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Harry McShane

Footballer and father of Lovejoy actor Ian McShane;

Born: April 8, 1920; Died: November 12, 2012.

Harry McShane, who has died at the age of 92, was a Scot whose football career was spent entirely south of the Border and, until his recent death, was widely believed to be the oldest-surviving Manchester United player.

Born in Holytown, Lanarkshire, his football career started with local junior side Bellshill Athletic before he turned senior with Blackburn Rovers in 1937.

Like so many others, the outbreak of war in 1939 severely interrupted his career. He served in north Africa and Italy with the Royal Air Force but also guested for Manchester City, Blackpool, Reading and Port Vale and after the cessation of hostilities signed for Huddersfield Town, making 15 appearances in the 1946-47 season, and scoring one goal before signing for Bolton Wanderers in July 1947.

A pacy, direct, hard-working winger capable of playing on either side of the park, the Scot had a tentative, uncertain start in Lancashire but soon established himself at Burnden Park, staying three years, during which time he made 99 appearances and scored six goals.

He caught the eye of fellow Scot Matt Busby, who hailed from Bellshill and was manager of Manchester United. Busby had lost Charlie Mitten, who had departed for the Millionaires Club of Bogota, Columbia, and was about to see the veteran Jimmy Delaney leave for Aberdeen. Many promising youngsters were coming through at Old Trafford – including forwards David Begg and Albert Scanlon – and Busby recognised the need for an experienced addition to his squad. A £5000 transfer fee (a substantial amount 60 years ago) saw Harry move to the Red Devils in September 1950.

The Scot may not have enjoyed the flamboyance of the departed Mitten, but his versatility was crucial to Busby's thinking. By no stretch of the imagination could he be described as being in the mould of a tricky, skilful winger so beloved of Scots' crowds, but he knew the road to the goal lay in the shortest possible route and used his greatest asset – his speed – to telling effect.

He went straight into the United line-up making his debut on September 13 in a goalless home league draw with Aston Villa and was a key figure on the left wing as his new club fought to win the Football League Championship, only just falling short of eventual champions Tottenham Hotspur.

The 1951-52 season was a different story, with the Scot playing in 12 league fixtures as Busby's side secured the title. McShane was a key figure despite a cartilage injury restricting his appearances – his surging, direct runs down the wing inevitably ending in a cross to prolific marksmen of the ilk of Stan Pearson and Jack Rowley and his versatility allowing Busby to switch him from right wing to left to accommodate the newly arrived Johnny Berry from Birmingham City.

In all 56 of his games for United, he produced eight goals, but by February 1954 the onset of the Busby Babes and the irresistible form of David Pegg meant McShane, by now reaching the veteran stage, was surplus to requirements at Old Trafford and he moved to Oldham Athletic for £750.

Boundary Park was not exactly Manchester, but the Scot enjoyed a fruitful time at Oldham with five goals in 41 games before, in 1955, moving to non-league football with Chorley, Wellington Town, Droylesden and Altrincham, and then on to coaching at Stalybridge Celtic.

The call of Old Trafford was strong and McShane returned to Manchester to take up a scouting appointment with United, being involved in the discovery of the likes of Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville Brothers.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he was also the voice of Old Trafford as public address announcer and disc jockey. He was also instrumental in the formation of the influential Manchester United Former Players' Association which has raised substantial funds for charity.

Away from professional football, he worked as personnel officer for tractor manufacturers Massey Ferguson in Stretford, Manchester, until his retiral in 1981.

He is survived by his wife Rene and son Ian, the successful actor whose most famous role was that of the antiques dealer on television's Lovejoy.

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