Jimmy McGrory

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Jimmy McGrory
Jimmy McGrory.jpg
Personal information
Full name James Edward McGrory
Date of birth (1904-04-26)26 April 1904
Place of birth Garngad, Glasgow, Scotland
Date of death 20 October 1982(1982-10-20) (aged 78)
Place of death Glasgow, Scotland
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Playing position Centre forward
Youth career
1918–1921 St Roch's Boys Guild
1921–1922 St Roch's
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1922–1937 Celtic 378 (395)
1923–1924 Clydebank (loan) 30 (13)
Total 408 (408)
National team
1928–1933 Scotland 7 (6)
1926–1935 Scottish League XI 6 (6)
Teams managed
1937–1945 Kilmarnock
1945–1965 Celtic

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (Goals).

James Edward "Jimmy" McGrory (26 April 1904 – 20 October 1982) was a Scottish International football player, who played for Celtic and Clydebank and then went on to manage Kilmarnock, before returning to Celtic after the end of the Second World War, to manage them.

He is the all-time leading goalscorer in top-flight British football with a total of 485 goals (408 Scottish League/77 Scottish Cup), he also scored 53 goals in secondary cup competitions, 6 goals for the Scotland international side and another 6 goals for the Scottish League XI. McGrory is a legendary figure within Celtic's history, he is their top scorer of all time, with 469 goals in 448 games and holds their record for the most goals in a season, with 57 League and Scottish Cup goals from 39 games, in season 1926–27. He has also notched up a British top-flight record of 55 hat-tricks, 48 coming in League games and 7 from Scottish Cup ties. It could be argued he in fact scored 56, as he hit 8 goals in a Scottish League game against Dunfermline in 1928, also a British top-flight record.

He was at Celtic for 15 years between 1922 and 1937, although he did spend the majority of the 1923–24 season on loan at fellow 1st Division side Clydebank. After a spell managing Kilmarnock from December 1937 to July 1945, he became Celtic manager, where he remained for just under 20 years, until March 1965 when he was succeed by Jock Stein.[1]

Even although he was only 5 ft 6ins, he was renowned for his prowess and ability from headers. His trademark was an almost horizontal, bullet header, which he performed and scored regularly from and which earned him his nicknames, of the"Human Torpedo" and the "Mermaid".[1]

Early life[edit]

McGrory was born at Millburn Street, Glasgow. He was the son of Henry McGrory and Catherine Coll, both of whom were Irish Catholic immigrants. Henry and Catherine had been married at St. Baithin's Church in St. Johnston, a village in The Laggan district in the east of County Donegal, before emigrating to Scotland. While Catherine may have been from The Laggan, Henry may have been from elsewhere within County Donegal. Jimmy's elder brother was born in St. Johnston before the family left for Glasgow. They lived in Glasgow's East End on his father's wages as a gasworks labourer.[1][2]

Playing career[edit]

1921/22 season[edit]

McGrory began playing for St. Roch's Juniors aged 16, earning £2 a week. In his first season of 1921/22, he helped the side win a Double. St Roch's won the Scottish Junior Football League and the Scottish Junior Cup, where he scored the equalizer in a 2–1 win over Kilwinning Rangers.[1] In 2013 St. Roch's renamed their ground in honour of McGrory, changing it from Provanmill Park to The James McGrory Park.[3][4]

1922/23 season[edit]

With many clubs now scouting him, such as Third Lanark and Fulham, Celtic jumped in first and approached to sign him. He signed his first full professional contract for Celtic on 10 June 1922, for £5 a week, in the pavilion at Third Lanark's Cathkin Park. He made his debut on 20 January 1923, in a 1–0 away defeat, also at Cathkin Park. His first goal came two weeks later on 3 February 1923, in a 4–3 League defeat against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. In total, he made three League and one Scottish Cup appearances, scoring that one goal at Rugby Park.[1]

1923/24 season[edit]

He was loaned out to Clydebank[2] on 7 August 1923 and later that month scored on his debut against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in a 3-1 defeat. On 1 March 1924, he lined up in the Clydebank side to face Celtic at Parkhead. It ended up being quite a bizarre day for him, as he ended up scoring the winner in a shock 2–1 victory for Clydebank. Not long after this, and before the season was out, he was recalled to Celtic. In his time at Clydebank he played 33 League and Scottish Cup games, scoring 16 goals. Having returned to Celtic, he featured in the Glasgow Charity Cup semi-final against Queens Park on 6 May 1924, scoring in a 2–0 win. The final was two days later on 8 May 1924, where he played at outside-left in a 2–1 win over Rangers.[1]

1924/25 season[edit]

The season started poorly, with McGrory not scoring in his first three games, but worse was to come when his father was killed after accidentally being struck by a stone in a local park. McGrory played against Falkirk the following Saturday, just hours after having just attended his father's funeral, and yet managed to get off the mark for the season with his first goal in a 2–1 win.[2]

