By Jim Vaughn and Bill Gibbs
Tuesday 26 Apr 2011 09:02:00
Browse all The Fairs Club articles


 Now retired, John was the original hardman of professional football players who played in more than 281 league games between 1960 and 1976 as a defender. John was born on 11 June 1941in Coatbridge, a small town about 10 miles from Glasgow.

John’s footballing philosophy can be summed up in a game against Chelsea at St James’ Park in the late1960s. After a few minutes into the game, Alan Birchenall, the Chelsea midfield player went on a penetrating run from the right flank and John, a hero at the Toon ordered his full back to swap places with him. John proceeded to belt Birchenall on to the cinder track.

John stating that if he came back into his half again, he would get the full treatment. Alan   Birchenall spent the rest of the game operating just in front of Chelsea’s back four.

John’s junior days saw him spend his time at Bellshill Athletic.

John started his senior career with Celtic in1960, playing 27 times and hitting the back of the net twice for the old firm team. John played in the 1963 Scottish Cup Final which ended stalemate at 1-1. The replay saw a convincing 3-0 win for Rangers, a game that Willie Henderson was to star but 6 years on in the semi-final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, Rangers suffered at the hands of a few canny Scots, something John managed to remind Willie when we said our sad farewells to Jackie Sinclair at Dunfermline.

John was signed by Jock Stein to play for Hibernian in April 1964 scoring 4 goals in 77 outings. Stein himself moved in the opposite direction early in the next year and a year later John McNamee signed for Newcastle United, and was part of the team that won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969. John played a total of 117 games scoring 8 times.

Of the 8 goals scored by the big man I will always proudly recall the goal at Joker Park on 30th December 1967 and even more the resulting celebration. We were 3-1 down and heading for a right pasting when Ollie Burton converted his second penalty of the game. I guess many fans who left the ground with a few minutes to go missed John’s equaliser in the dying minutes of the game, but they also missed the best goal celebration ever when Big John McNamee swung on the Makems crossbar. Although it only cost a few bob into the ground, imagine how I would have felt if I had missed that goal and the “big mans” celebration. Even if you are losing be sure to get your money’s worth at all cost, how many Makems saw the equaliser at the Stadium of shite.

Finally John left Newcastle in 1971 for Blackburn Rovers. After a spell at Hartlepool United, Lancaster City and Workington John retired in 1976.

What many of the older supporters do not know is that John actually supplemented his Newcastle United playing wage with running a Waste Paper Collection service. He owned his own lorry and would you believe he actually turned up for training one morning in that same lorry!


When his playing days were over, John worked as a painter and decorator but after his dear wife Rose passed away in 1983 after 17 years of marriage, he decided in the interests of looking after his four children, Gwen, Elaine, John and Darren, that he would take a job as a Postman working in Cockermouth. It was during his time working for  Royal Mail that his van was involved in a head on collision, which left him with a damaged neck and back but such was the resolve of the man of steel that he recovered and went back to his job.


He carried on as a Postman until his retirement and soon after courtesy of Jim Scott another Newcastle United hero The Fairs Club were put in touch with the big man and arranged to present him with his shirts at Workington. A great day at the Workington Social Club was had by the Fairs Club I can tell you! Soon after Bill Gibbs received a phone call from John to deliver the horrendous news that his son Darren had passed away in Australia. John had to go out there to sort things out and all our hearts went with him. Shortly after, the great floods in Cumbria swamped John’s home in Cockermouth and he has only just returned after a year away from his property.


Recently, John has been over for the Fairs Cup 40 year reunions and also received an award from The Fairs Club at the Wallsend Lindisfarne Club which was inscribed with “John McNamee the man who swung on the Sunderland crossbar” John was last season invited to a game against Middlesbrough at St. James’ Park and it was great to see fans coming up to him asking for autographs and you could see the pride etched on the ex Newcastle United favourite’s face as he signed for them a pride reciprocated by the fans that he was one of theirs!!!


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