John Lindsay’s Unlucky Break

John Lindsay was a classy full-back who suffered injury misfortune that meant he never did get back to the level of fitness and sharpness required for a Blues first team comeback

Rob Sawyer 18/02/2024 13comments  |  Jump to last

A successful playing career can be halted in the blink of an eye. John Lindsay (commonly referred to as Jock in the press, but Jack and even Johnny were sometimes used) was a classy full-back who shared in the same injury misfortune while at Everton as Jack Coulter, Eddie Wainwright, Tommy Ring, John Connolly, John Barton, James McCarthy and Andre Gomes, amongst others. 

Born on 8 August 1924 in East Dunbartonshire, the full-back joined Glasgow Rangers from Petershill at the end of the Second World War. At 5ft-8½ins of height, and about 11 stone in weight, John was not the most physically imposing of defenders, but his cultured two-footed playing style was complemented by steely determination.

The Ibrox club was blessed with an abundance of full-backs, and John had to play second-fiddle to George Young and Gers skipper ‘Tiger’ Shaw. When Shaw retired, Sammy Cox was converted from a wing-half to a full-back and John saw the prospects of regular first-team football fade. He recalled: “The team was made up of 11 international players. When I stepped in to deputise for either of the full-backs, I was the only man in the side who had no caps… I knew that, as much as I loved it at Ibrox, there was no chance of making it, so I thought it better to be on my way.”

Left: John's terms for the 1951-52 season; Right: Retirement wishes from Everton colleagues

Left: John's terms for the 1951-52 season; Right: Retirement wishes from Everton colleagues in the late 1950s

Article continues below video content

Left: John's contract at Rangers; Johns registration papers with Rangers in 1945

In March 1951, the Glasgow giants accepted a £9,500 bid for John from Everton, who needed a replacement at left-back for National Service-bound George Rankin. The Scot travelled south by train and met his new teammates at Manchester’s Midland Hotel before heading to play in his first match, a 3-0 defeat on a mud-bath of an Old Trafford pitch. The Liverpool Echo reporter wrote: ‘He showed touches that are a good augur for the future’. When interviewed post-match, the debutant stated: ‘English football is much faster, and they do not hold the ball as they do in Scotland.’ A few days later, he made his home debut, up against Stoke’s Stanley Matthews. 

Sadly, the new recruit arrived too late to help turn around the Blues' sorry season, which ended in relegation. Nevertheless, he did not regret moving south: ‘I enjoyed my time at Goodison and certainly got the chance to establish myself as a first teamer. I relished playing English football.’ Living in club accommodation at 7 Radnor Drive in Bootle, the new life on Merseyside was a culture shock for his two daughters, Catherine and Janette and homesickness for Bishopbriggs lingered (with summer holidays in Scotland a welcome break). They eventually adjusted, however, and remain on Merseyside, to this day.

Everton FC, early 1950s

Everton, early 1950s

Everton squad circa 1954

Everton squad circa 1954

John held down the left-back position for virtually the entirety of the club’s three seasons in the Second Division. In the 1953-54 campaign, he played a key role in the push for promotion, accepting the responsibility of penalty kick duties in February, converting successfully on the two occasions he stepped forward.

Alas, on 10 April, with Everton in third position in the table, and pushing for a top-two finish., Jack was stretchered having suffered a compound fracture of his left leg, when making a last-ditch interception to prevent Stoke City from scoring. He had broken a leg while at Rangers, but this was a devastating injury. Stoke City’s directors sent a letter of regret to their Everton counterparts regarding John’s accident. 

In his Liverpool Echo column, written after the Toffees secured promotion, club captain Peter Farrell gave praise to his stricken teammate: 

‘I know the lads will forgive me if I single out one man who was unable to be with us at the finish. The name, of course, is Jock Lindsay. He paid a tremendous price in his efforts to win promotion, namely a broken leg. But I know that neither supporters nor player will ever forget that great but unfortunate tackle against Stoke which prevented a certain goal. and won us a point which proved so valuable in the final reckoning. Incidentally, Jock has asked me through this column to express his sincere thanks to all those people who brought so much happiness to him while he was in the nursing home, by their messages of good wishes through the post or by calling to visit him.’ 

John Lindsay in action for Everton

Left: Number three gets airborne; Right: John circa 1953

John Lindsay training in the streets with the Everton squad

Training in the streets

John Lindsay in hospital; clearing snow at the training ground; later in life

Left: John in hospital after his leg break; Middle: Snow clearance at Goodison Park training ground; John in later life

The local press reported that by mid-August he was making a remarkable recovery, walking with crutches but on the point of switching to sticks. He was attending Goodison Park daily for treatment and there was optimism that he could commence some light training in the not-too-distant future. Mr Heron, the specialist engaged by the club stated: “I have never met a better patient than Jock. He has been a typical example of dour Scottish courage.”