With his goal scoring touch returned, he continued to add to his tally until a bad injury in November 1924 ruled him out until the following year. McGrory returned in stunning form in the Scottish Cup, scoring a hat trick against Third Lanark and a double against Rangers in a 5–0 semi-final victory. He then scored the winning goal in the 2–1 Scottish Cup Final victory over Dundee on 11 April 1925, the first major honour of his career.[5] He finished of the season, having played in 33 League and Scottish Cup games, scoring 28 goals.[1]

1925/26 season[edit]

The 1925/26 season was a successful one both personally and collectively, with Celtic winning the First Division and him finishing the season on 41 goals (35L/6SC) in 43 (37L/6SC) games, which included a streak, that saw him scoring in the opening 7 League games of the season.[1][6]

Unfortunately, he was not to be so lucky in the Scottish Cup where Celtic got to the Final on 10 April 1926, but were beaten by St Mirren 2–0 and missing out on, tying up an already successful season, with a double.[1][7]

1926/27 season[edit]

While Celtic sadly relinquished the First Division title, finishing in 3rd place, McGrory personally, had his best goal scoring season ever. He started the season well, twice scoring four goals and twice scoring five goals, and by New Year had only one less goal League goal (34) than the previous seasons full tally of 35.

He was just as prolific in the Scottish Cup, where he scored nine goals in only six outings, although in a cruel twist of fate he missed out on playing in the Final, which Celtic won against East Fife 3–1 on 16 April 1927, due to breaking two ribs in an April League defeat to Falkirk. He finished the season with 57 League and Scottish Cup goals in only 39 games, which is a Celtic record to this day. He also finished the top scorer in the Scottish top-flight for the first time, with 48 goals in 33 games; including seven League hat-tricks. He scored a further hat-trick in the Scottish Cup to make a total of 8 hat-tricks for the season.

McGrory also received his first calling to play for the Scottish Football League XI Select on 27 October 1926 to play against the Irish League XI Select at Tynecastle Stadium, scoring once in a 5–2 win. He also featured in the English League XI Select v the Scottish League XI Select at Filbert Street on 19 March 1927 and scored one goal in a 2–2 draw.[1]

1927/28 season[edit]

By now McGrory was a wanted man; in five seasons he had scored 143 League and Scottish Cup goals in just 152 games and Celtic had already received and turned down countless offers for him. However, in August 1927 they decided to accept an offer from Arsenal for £10,000, which at the time would have been the World football transfer record.

McGrory had accepted a paid holiday invitation from the Celtic Board to make a pilgrimage to the shrine at Lourdes as a guest of Celtic manager Willie Maley. What he didn't know, was that the Board had arranged a meeting with Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman and chairman Sir Samuel Hill-Wood MP in London. Upon arriving in London at Euston railway station, McGrory was surprised (Maley knew, but had said nothing to McGrory about the ulterior motive) to be met on the station platform by Chapman and Hill-Wood. Chapman tried his hardest to charm and persuade McGrory to sign for Arsenal, but he turned him down flatly. Upon their return from Lourdes, McGrory and Maley were again met in London by Chapman and Hill-Wood in a surprise (even to Maley this time) visit. The Arsenal manager and chairman made one last attempt at getting McGrory's signature, but again failed to persuade him.

In a despicably low action by the Celtic Board, McGrory's weekly wage was reduced from £9 to £8 from the beginning of the season, with no warning or reason given. It's generally assumed this done out of spite for McGrory's loyalty to Celtic in refusing to sign for Arsenal and the club's loss of a £10,000 windfall. McGrory would later quip about the episode that "McGrory of Arsenal just never sounded as good as McGrory of Celtic".[8]

McGrory also gained his first ever Scotland cap on 25 February 1928, when he played in a 1–0 defeat against Ireland at Firhill Stadium in the 1927–28 British Home Championship. He also played his third game for the Scottish League XI Select against an English League XI Select at Ibrox Park on 10 March 1928, where despite scoring 2 goals he was unable to prevent a 6–2 win for the English.

