Wednesday, 5 June 2013

No Falkirk FC Grave - Jimmy McPhie

I was going to check the new bit of Camelon Cemetery in case something surprising turned up, and also with the hope that I might come across the grave of James McPhie, but when I checked my book of collected Falkirk FC Obituaries [yes, I am that sad] they said he was to be cremated so it is most probable there is nowhere for me to find [I might be wrong I have never had to get involved at the sharp end yet .........].

I wanted to find a grave for several reasons, but mainly because of two reasons I wanted to do a blog post, first he is one of the main links between Falkirk in the pre & post WWII eras [the other being Kenny Dawson, about whom I have already posted] the other being that Jimmy was the youngest Falkirk player I know about for certain [though it must be said William Lees might have still been younger when he played in a Stirlingshire Cup match in 1892, but that is still unclear]. Jimmy was still a schoolboy when he was allowed to play in a benefit match for the first team against East Stirlingshire two days after his sixteenth birthday on the 27th of August 1936.

Jimmy had already been a success at schoolboy level, so it was not such a surprise he came to the attention of Falkirk at such a tender age, but in the rough and tumble of Division 1 football in the 1930s [when goalkeepers were knocked over the line by a shoulder-charge and it was considered a goal to the Centre-Forward], but Falkirk kept tabs on him, signing him up professionally a year later. I do not need to say that James was great across all the five back positions because his career lasted nearly twenty years [and average players do not last that long], but he was particularly adept at either Left or Right Back.

His Falkirk career [proper] began toward the end of the 1937/38 season, still a teenager, with a huge career ahead of him. But we all know what is coming.

To this day I do not understand exactly what Adolf Hitler had against Scottish Football to try to disrupt it as much as he did, but many players had to go to the defence of the SFA, in order that we may now watch what we must.

I also do not know if Jimmy actually saw action, but he certainly contributed, being a training instructor in the RAF at the rank of Sergeant. During the War he also guested with Preston North End & Reading [he may have played for more ... [but the abysmal state of research of English football 1939-1945 means I am yet to ascertain the details [This is understandable as apparently quite a lot of England was also engaged in the "Battle for the Defence of Scottish Football [as it is properly known]]].

After Scottish Football had been successfully defended, Jimmy returned to Bonnybridge and to the welcoming arms of a Falkirk team which had not come out of the war as well as it had entered it. This was a period of rebuilding [although Adolph only killed [murdered] one Falkirk player as far as I know [blog post is coming about Edwin Young], Falkirk had played two teams [at some expense] for a lot of the war where many other clubs just stopped, kept their money in the bank and watched from the sidelines, this cost Falkirk FC [and I mean in money] which hurt the club in the immediate post-war era.

Anyway, although Jimmy played for Falkirk throughout the war when available, it was in his late twentys when he came back that he made his true place among the Falkirk 'greats'. This is very tricky to measure in terms other than longevity and his place in the hearts of the fans, as the sixteen team team Division A meant a reduction in League fixtures, the shortfall being taken up with the group section of the newly introduced League Cup [so there was little chance of catching up with Tom Ferguson who played several seasons where there were fortytwo league games a season], but that is neither here nor there. Football post-war was a different beast from football pre-war.

Jimmy was the bedrock of the Falkirk FC defence in the decade immediately after the war, it is strange to see a Falkirk line-up during those years without McPhie [or McPhee] at either 2 or 3 [there were no numbers then, but I mean RB or LB], solid as a rock.

After regular injury made him finally give up football [his last game was on Saturday 11th of April 1953 in a Dewar Shield Semi-Final v Deveronvale]. Jimmy took up the dual role of Falkirk Reserve team manager and coach, and it is here where his place in the history of Falkirk was cemented for a second time [as if it were needed] because in between Bob Shankly and Reggie Smith in the succession of Falkirk Managers stepped Jimmy. Only as caretaker, but it counts as far as I am concerned, for six matches during the 1956/57 season he was in charge, his record of two won, one drawn, three lost is fine for someone who was just holding the reins.

It is a whole shame about that whole 'fighting Hitler' thing [in terms of his Falkirk career], it is a shame he has no grave to take a picture of, it is not a shame a lad from Bonnybridge had such a good career with his local League club.

I have no picture of him before 1946 [ten years after his debut, but there were reasons]

James McPhie

b 25th August 1920, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire
d 24th February 2002, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Thursday August 27th 1936 v East Stirlingshire (A) Benefit Match
League Debut – Saturday April 30th 1938 v St Mirren (A) Scottish League Division 1

Positions – Left-Back, Right-Back, Left-Half, Centre-Half, Right-Half

Club Honours – Scottish League RU 1939/40, Scottish League Cup RU 1947/48, Dewar Shield RU 1947/48, Stirlingshire Cup W 1937/38, 1938/39, 1947/48, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1938/39, Stirling District Charity Cup RU 1948/49

Falkirk FC Career
Scottish League Matches/Goals [170/3] [2 pens]
Scottish Cup Matches [16/-]
Scottish League Cup Matches/Goals [37/1] [1 pen]
Supplementary Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Festival of Britain Quaich Matches/Goals [1/-]
Wartime League Matches/Goals [57/3] [3 pens]
Emergency Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Southern League Cup Matches/Goals [9/1] [1 pen]
Summer Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Victory Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Dewar Shield Matches/Goals [16/-]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [16/1] [1 pen]
Falkirk Infirmary Shield Matches/Goals [2/-]
Stirling District Charity Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Penman Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Other Matches/Goals [20/3] [2 pens]
Total Matches/Goals [344/12] [10 pens]

Known Career – Falkirk [1936/37-1954/55], Preston North End [1940/41], Reading [1941/42]