He was back kicking a ball in early 1955 and stepped up to C team duties in early September. According to Peter Farrell, he was going into heavy tackles with no ill effects, but he recognised that fourth team football was a far cry for the First Division. Farrell ended by stating that ‘Jock has the courage and tenacity to make a complete comeback.’

However, the discomfort in his leg did linger, and he had lost some of his mobility.  Unsurprisingly, John never did get back to the level of fitness and sharpness required for a Blues first team comeback, in spite of a loan spell at non-League Worcester City. David Exall, a young Worcester supporter who was later Everton’s promotions manager, recalls Jock being a cut above other players in his boyhood team’s first eleven.

Two months after collecting a £750 benefit cheque in June 1956 from Everton director Dick Searle, in recognition of his long service, he departed Goodison. With John Willie Parker, he moved to Bury in a £3,500 deal. A year later, he joined South Liverpool – it was reported that at Holly Park he compensated for his loss of pace with great football intelligence. He was promptly given the captaincy and appears to have played on for up to two seasons at Holly Park.

Then he had a brief spell in Welsh football before calling it a day and walking away from the sport without much of a glance back: ‘I must admit I was getting on a bit, and feeling the pace, so decided to quit. I had never thought about staying in football. I was never any good at watching it. I hated it when I was out of the team and had to go along to the match. I used to slip away before the end.’

Bury FC players with John Lindsay and John Willie Parker

Bury FC players with John Lindsay and John Willie Parker

Although he lost touch with football after hanging up his boots, John would frequently bump into the likes of Tommy Clinton, Alex Stevenson and Billy Cook near his home and would sometimes join them for a drink. He was also invited up to Ibrox for functions, on occasion. 

His sporting interest shifted to badminton, which he’d enjoy playing with his family. An attempt at running a high-class taxi service with a used Jaguar that he had purchased proved unsuccessful (he was prone to not charging the many customers that he knew). The former full-back went on to work as a maintenance engineer at Walton Hospital (while on Rangers’ books, he had continued with his engineering apprenticeship). There were no regrets: ‘I really enjoy working at Walton, and I can’t really say I miss football too much.’

John was also in the Territorial Army with the 1st Battalion Liverpool Scottish, based at Fraser Street. He was pictured in the Echo in 1959 meeting fellow Scot and Everton full-back Alex Parker, who would be doing his National Service with John as his sergeant.

When John retired from work at Walton Hospital, Everton sent him a card, signed by the likes of Tommy. G Jones, Cyril Lello, Gordon Watson and Tommy Clinton.

John Lindsay passed away from cancer on 25 November 1991, at the age of 66. A funeral was held at Thornton Crematorium.



With thanks to John’s daughters, Janette and Catherine, and granddaughter Sharon, for their help with this article.


Reader Comments (13)

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer ()

Dave Abrahams
1 Posted 19/02/2024 at 13:57:25
I remember Jock as a stylish footballer, not blessed with great speed he was a good reader of the game and very with his cultured passing.

That game versus Stoke City was over the Easter period and we had beaten Lincoln City on the Good Friday 3-1 at Goodison Park and Gwyn Lewis scored one of the goals, on the Saturday we played Stoke and he helped us get another point in a 1-1 but unfortunately that tackle would be the last he ever made for the Blues. On the Monday we drew 1-1 in the return game with Lincoln who equalised with a goal from Andy Garvie(?) 6 minutes from the end of the game.

Jock took over the penalty taking from Eggo (Tommy Eglington), not sure why because Tommy didn't have a bad record with them, if my memory is correct.

One of Jock's penalties came in the 8-4 game versus Plymouth when we scored twenty goals in three or four matches, wouldn't that be lovely this season!!

It's interesting looking at the correspondence with Everton offering Jock £12 a week in the playing season and £10 in the summer, makes you think how slow and poor the footballers union were in looking after their members' welfare until Jimmy Hill as Union leader aided by footballer George Eastham started getting them what they should have been getting for years.

Now they've gone too far the other way, where the Premier League players are concerned.

Paul Birmingham
2 Posted 19/02/2024 at 14:10:58
Thanks Rob, another great extract from Everton's history, and very humbling.

John McFarlane Snr
3 Posted 19/02/2024 at 15:16:39
Hi Rob,

I considered Jock Lindsay the best Everton left-back I had seen until the arrival of Ray Wilson. If my memory is right, he conceded a penalty at Old Trafford, which Ted Sagar saved, and on his home debut, he had to face Stanley Matthews.

Phil Parker
4 Posted 21/02/2024 at 21:30:26
Jock was a lovely man, he used to come in the the pub my family ran in the 70s, the Blobber in Bootle Village. Billy Cook and Andy Rankin also came in occasionally.

