ireland in 1928. He was appointed players' manager of Exeter City in 1929, in succession to Mr Dave Wilson, and within a short time built a side which brought distinction and fame to Exeter. Within two years of his taking office he forced Exeter into the glare of the national limelight by moulding a team which staggered the followers of football everywhere by its giant-killing feats in the F. A. Cup. After beating Northfleet and Coventry in the early rounds, the City went on to dismiss Derby County, Bury, and Leeds from the competition, and forcing a draw with Sunderland at Roker Park. Sunderland then put paid to the City's hopes of entering the semi-final round of the Cup by winning the replay at St James's Park before a record attendance of nearly 21,000. Shortly after this came the City's best League season on record when their promotion bid narrowly failed. In the last two years Exeter City have finished about midway in the League table. Mr McDevitt, the fourth to have filled the position of manager with Exeter City since the club embraced professionalism in the 1908-09 season, has had more than one offer for his services. He could have taken over the management of Queens Park Rangers before the appointment was given to Mr M.O'Brien, but declined. Mr McDevitt stated that he is not leaving the Exeter City club in any vindictive spirit. He wished his successor every good fortune, though he did not envy him the task.




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