Bill McGarry

Dynamic wing-half turned ogre-like manager

William Harry McGarry, footballer and manager: born Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire 10 June 1927; played for Port Vale 1945-51, Huddersfield Town 1951-61; Bournemouth 1961-63; capped four times by England 1954-55; managed Bournemouth 1961-63, Watford 1963-64, Ipswich Town 1964-68, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1968-76, 1985, Saudi Arabia national team (coach) 1976-77, Newcastle United 1977-80; married (one son, one daughter); died 15 March 2005.

Bill McGarry was a spiky, formidably aggressive, yet admirably intelligent wing-half, who surprised none of his contemporaries in English football when he forged an ogre-like reputation as a manager.

However, lurid tales of the fearsome discipline he dispensed after laying aside his boots should not obscure the fact that the brusque, occasionally truculent Trentsider was an immensely accomplished player, who won four caps for England and was a key man in Huddersfield Town's extraordinarily stable defence and midfield in the early to middle 1950s.

As a boss, his principle achievement was in reviving Wolverhampton Wanderers, one of the most powerful clubs in the land for a decade and a half immediately after the Second World War but which had slumped alarmingly by the late 1960s. McGarry led them to a European final in 1972 and to League Cup triumph at Wembley two years later, cementing the widespread respect he had accumulated during some 30 years, to that point, in the professional game.

As a fiercely determined teenager, McGarry shone for an amateur side, Northwood Mission, at Hanley in the heart of the Potteries, before beginning his League career with Port Vale of the Third Division South in June 1945. Soon he became a central figure at the Recreation Ground, which preceded Vale Park as the club's headquarters, and earned a £12,000 transfer to First Division Huddersfield in March 1951.

All McGarry's grit was needed in his first full season at Leeds Road, which ended in relegation to the Second Division, but he emerged as a leading light under a new manager, Andy Beattie, as the Terriers bounced back into the top flight at the first attempt, finishing as runners-up to Sheffield United.

That season, remarkably, seven of Huddersfield's players were ever-present in the side, including the entire defence and both wing-halves. Thus, for years afterwards the names of the goalkeeper Jack Wheeler, the full-backs Ron Staniforth and Laurie Kelly, and the half-back line of McGarry, Don McEvoy and Len Quested rolled off the tongues of Town supporters like some sacred litany.

The most eye-catching member of this redoubtable sextet was McGarry, who reached new personal heights as Beattie's hard-edged combination exceeded the expectations of most neutral observers in 1953/54, their initial campaign back among the élite, by finishing in a hugely creditable third place, six points adrift of title-winning Wolves and only two behind the runners-up, West Bromwich Albion.

Fittingly he was rewarded for his progress by an England call-up, first in a "B" international in May 1954, then in the senior side during that summer's World Cup Finals in Switzerland. On his début against the home nation, he set up a goal for Dennis Wilshaw in a 2-0 victory, then retained his right-half berth for the quarter-final against Uruguay, which ended in a 4-2 defeat.

McGarry's sojourn on the world stage was to last for only two more matches, ending in 1955, his path being blocked by the emergence of two younger wing-halves, Ronnie Clayton and the prodigiously talented Duncan Edwards.

Still, the Huddersfield man was only 28 and continued to excel on the domestic scene, despite his club suffering relegation in 1956. Thereafter he spent five more years toiling nobly in the Second Division - including a three-year spell under Bill Shankly - before becoming player-manager of Third Division Bournemouth in March 1961.

Having played 363 games and scored 25 goals for the Yorkshire club, and earned renown for his dynamism, McGarry was billed as a potential miracle-worker at Dean Court and he almost obliged in his first full term, in which the Cherries missed promotion by a single place.

In July 1963 he took over as boss of fellow Third Division club Watford and, bizarrely, spent much of his first season trying to buy himself, as he was still registered as a player with Bournemouth. At Vicarage Road he lost no time in revealing the abrasive management style for which he would become famous, as Oliver Phillips wrote in his excellent history of Watford FC Watford Centenary (1991):

Perhaps half-a-dozen players were in dispute over their terms and they were given appointments at five-minute intervals. Less than an hour later, McGarry announced that all would be re-signing. He then lined up the professional staff and walked down the line, staring into the eyes of each individual and giving curt, not always pleasant summaries of their careers. When he came to Charlie Livesey, McGarry goaded the striker, jeering at his descent from "boy wonder" to his request to try out at wing-half in the reserves the previous season. "You used to be a star, Charlie," said McGarry.

Soon the new boss proved the efficacy of his approach, drawing from Livesey a succession of exceptional performances as the Hornets went agonisingly close to promotion, missing out by two points. He had grabbed the club by the scruff of its metaphorical neck, overrode the board when he deemed it necessary, instilled much-needed pride and made several shrewd signings, but still it wasn't quite enough, and he was mightily frustrated.

That summer he sold the best young goalkeeper in the country, Pat Jennings, and there was an air of anti-climax about the place as Watford made a poor start to the new season. But Second Division Ipswich Town recognised McGarry's promise and in October 1964 he moved to Portman Road, where he instituted a typically tough regime.

Engendering rather more respect than affection among many of his new charges, he improved the players' strength and stamina, and cleared out a few veteran survivors of Alf Ramsey's 1961/62 championship-winning campaign, replacing them cheaply but cannily. A further stroke of inspiration was to buy back the centre-forward Ray Crawford, still revered by Ipswich fans for his magnificent performance under Ramsey, and duly the Second Division title was garnered in 1967/68.

The East Anglians laboured during their early months back in the top flight, but McGarry did not stay to lead them to safety, opting instead that November to accept the challenge of restoring the faded fortunes of once-mighty Wolves, who were struggling towards the foot of the First Division.

Painstakingly, and with a strong hand, he rebuilt and transformed that ailing team, which rose to fourth place in the table in 1970/71, then reached the Uefa Cup Final the following season, there to be beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Tottenham Hotspur.

At this point McGarry's Wolves were an entertaining bunch, featuring the likes of the strikers Derek Dougan and John Richards, the winger Dave Wagstaffe, the midfielder Mike Bailey and a doughty defence. McGarry kept the majority of the side together for the next two campaigns, reaching a League Cup semi-final in 1972/73, then finally lifting a trophy, the League Cup, with victory over Manchester City in 1973/74. Thereafter, surprisingly, impetus drained away gradually until Wolves were relegated in 1976, after which McGarry resigned.

Still brimming with self-belief despite the setback, he embarked on a 15-month stint coaching the Saudi Arabian national team before taking the managerial seat at bottom-of-the-table Newcastle United in November 1977. He could hardly have been expected to avoid demotion from the top grade, and he didn't, but when major team rebuilding work failed to achieve promotion over the next two terms, in August 1980 he was sacked.

After that, McGarry became even more of a wanderer, scouting for Brighton in 1980, coaching Power Dynamo of Zambia in 1981, then taking over the Zambian national side in 1983 before a coaching interlude in South Africa. In 1985 an ill-fated return to Wolves, by then wallowing in the Third Division, lasted a mere 61 days, after which he resigned, heavily disillusioned.

Still, though, he loved the game, guiding the African team Bophuthatswana in the mid-1990s and settling in South Africa, where he died.

Ivan Ponting

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