Date of birth: 14.7.43, Born: Belfast, Height: 5ft 7½in
Position: Midfield, City appearances: League: 61(4), FA & League Cups: 6(1), Total: 67(5)
James McGeough, usually known as Jimmy, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in a year about which there seems to be some doubt although the best evidence now seems to point to it being 1943, writes Malcolm Johnson. His surname should properly be pronounced as ‘McGee-oh’.
Jimmy McGeough began his football career playing for a boys’ club side called Star of the Sea and came to the attention of Sheffield Wednesday while playing for a Northern Ireland representative side, joining the Owls as an apprentice. He appeared in FA Youth Cup games for the Yorkshire club, signing professional forms with them in March 1961 at the age of 17. However, he was released in the summer of 1962 and joined Stockport County, playing regularly in their reserve side.
In the summer of 1963, as a young married man, his equally young wife, also a native of Belfast, became homesick and the couple decided to return to Northern Ireland where McGeough joined Irish League side Derry City. His career really took off then, firstly with Derry winning the Irish Cup at the end of his first season and in April 1964 when he was chosen for the Irish League representative side, playing alongside later Imps goalkeeper John Kennedy against the League of Ireland.
More honours came the following season, starting with appearances for Derry in both legs of their European Cup Winners Cup tie against Steaua Bucarest, followed by the winning of the Irish League championship and another game for the Irish League against the League of Ireland. The league championship brought another European campaign with a European Cup Preliminary Round tie against Norwegian side Lyn of Oslo, McGeough scoring in a 5-1 win in the second leg as Derry won 8-6 on aggregate. However, before the next round took place McGeough had crossed the border to join League of Ireland side Waterford for a fee of £3,000 after not having missed a game with Derry during his time with them, making 47 league appearances and scoring 16 goals.
As with Derry, he soon found success with Waterford, winning the League of Ireland championship in his first season which meant two more European Cup appearances as Waterford were beaten in the Preliminary Round by Berlin side Vorwärts. In 1967 he won representative honours again, this time for the League of Ireland against the Irish League and the 1967/68 season saw another league championship plus a losing appearance in the FA of Ireland Cup Final.
Jimmy McGeough’s 1968/69 season began with appearances in both legs of Waterford’s European Cup First Round tie with Manchester United and finished with another league championship and the winning of the League of Ireland Shield.
1969/70 brought more European experience as McGeough played in both legs of Waterford’s European Cup First Round exit to Galatasaray. This was followed by a third successive league championship as Waterford dominated Irish football. They were, however, unable to make it four in a row, but Waterford’s 1970/71 European Cup campaign saw an aggregate win over Glentoran, with McGeough scoring in the second leg, followed by a Second Round defeat to Celtic.
In January 1972 it was reported that Torquay United were interested in signing McGeough, with a fee of £6,000 agreed with the Third Division side but nothing came of it and the season ended with Waterford’s fifth league championship in seven seasons. However, the following summer the same amount of £6,000 was paid by Lincoln City and one of the most prominent players in Irish football over the past several years joined the Fourth Division club after making 147 league appearances and scoring 11 goals for Waterford.
The Imps’ boss, former Manchester United centre forward David Herd had finished his playing career with Waterford where he had encountered McGeough, and after Lincoln had narrowly missed out on promotion in 1972 he signed the Irishman in June of that year to strengthen City’s midfield having set his stall out to win the Fourth Division championship.
The 28-year-old created a good impression in the pre-season friendlies and also in City’s 1-0 defeat at home to Second Division Burnley in the Watney Cup, a short-lived competition for the highest scoring teams in the previous season not to have won anything. It was a different story, however, when McGeough made his league debut in the first game of the season which brought a 2-1 home defeat by Hartlepool. According to Lincolnshire Chronicle sportswriter Jonathan Lang, the Irishman was part of a City midfield which ‘never came to terms with the job on hand’. The next game was a visit to Mansfield in the First Round of the League Cup and with City going 2-0 down after 52 minutes McGeough was taken off three minutes later to be replaced by Dave Smith. He was then out of the side until the beginning of November, having been found wanting almost immediately, his place first being taken by fellow close season signing Colin Symm then by Terry Cooper bought from Notts County by Herd to provide the bite in midfield which had not been evident from McGeough despite his reputation in Ireland for being a ‘tough-tackling’ player.
A run of only one defeat in 12 matches then put City in 4th place in the table until a defeat at Stockport marked the beginning of a slide. Following a good performance in a reserve match McGeough was then recalled to the first team at the expense of fellow ex-Waterford player Frankie McMahon for a run of seven games which however produced three draws and four defeats.
After a sixth away defeat in a row at Bradford City David Herd was replaced as manager by player-coach Graham Taylor. Following a Lincolnshire Cup defeat to Boston United the new boss left McGeough out of the side in favour of Colin Symm, but after a draw and a defeat he was then recalled, due to injuries to first Symm then Terry Cooper. He gave a man of the match performance in a home draw with Exeter but after a run of five games he then suffered an ankle injury which put him out of the side again for three games. After returning for a home defeat to Newport County McGeough was then suspended due to penalty points accumulated in reserve matches.
Due to his suspension McGeough therefore missed the 1-0 victory over Darlington in mid-March that ended City’s 19-match winless run, then, with Taylor starting to bring new players to the club such as Terry Heath, Alan Harding and Dennis Leigh the player was allowed to go on loan to Hartlepool for what was meant to be the remainder of the season. However, after two matches for the north east club he was quickly recalled due to an injury suffered by Heath and a 3-1 win over Southport in mid-March was actually the first time he had ever been on the winning side for the Imps. He was substitute for the next game which brought a 5-3 win over Stockport, playing in the last half hour, and then retained his place for the remaining seven games of the season as City finished strongly to end in 10th place.
Although having had something of a chequered season with a total of just 24 appearances in all competitions, McGeough’s form towards the end of the season was evidently enough for him to be retained for another season despite the movement of players in and out of the club that Graham Taylor had begun.
The 1973/74 season began with a City midfield comprised of Colin Symm, Dave Smith and Terry Heath, but with the latter succumbing to injury again Jimmy McGeough was in the side for the third game of the season which saw a defeat at Torquay. The next game produced a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Stockport following which the Irishman was replaced in midfield for the next game by Tom Spencer, normally a centre half. This game saw a 1-1 draw at home to Peterborough and in another game with the same scoreline at Workington McGeough came off the bench before then returning to the starting lineup in a 1-0 win at Barnsley. He then kept his place for his longest ever run in the first team – a total of 29 games which lasted until the beginning of March. He was named as man of the match in a home defeat which saw the debut of new striker Peter Graham as he began at last to show his best form for the club, also drawing praise in a 2-0 home win over Workington in January, and another man of the match performance in a 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe. During this period City rose as high as fourth in the league table, but after games began to be played on Sundays due to a national power crisis they fell away to mid-table.