Obituary: John 'Jackie' Sinclair, international footballer

Share this article

John Evans Wright "Jackie" Sinclair, international footballer. Born: 21 July, 1943, in Culross. Died: 2 September, 2010, aged 67.

JACKIE Sinclair, who has died while on holiday, was one of the finest goal- scoring wingers of the 1960s and 1970s. He played in the top flight in Scotland and England, and was in a European trophy-winning team, yet went through his career relatively unheralded.

A Fifer, from Culross, his displays with Blairhall Colliery as a 16-year-old attracted the attention of Dunfermline Athletic and shortly after his 17th birthday, Jock Stein made him his first signing as Pars manager. That was in July 1960 and within a year he had made his first-team debut, against Airdrie.

Stein was never one to rush young talent, so it was back to the reserves for Sinclair, until November 1961, when he was unleashed on an unsuspecting Airdrie at East End Park. Ninety minutes and two Sinclair goals later, he had arrived.

He scored twice in Dunfermline's legendary Fairs Cup comeback against Valencia in season 1962-63, when. The team was trailing 4-0 from the first leg, but the performances of Sinclair, who scored twice, and Alex Edwards inspired the Pars to a 6-2 win, earning the side a play-off, which they ended up losing 1-0.

With Sinclair on one wing and the even younger Edwards on the other, there was plenty of ammunition being supplied, with a certain Pars centre forward Alex Ferguson a willing beneficiary in season 1964-65.

But Sinclair was rather more than a provider of crosses; he scored goals too, more than 20 in that season, his best for the club. Sinclair was a key player in the 1964-65 campaign, when the Fife team finished just one point behind Kilmarnock and Hearts in the title race and reached the Scottish Cup final, where they lost 3-2 to the Celtic team whose victory kick-started the glorious Stein years at Parkhead.

But Sinclair's consistency had been noticed in England and Leicester boss Matt Gillies, who liked a Scottish spine to his teams, spent 25,000 to take Sinclair to Filbert Street. He was immediately at home in a Foxes side that included fellow Scots Frank McLintock, John Sjoberg and Davie Gibson, plus the great Gordon Banks and maverick Irishman Derek Dougan.

During his Dunfermline years Sinclair had found the path to the Scotland team blocked by the near-ever-presence of Davie Wilson in the No11 shirt. He was selected for just one representative team while at Dunfermline, the Scottish League XI, but the match for which he was named was cancelled. However, after a fine first season at Leicester, with new Scotland boss John Prentice casting his net wide for fresh faces, Sinclair was named in the national side to face Portugal, at Hampden, in June 1966. This was a World Cup warm-up for Eusebio and Co, who won 1-0.Injury then cost Sinclair a possible second cap, against Pele and the Brazilians, a week later and that cap against Portugal was to be his only one.

Back at Leicester, he continued to set up and score goals, netting 53 in 115 games, before Newcastle United boss Joe Harvey paid 67,500 to take him to Tyneside.

His timing was spot-on as Newcastle, unfancied and somewhat unheralded, stormed through their Inter-Cities Fairs Cup campaign of season 1968-69 to beat the Hungarians of Ujpest Dozsa in the two-leg final.

Sinclair, skipper Bobby Moncur, Tommy Gibb and Jim Scott were the Scots in that victorious Toon Army, with Sinclair in particular enjoying his goal, which put paid to Rangers and sparked off a riot, in the semi-final second leg at St James's Park. To this day, that Newcastle side are accorded legends status on Tyneside.

From Newcastle, for whom he played 52 games, scoring eight goals, he moved on to Sheffield Wednesday, (109 games, 16 goals) then via a loan spell at Chesterfield, during which he scored three goals in ten games, to Durban in South Africa, before his career turned full circle with a return to Dunfermline in 1973.

In all, he played 165 times for the Pars in his two spells, scoring 64 goals, before finishing his playing career with Stenhousemuir in season 1975-76, (25 games, one goal). Sinclair then went to work for the National Coal Board, before working up to his official retirement at Stirling University. Away from football, he was a keen golfer.

His brother Willie also played football professionally; cousin Tommy Wright won three caps for Scotland while a Sunderland player in 1952-53 and Sinclair's son Chris followed him into the Dunfermline team. He and his wife Lynne, also had a daughter.

Sinclair helped nurse Lynne through a bout of cancer, before being struck down himself, but his brave fight against this disease was to no avail.

Fast, direct and with a knack for scoring, Sinclair is just the sort of player Scotland no longer seems to produce. He is fondly remembered by his colleagues and those who saw him play.