Obituary: Harry McShane
Everyone with an attachment to Manchester United Football Club was deeply saddened on hearing that Harry McShane has passed away at the age of 92.
Harry will be fondly remembered by all who knew him during his long and eventful life. Like Jack Crompton – the man who now succeeds him as United’s oldest surviving former player – McShane fulfilled several roles during his many years of service at Old Trafford. But while there are comparisons off the pitch, winger Harry’s career path on the pitch took him down contrasting avenues to those taken by goalkeeper Jack.
Born in Holytown, Lanarkshire on Thursday 8 April 1920, McShane turned out for Bellshill Athletic in his native Scotland before moving south of the border to join Blackburn Rovers. A nippy player at home on the flank, he made his league debut for Rovers, as a 17-year-old, against Chesterfield at Ewood Park on Christmas Day 1937. His second league outing was also against Chesterfield, two days later, in the return fixture at Saltergate.
The outbreak of the Second World War interrupted his progress on the football field as McShane served his country in the Royal Air Force. Like so many others, his chosen career was to be decimated by the trauma of conflict, but he returned to football action following the cessation of hostilities to play for Huddersfield Town, making 14 league appearances and scoring one goal.
Bolton Wanderers was his next destination where he stayed for more than three years, playing regularly in the same side that included Trotters luminaries such as Tommy Banks and Nat Lofthouse. In September 1950, he was transferred to Old Trafford in a deal which despatched Reds defender John Ball in the opposite direction.
Harry had been recruited by Sir Matt Busby to replace fellow winger Charlie Mitten who had departed to try his luck with a Colombian club. It was a move that very nearly brought him a league championship medal in 1952 as United claimed a first title in 41 years. Disappointingly for Harry, he totalled just 12 outings during the campaign due to a lengthy lay-off through injury, thus just failing to reach the required number of appearances to be eligible for a medal.
In February 1954, after 57 appearances and 8 goals for the Reds, McShane made the short trip across the region to sign for Oldham Athletic, with whom he completed his league playing career. He later gave service at non-league clubs such as Chorley, Wellington Town, Droylsden and Stalybridge Celtic. Although later taking employment in industry, he never severed his links with the game and, in particular, with his beloved Manchester United.
Harry was ‘The Voice of Old Trafford’ in the 1960s and 1970s in his capacity of public address announcer and club disc jockey. He also acted as a scout for the club, trawling the playing fields of Manchester and beyond in search of new talent – Wes Brown being a notable discovery in the early 1990s. Additionally, Harry was one of the founding members of the Association of Former Manchester United Players (AFMUP) which, over the years, has raised considerable amounts of money for charity and fostered wonderful friendship amongst men with a common bond.
Harry, the father of successful television and film actor Ian McShane, will be greatly missed by all those who knew him and his contribution to the never-ending story of Manchester United will not be forgotten.
Harry McShane’s United Career:
Debut: 13/09/50 vs Aston Villa (H),
0-0, Football League Division One
Football League: 56 apps / 8 goals
FA Cup: 1 apps / 0 goals
Total: 57 apps / 8 goals