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John McGrath
Personal information
Full name John Thomas McGrath
Date of birth 23 August 1938(1938-08-23)
Place of birth Manchester, England
Date of death 25 December 1998 (aged 60)
Place of death Manchester, England
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Playing position Defender
Youth career
Miles Platting Swifts
Bolton Wanderers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1955–1960 Bury 148 (2)
1960–1968 Newcastle United 170 (2)
1968–1974 Southampton 168 (1)
1973 Brighton & Hove Albion (loan) 3 (0)
Total 489 (5)
Teams managed
1979–1983 Port Vale
1984 Chester City
1986–1990 Preston North End
1992 Halifax Town
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

John Thomas McGrath (23 August 1938 – 25 December 1998) was an English footballer and manager in the Football League.


Playing career

McGrath started out as an amateur player with local team Miles Platting Swifts and then Bolton Wanderers, but it was with Bury that he began his professional career in October 1955.[1] In 1960 however, McGrath found himself the subject of a bid by Newcastle United and after nearly five years with Bury, in which he made 148 appearances scoring two goals, he left for St James' Park for a £24,000 fee.[1]

Because of his no nonsense attitude and uncompromising style as a defender McGrath soon became a real favourite with the Toon Army and in seven years with the Geordies played 170 games scoring two goals before making the long trip to Southampton in 1968 for £30,000.[1]

McGrath again became somewhat of a cult hero with The Dell faithful during what was a difficult time for the club, not only playing 168 games, but also making his mark as a very shrewd coach. He also during this period played three games on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Coaching and management


Port Vale

After retiring from playing at the end of 1973-74 season McGrath joined the Southampton coaching staff but it was after becoming Port Vale manager in December 1979 that he really found his true vocation. A man of discipline, within his first fortnight with the club he had levied two fines.[2] He demanded dedication and effort from his players and managed to steady the ship at Vale Park, eventually leading the club to promotion in 1982-83.[2] The following season however McGrath was in conflict with chairman Jim Lloyd, who instructed him to speak to the press only on team matters. By December 1983, Vale were three points adrift at the foot of Division Three and McGrath was sacked.[2]

During his time at Vale Park he made some unorthodox decisions; such as putting fifteen players on the transfer list at once, taking the team for a swim at Blackpool and one time sending assistant manager John Rudge hundreds of miles on a scouting mission, only to rip up the report in the dressing room, declaring to his players that 'It's not about them, it's about us!'[3]

Chester City

He became manager of Chester City in January 1984, who were struggling at the foot of the Fourth Division, but some improved results (including a derby win over Wrexham) gave cause for optimism for the following season. McGrath added experience in players such as John Butcher, Steve Fox, Mick Speight and Nigel Walker but Chester continued to struggle at the wrong end of Division Four. He lost his job in December 1984, after a 5–1 loss to Stockport County. Although results were not always impressive, McGrath began to mould the side that would to go on to win promotion in 1985–86 after further strengthening by Mick Speight and Harry McNally. McGrath gave future England international Lee Dixon his first taste of regular first-team football when at Chester.

Preston North End

Twelve months later though that changed as Preston North End came calling. This once proud club was on its knees and after ending the 1985–86 season in 91st position (in the Football League) they needed some new blood and new ideas. McGrath was just the man for the job, although he was not the board's not first choice, with Preston courting the services of Tranmere manager Johnny King and Port Vale boss John Rudge before settling on McGrath.

With the newly laid plastic pitch already installed McGrath assembled a squad of free transfer old pros, lower league journeymen and young cast-offs to fire the team to promotion in his first season. He was seen as a hero and after four years of relative success McGrath departed in February 1990 leaving Preston in a far healthier position that when he'd found them. Apart from a short spell in charge of Halifax Town in 1992 he never managed again.

Career after football

John became for a while a much sought after after dinner speaker, but on Christmas Day 1998 he died suddenly at his Manchester home.


As a player

Newcastle United

As a manager

Port Vale
Preston North End


External links


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