It was ultimately an unsuccessful season though, with Celtic finishing second in the First Division and losing the Scottish Cup Final. Despite all his disappointment, he kept up his exceptional goal scoring feats, with 53 League and Scottish Cup goals in 42 games. Amongst these goals, which again included 8 Hat Tricks, he created what is still a Celtic, Scottish and British record for the most goals in a top-flight League match by one player, with 8 goals in a 9–0 win over Dunfermline on 14 January 1928.[2] He also completed back to back finishes as top League scorer in Scotland with 47 goals in 36 games.[1]

1928/29 season[edit]

The season was a bad one all round, for player and club. Celtic finished second in the League, but were 16 points behind winners Rangers. Celtic were also knocked out of the Scottish Cup at the semi-final stage, losing 0–1 to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. He also spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines after picking up a very bad injury in his fourth Scottish League XI appearance, a 2-1 defeat against the English League XI at Villa Park on 7 November. Due to this prolonged period on the treatment table, McGrory missed a lot of games that season and in turn his goal scoring tally was down on the previous three seasons. Nevertheless, he still a managed a very commendable tally of 31 League and Scottish Cup goals in 27 games.[1]

1929/30 season[edit]

1930/31 season[edit]

Jimmy McGrory (right) in action for Celtic during the 1930s. He is the record goal-scorer in British football, with a career total of 550 goals

Injuries were by now starting to take their toll on McGrory, who was always a regular target for some brutal 'defending'. He missed the first six games of season 1930–31 due to such an injury. While the League campaign was to ultimately prove disappointing, the team had shown promise and improved on the previous seasons finish of fourth place, running the eventual winners close and finishing in second place only two points behind them. Celtic scored 101 goals in the process, with McGrory helping himself to a very credible 36 of them in only 29 games.

The 1930–31 Scottish Cup was to prove more fruitful all round, where he ended up with a winners medal and 8 goals from 6 games. In the Cup Final on 11 April 1931, he scored the opening goal in a 2–2 draw against Motherwell in front of crowd of 104,863 at Hampden Park, Glasgow. The replay took place on 15 April 1931, which Celtic won 4–2 thanks to two goals each from McGrory and Bertie Thomson.

He also got off the mark in his second Scotland International against England on 29 March 1931 at Hampden Park, scoring Scotland's second goal in a 2–0 win.

In total, he scored 44 (36L/8SC) goals in (35 (29L/6SC) games and took his over all tally to 307 (250L/57SC) goals in 285 (240L/45SC) games.

1931/32 season[edit]

Celtic found themselves way off the pace again in the First Division, finishing in 3rd place, 18 points behind champions Motherwell. A huge factor in Celtic's indifferent season was the death of their goalkeeper John Thomson on 5 September 1931 at Ibrox Park. Rangers forward Sam English collided with Thomson and his knee struck the Celtic goalkeepers temple, fracturing his skull. Thomson was rushed to the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, but died later that evening. The affect on the team was evident in their general performance from that point onwards.

McGrory, on top of losing a team-mate and friend, was succumbing to more serious injuries and missed large chunks of the season, only playing in 22 of the 38 League games. He and Celtic fared little better in the Scottish Cup, again losing out to Motherwell at the first round of entry, in round 3. The injuries put paid to his usual high goal tally, and he suffered his lowest seasonal total since his first full season in 1924–25 season, with 28 goals in 23 League and Scottish Cup games.

He gained two more Scotland caps in the 1931–32 British Home Championship, scoring the third goal in a 3–1 win against Ireland at Ibrox Park on 19 September 1931, and then scoring the winner in a 3–2 victory over Wales at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham on 31 October 1931.

1932/33 season[edit]

1933/34 season[edit]

1934/35 season[edit]

1935/36 season[edit]

On 14 March 1936, McGrory achieved the fast hat-trick in Scottish League history, scoring three goals in less than 3 minutes, during a 5–0 win over Motherwell.[9][10]

1936/37 season[edit]

1937/38 season[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

Club Season League Cup Glasgow Cup Glasgow Charity Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Celtic 1922–23 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 1
Clydebank 1923–24* 30 13 3 3 0 0 0 0 33 16
Celtic 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 2 1
1924–25 25 17 8 11 2 2 1 0 36 30
1925–26 37 35 6 6 6 6 3 2 52 49
1926–27 33 48 6 9 2 2 0 0 41 59
1927–28 36 47 6 6 3 9 1 0 46 62
1928–29 21 21 6 10 4 3 3 8 34 42
1929–30 26 32 3 4 5 4 1 1 35 41
1930–31 29 36 6 8 2 1 1 2 38 47
1931–32 22 28 1 0 3 2 2 0 28 30
1932–33 25 22 8 8 3 2 2 3 38 35
1933–34 27 17 3 1 1 1 0 0 31 19
1934–35 27 18 4 2 1 0 1 1 33 21
1935–36 32 50 1 0 2 0 2 1 37 51
1936–37 25 18 8 9 0 0 0 0 35 28
1937–38 10 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 11 6
Career total 408 408 70 77 35 33 21 20 534 538

 * – McGrory was loaned out to Clydebank F.C. for the 1923–24 season, but returned to Celtic at the end of the season, to play in two Glasgow Charity Cup ties.


