Obituary: John McGlashan, football player, manager and charity worker
John McGlashan, who has died aged 50, enjoyed a long and successful career as a footballer and manager in both Scotland and England. During a playing career that lasted almost 20 years he played over 400 games for seven teams and managed three clubs. A strong running and powerful central midfielder, John also had an eye for goal and was a regular scorer wherever he played. Having begun his senior career in 1988 with Montrose, he went on to play for Millwall, Peterborough United, Rotherham United, Dundee, Ross County and Arbroath, playing his last game there in 2007 aged 39.
He also managed the Gayfield club and later, junior clubs Tayport and Dundee Violet. A serious ankle injury at Millwall requiring treatment at Harley Street and the insertion of plates was undoubtedly a factor in his not going on to play at a higher level but it is to his credit that he was able to continue to play professionally with distinction. John was also highly regarded while employed by two charities for football-related activities with disadvantaged children, the Café Project in Arbroath and Dundee based Showcase the Street, while one summer he did voluntary work for Barnardo’s driving a minibus and assisting at their camps.
He obtained a degree from Abertay University through part-time study in Travel and Tourism, a subject that had interested him since he worked in a travel agency on leaving school. By the end of his playing career John had become involved in property development and eventually owned several properties for letting in Angus.
Born in Dundee to John and Sandra, he was the younger brother of Stephen, who predeceased him. His father worked as a docker and doubtless passed on his football genes as he was a well -known junior player, captaining Dundee Violet in the 1960s. John was brought up in Whitfield Avenue and attended Whitfield High School, where his sporting aptitude was soon apparent.
He remained very proud of having captained his school team to success in BBC TV series We Are The Champions, in which teams from all over the UK competed at a variety of sports events. This was a notable achievement given that Whitfield was considered a disadvantaged working class community. His pride reflected his lasting attachment to his roots there and the positive values it imparted to him.
After playing for Mains Boys’ Club John followed his father by playing for Dundee Violet, from where he joined Montrose in 1988. After two successful seasons, former Scottish captain Bruce Rioch signed him for Millwall, then in the old second division, having just been relegated from the first. Despite injury impeding progress, he managed to play about 20 games during his two seasons there, where teammates included Teddy Sheringham, Mick McCarthy, Terry Hurlock and Alex Rae. He then moved on to Peterborough United for a club record fee of £100,000 and helped them to 10th place in the old second division in his first season. Next stop was Rotherham United in the old third division, then managed by Archie Gemmill, where he enjoyed a successful period. The team won the Auto Windscreen Shield Trophy at Wembley in 1996 but recent injury restricted him to a place on the bench. Held in high regard by the fans, they nominated him as their “greatest player of all time” in a magazine poll. Fulfilling a boyhood ambition, he then played for Dundee, helping them win promotion to the Premier League in 1998 before joining Ross County, whom he also helped win promotion in successive seasons to the old first division.
After County John went to Arbroath and again was part of their promotion-winning team to the old first division. A brief spell as player/manager at Dundee Violet preceded being appointed manager at Arbroath, who were then struggling financially and second bottom of the fourth tier. He succeeded in putting them on a sound financial footing and winning promotion to the third tier. Although nominally part time, he was virtually full time, undertaking a wide range of duties including engaging local businesses for sponsorship and overseeing the running of four youth teams. After four years there he went on to manage Tayport, Dundee Violet and was a youth coach at Dundee.
In 2005 he married Dawn, the couple having known each other at school and renewed their relationship in 1997. They had a son together, John, and Dawn’s daughter Hollie became his step daughter.
Aside from family and football John had a variety of interests. Unsurprisingly, keeping fit was a lifelong enthusiasm and latterly he particularly enjoyed cycling and hillwalking. Less obviously so perhaps was family history which led to his researching his family back to the 17th century and discovering relatives in Canada and France with whom he corresponded. The history of Dundee and Whitfield was another passion and he regularly attended talks on the subjects. He enjoyed travel and over the last years grew very fond of Madeira, which he visited frequently.
A well-rounded, intelligent individual, John was popular with all who knew him and the phrase most quoted in relation to him is “he was a real gent”. Possessed of a good sense of fun, he related well to everyone, especially the disadvantaged children with whom he worked at the charities.
He is survived by his wife, son and stepdaughter.