Over the years, it could be argued, Birmingham has often been too modest about its achievements.
Other cities vaunt themselves shamelessly, sometimes gracelessly and groundlessly, to the skies.
Birmingham has plenty to shout about, make no mistake, but has not always felt the need to shout. Even when the subject is a source of enormous and fully-justified pride.
The grave of William McGregor was a prime example of such modesty. Until this week.
When McGregor died, 100 years ago, on December 20, 1911, the city lost a giant of a man.
His input into his community was many-stranded. Scotland-born, but warmly-adopted Brummie from early adulthood, McGregor was a long-standing member of Wheeler Street Congregational Church, a staunch Liberal and a prominent businessman through the family firm of drapers.
A teetotaller, he was a man of much energy and many interests but none of his passions were greater than football – and his beloved Aston Villa where he held, at various times, every significant off-field position, including chairman.
McGregor was deeply embedded in Birmingham life but possessed too much talent for his influence to remain merely parochial.
And that influence was to spread not just beyond the city limits around this country but worldwide.
As founder of the Football League, in 1888, ‘Mac’ left an indelible mark upon English history.
In that single visionary act he shaped the spare time of a nation (and the world, as the English League was copied around the globe) for generations to come. Perhaps forever.
William McGregor took the unwieldy mess that was football in its formative years and transformed it into a structure that became integral to day-to-day life.
One that would supply comfort after the horrors of war, maintain spirits through austere times and, year in and year out, simply give millions of lives a lot of fun.
Yet when McGregor passed away, aged 61, although his funeral drew the great and the good of English football to St Mary’s Church, Handsworth, the monument upon his resting place was plain, containing a simple family inscription.
In 1911, of course, the Football League was still relatively young, in its 23rd year. The magnitude it was to assume could not then be known.
But it is known now. A 100 years on the immense legacy left by McGregor is clear.
Worth a mention for posterity on his headstone, for sure. And, thanks to Aston Villa Supporters Trust, the omission, humbly made, has been respectfully rectified.
On Tuesday, a century to the day since McGregor died, his gravestone, restored and amended, was rededicated by the Bishop of Aston the Rt Revd Andrew Watson.
Among those in attendance were Football League president Lord Brian Mawhinney, former Villa chairman Doug Ellis and representatives of all 12 original members of the League.
Speaking inside St Mary’s, Mawhinney speculated that McGregor, a man of great humility, would be “chuffed” to see his centenary marked in this way and “gobsmacked” to learn that, between 2000 and 2010, the competition he created, now 72-strong, attracted, annually, more than 16 million spectators.
That impressive figure was achieved, added Mawhinney, without the “luminaries” of the Premiership.
Here, perhaps, was the elephant in the room.
There we were, assembled to pay homage to a man who created a league for the collective benefit of all its members – an aim which it retains today despite having been crassly deserted by the ‘big boys’ in 1992.
Little wonder if some club representatives in the front pews were squirming a little.
The motives behind creating the Football League in 1888 and forming the Premiership 104 years later were both financial but, in essence, poles apart – one designed to shore up and mutually protect, the other to plunder and install a system whereby the richest would continue to plunder most.
McGregor, it’s safe to say, would cringe.
That poignant notion did nothing to detract from the dignity of Tuesday’s excellent ceremony at the very spot where, 100 years ago, McGregor was laid to rest.
The 61-year-old died on the morning of Wednesday December 20, 1911.
He had undergone surgery in the spring and recovered but fallen ill again while travelling in mid-December. On December 19 he had another operation but died the following day.
At half-past two on Saturday, December 23, a Memorial Service for his very special life began at Wheeler Street Congregational Church.
His coffin was carried into the building to Chopin’s Funeral March. Many tributes followed and his favourite hymns – O God Our Help In Ages Past and Peace Perfect Peace – were sung.
Then the coffin was borne to St Mary’s where, at half-past three, McGregor was interred. Just down the road, his beloved Villa were playing a First Division game at home to Sheffield United.
Villa’s players wore black armbands and beat the Blades 1-0, Charlie Wallace scoring the only goal in front of a crowd of 14,500.
At the graveside, meanwhile, tucked close to the western edge of the sprawling churchyard, were stacked more than 60 wreaths. Many were in club colours, from Blackburn, Blackpool, Derby, Everton, Newcastle, Notts County, Sunderland and others. Some came from abroad.
The German Football Association sent a delegate. McGregor was widely respected overseas having been entrusted by the Football Association with arranging many trips to Europe and beyond for national and club teams.
Though the funeral clashed with a round of league fixtures, many clubs and almost every football organisation in the country were represented.
Over subsequent decades McGregor’s grave, like the churchyard around it, deteriorated but now, thanks to the Trust and, in particular, the diligence of writer and historian Peter Lupson, it is restored – and amended.
Its inscription alerts visitors to the importance of the man buried beneath. Below the names of Jessie (William’s beloved wife, who died three years before him) and the great man himself on the white stone are the words: ‘Founder of the Football League and chairman of Aston Villa.’
Set just a few yards from the lake, where walkers and cyclists constantly pass by, it is a perfect, unpretentious tribute to a man who never courted fame or even attention but quietly shaped the destiny of English, and world, football.