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The Football League’s oldest player

March 16, 2017

This day in football history


On 15 March 1947, Neil McBain took the pitch for New Brighton AFC at the age of 51 years and 120 days old. He still holds the record as the Football League’s oldest ever player.

He began his career in 1914 as a wing-half with Ayr United and played for a variety of clubs in Scotland and England for the next 16 seasons, including Manchester United (1921–23), Everton (1923–26), St. Johnstone (1926–28), Liverpool (1928), and Watford (1928–31). In 1929, while at Watford, he was promoted to player-manager. Though he retired from playing in 1931, he remained there as manager until 1937.

After spells in charge of Ayr United (1937–38) and Luton Town (1938–39), he eventually took the reins at New Brighton in the summer of 1946. Late in his first season there, the team suffered a spate of injuries that left them short of goalkeepers. So, on 15 March, McBain put his playing boots back on and took the position in goal against Hartlepool United.

It was not a successful return to playing for him, as New Brighton conceded three goals and scored none. McBain stayed with them for one more season (though he never played another match) and was sacked in February 1948. He continued to manage until 1963, including return stints at Watford and Ayr United, and passed away in 1974.



Brian Seal


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