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Player Details : John Thomas McGrath
Demographic Information
Name John Thomas McGrath
Date of Birth23/08/1938
Place of BirthManchester, England
PositionCentre Half
Newcastle Statistics
Years 1961 - 1968
Debut:11/02/1961 - Leicester City [A] --- (L 3-5)
Appearances:181   [Starts: 180,  Subs: 1]
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Known as "Big John", McGrath was a big, rugged defender who started his football career as an amateur with Bolton Wanderers.

John only spent a short time with Bolton and as a 17-year old signed professional papers for Bury, who were at the time in the old Division Two. In 1957 Bury were relegated to what was then known as Division Three (North), which in 1958 along with Division Three (South) were altered to form Divisions Three and Four. Due to their high finish in 1958 Bury were placed in the Third Division.

Bury won the Third Division Championship in 1961, with McGrath having been a very significant contributor in their defence. Even though he came to Newcastle before the season had finished (£24,000 plus Bob Stokoe), he had made enough appearances for Bury to earn himself a Championship medal. His league tally with Bury was 148 games and 2 goals.

Being brought to St James's Park ostensibly to help shore up the defence, and thus avoid relegation, it was in vain as Newcastle were relegated to Division Two. For the next three seasons McGrath established himself at Newcastle and was the cornerstone of the team that gained promotion back to the First Division in 1965. For the next two seasons McGrath was again a solid and committed player, but with Newcastle strenghtening their squad he had to fight hard to hold his first team place and was not always the first choice in defence. In March 1968, now at the age of 29, he was transferred to fellow First Division strugglers Southampton.

He saw out his playing days at The Dell after having made 167 appearances, scoring one goal. He remained at Southampton however to take up a coaching role with the club. In 1979 he moved into management with Port Vale, winning promotion to the Third Division in the 1982-83 season after finishing third in the League. However things moved rapidly downhill at Vale Park as John and Vale Chairman Jim Llyodhad some very public disagreements and on 05/12/1983, John was sacked as manager. He then had a six month spell as manager at Chester City (01/11/1984 - 31/05/1984). Taking a two year break John was enticed back into management by Preston North End. He took them into the Third Division, winning promotion in 1987 and two seasons later getting them to the promotion play-offs. Having taken them as far as he could he parted company with Preston and in the summer of 1991 he took over at the helm of Halifax Town. At the time Halifax were in desperate state. There was no money for players, John was literally on a hiding to nothing and it was no surprise to anyone when in November 1992 he was sacked.

John then quit football altogether and with his famous wit (or infamous should that be) he became a very popular after-dinner speaker and soccer pundit on local radio. John sadly passed away on Christmas Day 1998, aged 60.

Notable Transfers
Date From To Fee
February 1961 Bury Newcastle United Player + Cash
March 1968 Newcastle United Southampton £30,000

LMA, (ud), John McGrath, Managerial History, League Managers Association,, [Accessed: 07/06/2009],

NUFC, 1964, Official Programme 24/08/1964, G.F. Laybourne & Co. Ltd., Newcastle, England,

Ponting, I., 1999, Obituary: John McGrath, The Independent,, [Accessed: 26/07/2009],

Scott, K.H, 2015, Newcastle United Day by Day, KayLynM Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, ISBN: 978-0-9934201-0-8,