McGrory gained seven caps for the Scottish national team, although he did have a very respectable return of six goals in those games. He was often overlooked in favour of Hughie Gallacher,[2] who along with Dixie Dean of England and McGrory, were the most prolific scorers in British football throughout the 1920s and 1930s. While neither would be as prolific as McGrory at Club level, both men had extremely admirable international tallies, Dean with 18 goals from 16 England caps and Gallacher, with 23 from 20 outings, for Scotland.

# Date Venue Opponent Result Goals Competition
1 25 February 1928 Firhill Park, Glasgow  Ireland 0–1 BHC
2 28 March 1931 Hampden Park, Glasgow  England 2–0 1 BHC
3 19 September 1931 Ibrox Park, Glasgow  Ireland 3–1 1 BHC
4 31 October 1931 Racecourse Ground, Wrexham  Wales 3–2 1 BHC
5 17 September 1932 Windsor Park, Belfast  Ireland 4–0 1 BHC
6 1 April 1933 Hampden Park, Glasgow  England 2–0 2 BHC
7 16 September 1933 Celtic Park, Glasgow  Ireland 1–2 BHC

McGrory, also played in the following 6 Inter League matches, scoring 6 times.[11]

  • Scottish League v Irish League (Tyncastle Park, Edinburgh, 27 October 1926) 5–2 (1 Goal)
  • English League v Scottish League (Filbert Street, Leicester, 19 March 1927) 2–2 (1 Goal)
  • Scottish League v English League (Ibrox Park, Glasgow, 10 March 1928) 2–6 (2 Goals)
  • English League v Scottish League (Villa Park, Birmingham, 7 November 1928) 2–1
  • Scottish League v English League (Celtic Park, Glasgow, 7 November 1931) 4–3 (2 Goals)
  • Scottish League v English League (Ibrox Park, Glasgow, 30 October 1935) 2–2

Management career[edit]

McGrory was allowed to leave Celtic in December 1937 to become manager of Kilmarnock, on the condition that he retire from playing.[2] In his first season as manager, he led Kilmarnock to the Scottish Cup Final, knocking both Celtic and Rangers out in the earlier rounds.[12] The final took place on 23 April 1938 between Kilmarnock and East Fife, finishing in a 1–1 draw.[12] The replay was held four days later, Kilmarnock losing 2–4.[12]

He returned to Parkhead to manage Celtic in 1945. He held this position for nearly 20 years, before Jock Stein succeeded him in 1965. As Celtic boss, he won the 1953–54 Scottish League Championship, the 1950–51 and 1953–54 Scottish FA Cups, and the 1956–57 and 1957–58 Scottish League Cups.

During his time in charge, Celtic recorded one of their most famous results, a 7–1 thrashing of arch rivals Rangers in the 1957 Scottish League Cup Final. To this day it remains the greatest margin of victory in the history of cup finals played in either England or Scotland. The game and McGrory are remembered in the supporters' song "Hampden in the Sun". McGrory is also remembered in another popular song amongst the supporters named after his manager, the "Willie Maley Song".

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of 30 November 2013.
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Kilmarnock[13]A December 1937 May 1945 74 31 17 26 41.89
Celtic August 1945 March 1965 824 414 171 239 50.24

A FibaStats includes a total of 39 games for season 1939/40, however 34 of these were for the unofficial regional league and cup competitons that were introduced during WW2. These games have been removed from the statistics in the above table.


As a player[edit]


As a manager[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Crainey, John (2005), Heroes are Forever: The Life and Times of Celtic Legend Jimmy McGrory, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84596-103-9
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Jimmy McGrory". The Scotsman. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Name Change". Scottish Junior FA. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  4. ^ O'Donnell, Jim (24 July 2013). "St Rochs at long last have ground for celebration". Evening Times. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "World Football Legends - Jimmy McGrory". World Football Legends. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "7 in a Row". Scottishleague.net. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Tom & Woods, Pat (1999), Dreams and Songs to Sing: A New Celtic History, Mainstream Publishing, ISBN 1-84018-249-0
  8. ^ "McGrory stands tall among game's giants". FIFA.com. 20 October 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "5-0 Vs Motherwell in Scottish League (14/03/1936)". FitbaStats. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "Jimmy McGrory". Scottish Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  11. ^ http://www.londonhearts.com/SFL/players/jimmymcgrory.html
  12. ^ a b c http://www.rsssf.com/tabless/scotcuphistfull.html#38
  13. ^ "McGrory, Jimmy". FitbaStats. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  14. ^ Stein, gets credited with the 1964–65 SC, but McGrory led the team through 3 rounds to the semi-finals, Stein only managed the team in the semi-final and Final.
General Reference
  • Crainey, John (2005). Heroes Are Forever: The Life and Times of Celtic Legend Jimmy McGrory. Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Ltd. ISBN 978-1845961039. 
  • McColl, Graham (2002). The Head Boys: Celtic's Managers. Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Ltd. ISBN 978-1840187595. 

External links[edit]