John Blackley shares his footballing career at Musselburgh Sporting Memories.
(John Blackley in dark grey centre with some of our members)
Earlier in August our Musselburgh group welcomed a Hibs legend to Musselburgh RFC at Stoneyhill to chat about his sporting life and memories. Our guest of honour was none other than former Hibs club captain and Scottish internationalist John Blackley. John also played for Newcastle United, Preston and Hamilton with distinction.
With the help of our own Jim Power, John took us back to his school days in Falkirk where his love of football was kindled. After being scouted by several clubs in his teens he accepted an offer to go to Easter Road. In typically modest fashion John enthused about the great players he had around him: Jim O'Rourke, Pat Stanton, Alec Edwards, Alan Gordon and Alex Cropley to name a few.
John talked at length of his time at Hibs under different managers. Given his break as a youngster under Bob Shankly (older brother of Liverpool's Bill Shankly) he was scared to open his mouth. All changed under Eddie Turnbull where he found his voice, his favourite position as centre half - no 6 & his ability to organise the defence as well as captain the side.
This was all at a time when Hibs were a truly powerful team to be more than reckoned with. They regularly featured in European competitions, but John’s career highlight as he confirmed to our Musselburgh members was winning the League Cup in 1973.
When Billy Connolly and Rod Stewart entertained the team
John was capped for his country seven times and brought along the caps to the session. A fondly remembered highlight of his international career was the 2-0 win against Zaire in 1974 World Cup in Germany - still the furthest Scotland, managed by Willie Ormond, have been in the World Cup. He candidly talked about how scared he & the other players were in the tunnel before the Zaire game.
He spoke about his "hero" Denis Law and playing with the Manchester United legend in that Scottish team. He recalled having to pinch himself to believe it was actually happening, playing with Law.
The group at Musselburgh were brought to laughter when he spoke about the Scotland squad being entertained at their hotel by no less than Billy Connolly, Rod Stewart and Elton John - What a line up, Glastonbury eat your heart out! What we would have given to be part of that audience.
John moved to Newcastle for £100k in 1977 and on three times his salary at that time but it was not an easy time as The Magpies were in a transition phase. One of our club members recalled being at his debut when Newcastle played Derby and many more of his games at St James’ Park. He was very popular with the Geordie fans because he played for the shirt. He was known as a "cultured " player (which he found hilarious) partly because of his "mouthiness" but also his ability to organise his defence. He also mentioned that in the warm-up he had a superstition of always blasting the ball in the net before kick-off - somewhat ironic because he never managed to score for Newcastle!
Time caught up with us before we could hear about the latter stages of his playing career and management / coaching appointments, so we'll hopefully see him back to fill in the spaces in his sporting history.
Thanks John, a real superstar and true gent and we can’t wait for part two!