Scotsman Obituaries: Allan McGraw, Scottish footballer who was once the top goalscorer in Britain

Allan McGraw, footballer and manager. Born: 29 July 1939 in Glasgow. Died: 1 March 2023 in Greenock, aged 83
Allan McGraw at Greenock Morton ground Cappielow, where a stand is now named after him (Picture: Donald MacLeod)Allan McGraw at Greenock Morton ground Cappielow, where a stand is now named after him (Picture: Donald MacLeod)
Allan McGraw at Greenock Morton ground Cappielow, where a stand is now named after him (Picture: Donald MacLeod)

Allan McGraw was one of the best known and most popular figures in Scottish football over the last six decades.

Mostly identified with his beloved Morton for whom he was a prolific goalscorer in the 1960s, he was affectionately referred to as “Mr Morton” and “the nicest man in Scottish football”. A credit to the whole football community, he was honoured with induction into the sport’s Scottish Hall of Fame in 2017 and recently the Greenock club renamed their main stand at Cappielow in his honour.

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After five years with Morton, he joined Hibs for three seasons before playing for Linfield in Northern Ireland for a year. In 1963/4 he was the top goalscorer in Britain with 58 goals notched in 48 appearances as he helped Morton romp to the old 2nd Division title recording 135 league goals, 50 attributable to McGraw. In his 176 games with the club he claimed 140 goals.

At Hibs he registered 22 goals in 95 games but by then was affected by knee problems exacerbated by excessive cortisone injections which would have adverse consequences in later life.

While with Linfield he played and scored in the European Cup against Red Star Belgrade, after which he briefly returned to Morton before spells in Junior football with Johnstone Burgh and Pollok. Thereafter he coached the reserves at Morton, later becoming manager in 1985 for 12 years.

Allan McGraw was born in Kinning Park and initially brought up there with siblings Alex, Rose, Catherine and Margaret. When aged six, parents Peter and Margaret moved the family to Govan where Allan’s father worked in the shipyards and earned extra cash in the city’s boxing booths.

After attending a local primary school he went to Shawlands Academy until 15 and then worked for a sheet metal company. During lunchtime football games his talent was noted and led to his signing for juvenile side Partick Avondale, from whom he joined Renfrew Juniors in 1957, then playing centre half.

National Service with the Cameronians in Germany followed, leading to selection for the Army, by then at centre forward. Teammate Jackie Ferguson, a Morton player, recommended him to the club’s resourceful manager, the celebrated Hal Stewart, who persuaded McGraw to sign by promising he would fly him home every weekend for games.

Despite Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle’s pursuit of his signature, he opted for Morton, partly through wanting to support his mother after his father’s recent death. Stewart, although known as a likeable rogue, was true to his word and for 18 months from 1961 onward he was flown back every week.

He debuted with a goal against Queen of the South in September 1961 and soon acquired a reputation as a deadly marksman. His contribution helped lift the team to 3rd in the old 2nd Division two years consecutively until in 1963/4 Morton won the League in style to gain promotion to the top tier, his phenomenal goals record playing a large part. The team also reached the League Cup Final that season with McGraw clinching the semi-final against Hibs with a penalty, the first he ever took. A record Final crowd of 106,000 saw Rangers win comfortably 5-0, McGraw having twice struck the woodwork in a goalless first half.

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Knee injuries began to cause problems by the time he joined Hibs in 1966, the effects of excessive cortisone injections reducing his ability to train and affecting performance. Despite his difficulties he helped achieve high League finishes in his first two seasons and contributed well to the Fairs Cup run in 1967/8 against Porto, Napoli and Leeds United. He also played an important part in Hibs reaching the 1969 League Cup Final against Celtic by scoring the vital goal in the semi-final against Dundee. Having been taken off injured, he returned to the fray with typical bravery when Hibs went down to ten men and scored the winning goal shortly before full time.

He rejoined Morton in the early 1970s as reserve team coach and brought through a number of talented youngsters thanks to his enthusiasm, encouragement and knowledge.

In 1985 he was appointed manager and won two League titles, the “new” 1st Division in 1987and “new” 2nd Division in 1995, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top tier in 1996. During this time he developed and sold on numerous players for excellent transfer fees, including Derek McInnes, Alan Mahood and Derek Lilley.

In 1997 he resigned after Hugh Scott began his troubled ownership of the club but later played an important role in ensuring the club’s continued existence, also becoming involved in the Morton Club Together campaign. Despite ongoing knee problems requiring more than 30 operations and the use of two walking sticks, he overcame his difficulties to enable him play a full and important part in the club.

In 1963, in Glasgow, Allan married Jean Robertson and their happy, fulfilling marriage brought two sons, Allan and Mark. Jean’s death in 1996 was a huge blow. The family initially lived in Rutherglen before moving to Gourock where Allan remained.

While part time with Morton in the 1970s, Allan worked on the assembly line at Chrysler’s car production plant at Linwood and had an interest in the licensed trade. Once a councillor at Inverclyde, he was also a keen golfer at Gleddoch Golf Club where a buggy helped him negotiate the course. Football, of course, continued to play a large part in his life and he was regularly seen at Cappielow and occasionally at Ibrox.

A complete gent held in the highest regard by all, he is survived by his sons and grandchildren Emma, Abbie, Adam and Loren.


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