Before he signed for Fosse in 1904, Bannister (pictured, centre, bottom row) had played at centre-half for Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Woolwich Arsenal and England. He was one of the Fossils' best players. He hardly missed a game for five years, captaining the team to promotion to the top flight in 1908.
While at Burnley, between 1899 and 1901, he won his first England cap. It was reported that ‘good judges predicted for him a brilliant career.’
After spending a season at Bolton, when he was again capped by England, he transferred to Woolwich Arsenal before moving to Second Division side Leicester Fosse in time for the 1904/05 season, having helped the London side to promotion to the top flight in 1904.
By the time he led the Fossils to the top flight in 1908, he had acquired the status of a Leicester legend. One report said of him: 'There are few centre half-backs who place the ball with greater accuracy or judgement'.
The ‘Fosse Football Album’ of 1906 described Billy as: 'One of the most popular players to have donned Fosse colours. The Club has never had a more earnest or loyal player. He fills the centre-half position with credit to himself and the town. He rarely has an off day. He is earnest and eager from start to finish. His love of the game makes it impossible for him to take things easy. He has the weight and judgement to deal with any forward. The Club will never have a more reliable or steady centre-half'.
He was also a character off the field. He had a strong dressing room presence. The Aston Villa programme notes for their game against Leicester Fosse in 1908 described Billy as a man who enjoyed 'larking about' stating that he was 'a practical joker, found guilty of many offences!'
The Fosse were relegated in 1909. Later that year, Billy was granted a benefit match. He returned to Burnley in 1910 and retired in 1913, following a spell at Crewe Alexandra.
Between then and his death in 1942, Billy started in the licensed trade in 1914 in Leicester on Welford Road and, after a spell back in Burnley as a publican, he was listed as landlord of the Woolcombers Arms in Lower Churchgate until he passed away.
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