Great to read about him and to find out through John how good he was.

Eric Myles
5 Posted 22/02/2024 at 18:44:04
JohnMcF your opinion on the left back discussion on another thread please.

Raymon Wilson, Pat van den Hauwe or Leighton Baines.

Who do you consider the best you've seen?

And how would Jock Lindsay fare in the modern game?

John McFarlane Snr
6 Posted 22/02/2024 at 19:32:13
Hi Eric [5],

Ray Wilson and Leighton Baines were both excellent full-backs. I wasn't really keen on Pat Van Den Hauwe, I thought he was a 'time bomb' waiting to explode.

I find it impossible to compare players of long ago with those of today but the nearest I can attempt is to say that any top class players of yesteryear could hold their own with today's players because they would be just as fit and playing on what I regard as 'Bowling Greens'.

I appreciate that looking back always appears to be more pleasant than it actually was.

Mike Doyle
7 Posted 22/02/2024 at 19:42:22
Never mind the good full-backs we've had — what about the sub-standard ones we've enjoyed over the years?

John ‘Tiger' McLaughlin springs to mind.

Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 22/02/2024 at 20:02:33
Mike (7),

How about Cuco Martina, signed as a free agent by Koeman, he played one season then went on loan to Stoke for one season which was curtailed half-way through when he went back to Everton but straight away he was loaned to Feyenoord in Holland who declined to sign him permanently at the end of that season.

I've seen some whoppers playing full-back for the Blues but don't think I'll ever erase the memory of Cuco and his efforts at trying to play there.

Liam Mogan
9 Posted 22/02/2024 at 20:10:31
Alec Cleland, Mitch Ward, Marc Hotinger, Paul Holmes, Tony Thomas, Ray Atteveld, were all poor full-backs.

The one who I disliked most though was Neil Mcdonald, who seemed to think his ability to strike a ball well meant he was absolved of any defensive responsibility. For a big man of over 6 foot, he just went missing.

Mike Doyle
10 Posted 22/02/2024 at 21:30:15
Dave #8] slightly off the fullback topic - but a challenge for you. I watched on YouTube highlights of Everton v Millwall 1973 FA Cup match the other day. Everton’s (non scoring) twin strikers that day were Rod Belfit and Joe Harper. In all your years watching the blues have you ever seen a worse twin strike force?
Dave Abrahams
11 Posted 23/02/2024 at 09:54:50
Mike (10),

I think we lost that game 2-0 (?), I don't remember much about it only that the Millwall fans thoroughly enjoyed it and certainly let us Everton fans know they did!

Regarding Harper and Belfit I don't know how often they played together but thankfully neither of them stayed at Everton very long, Harper started off like a house on fire apart from dragging the penalty he took well wide of the target, Belfit had a decent career playing for different clubs but Everton, unfortunately, wasn't one of them.

Thinking of poor partnerships I don't remember who Mike Walsh partnered but he was a total flop when we bought him from Blackpool after scoring the goal of the season with them, mind you he wasn't as bad as his brother who was our DOF for a few wasteful financial years.

Over the years we've had some poor strikers Peter Harburn, in the early sixties, Bernie Wright, Bret Angel, The lad from South America who did his best and was appreciated for that but wasn't a footballer, Tosun, Rondon among others but not sure who their partners were, even our player now with Brentford seemed to play better with other teams but not us.

Everton are noted for their famous Number 9s over the years but Jesus, we've had our share of useless so-and-soes as well.

Mike Doyle
12 Posted 23/02/2024 at 16:34:00
Dave (11) when you think about it, going back to the early 70s as I can (and probably earlier), successive management teams have signed some truly woeful players.

I'd say Bernie Wright is the worst I saw live, but he has some serious competition for that title – including that centre-half Moysie signed who couldn't head the ball. I guess we should be grateful we didn't sign George Weah's "cousin".

Perhaps we should be a adopting more of a 'moneyball' approach to player selection – though as we don't have any money, maybe Thelwell already is?

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 23/02/2024 at 17:38:41
Mike (12),

On the other side of the coin, Johnnie Carey let Jimmy Harris leave Everton, although he got a good price for him which helped to pay for Alex Young and George Thompson. Harris was a very speedy centre-forward who also played on right wing; he averaged a goal every three games for Everton and Birmingham City.

Then Harry Catterick sold Frank Wignall to Nottm Forest for a good fee and he went on to score at the same rate as Harris as well as going on to play for England.

One of the worst signings financially has got be Dele Alli, just unbelievable how anyone was allowed to sign this player. I wonder if our barrister threw his name in to our defence to the appeal commission?

If it applied time wise, £12.5M in wages plus unlimited medical fees!!

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

» Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.

How to get rid of these ads and support TW

© Rob Sawyer. All rights reserved.