Menu Players Managers Fans Seasons Miscellany

Ron McGarry (1962/63 to 1966/67)

Ron McGarry
Ron McGarry

"If I play badly, I don't worry about it. I know I'll regain my form. Sometimes people make cracks if I have had a bad game, and I say: 'You're the, mug you paid to watch.’”

Ron McGarry
Ron McGarry

"I used to tell everybody I was the greatest... but now they tell me."

Bth 05/12/37 Whitehaven
P/H/W Forward 5ft 9in
Jnd 13/12/62 Bolton £17,500
Deb 15/12/62 Cardiff (h) D2
Dep 14/03/67 Barrow £3,500
A/G 129 (3) 46

It is probably fair to say that sixties striker Ron McGarry is remembered more for his character than his footballing ability. His constant wise-cracking and occasional use of his fists not surprisingly resulted in the players (initially) and then the fans referring to him as “Cass”, with reference to Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali).

Whilst on a National Service he excelled at both football and rugby union and Joe Harvey, then manager at Workington, had to fight off advances from his local Rugby League club to secure him.

Joe later sold him to Bolton and then brought him to Tyneside (aged twenty-five) in December 1962. At the time Harvey, rather optimistically, claimed that he could be “another George Robledo”.

Ron could play as a centre-forward or as a schemer and opportunist at inside-forward. Whichever position he was asked to play he worked prodigiously with his unselfish non-stop running.

Ron was certainly not the most scientific or skilful of players; strength, courage and shooting power being his wage-earning attributes. He wasn’t very mobile, but he was tough and had a powerful shot in both feet.

He would go direct for goal and as soon as he saw the whites of the goalposts he looked to shoot, striking the ball with menace. Consequently he converted a fair few long distance efforts including one against Nottingham Forest from thirty-yards.

It was a tough time to be an attacker, but Ron was as hard as nails and could take the treatment as well as occasionally dish it out. And one of the reasons Harvey bought him was to “ruffle a few feathers”.

In the match at Swansea in the 1962/63 season he clashed with the Swans centre-half Johnson and both of them got their marching orders. As he was leaving the field Gordon Hughes went over to him and said: "Hard luck, Ron”. McGarry winked and replied: "Think nothing of it, I'd have taken him in the fifth anyway". It was this incident that first inspired the players to call him “Cass”.

And in the 1964/65 season he was famously sent of for administering an impressive uppercut to Coventry City half-back Ron Farmer.

Ron said he was always relaxed when playing as he treated it just like any other job. And he once said: “football can become too serious. That’ll never happen to me”.

When he was in dispute with the club and asked for a transfer at the end of the promotion season of 1964/65 he had “calling cards” printed (only 15 at first) with a picture of a footballer and the words “Have goals will travel. R MCGARRY, (Newcastle United).” The idea was inspired by Richard Boome’s character Palladin in the television series “Have gun will travel”. Soon he was inundated with requests for them.

When he looked set to join Middlesbrough in the summer of 1966 he gave a newspaper interview with some choice quotes including: "I used to tell everybody I was the greatest... but now they tell me." And he had a message for the Middlesbrough fans: “Come and see the best thing since penicillin."

He also mentioned an incident at St. James’. "In our promotion season, we were beating Cardiff 2-0 at the Park. I got the ball on the wing, and started to kick-it up and down. Then I trapped it, turned to the crowd, raised my arms and shouted ‘Who's the greatest?!’. They shouted back ‘McGarry!' Stan (Anderson) comes across and says: 'You must be going daft.' and the next day the papers said Stan had come across to tell me off."

Another incident talked of (although this might be a variation on the one above) is when during a break of play due to an injury Ron was sitting on the ball on the touchline and before playing keepy-up. He then got the crowd to start singing "McGarry's the best buy, the best buy".

Another uncorroborated story which is too good to leave out is that he once asked the referee for a handkerchief as he had something in his eye which he then proceeded to use to clean his boots.

Ron spent quite a lot of his time on Tyneside on the transfer-list either by choice or imposition and he was finally sold, against his wishes, to Barrow in March 1967. Even then there was a quip: “I always said I wanted to be a barrow boy”.

A couple of years after he left Joe Harvey said: “If only Ron had settled down he’d be a big name today. His build was perfect for the rough treatment defences dish out now, he had a shot like the kick of a mule and he wasn’t afraid to graft. However Ron liked to have fun and it told in the end. But he’s a character no-one could help liking.”

Ron said he did not suffer from pre-match nerves and part of his pre-match routine was to visit a betting shop, so it is no surprise that when he retired he had a betting shop on the corner of Scrogg Road and the Fossway. And he, at least once came onto the pitch smoking a cigarette. Ron also worked for a time at Churchills in Blaydon.

Let’s leave the final words to Ron. "If I play badly, I don't worry about it. I know I'll regain my form. Sometimes people make cracks if I have had a bad game, and I say: 'You're the, mug you paid to watch.’”

Season by Season

Pre Toon

Joe Harvey (Manager of Workington at the time) saw McGarry playing in an an Army unit game at Carlisle in which he shaped sufficiently well to earn a trial. About the same time he also went for a trial with Rugby League club Whitehaven. He chose the football code because the money was better. After a move to Everton fell through he joined Bolton in February 1962 at a fee of £10,000. A couple of injuries and a subsequent struggle to regain his form meant he barely featured in 1962/63 and was allowed to leave for a modest fee.

1962/63 (20 - 8)

1963/64 (33 -12)

1964/65 (33 - 16)

1965/66 (24/2 - 5)

1966/67 (19/1 - 5)


Painting by Piotr

Special thanks to all the input from the members of the Facebook group Classic Photographs of Newcastle and of the East End