Robert Gerald "Bob" McGrory (17 October 1891 – 24 May 1954) was a Scottish footballer who played in the Football League for Burnley and Stoke City with whom he later had a long spell as manager.
McGrory played football with Dumbarton before joining English side Burnley in August 1920. After only making three appearances for the "Clarets" he signed for Stoke City in May 1921. He soon became an indispensable part of Tom Mather's first team and was made club captain, skippering the side to promotions in 1926–27 and 1932–33. He spent 15 seasons as a player for Stoke racking up 511 appearances although he did fail to score a single goal. He took over as Stoke manager in 1935 and in his first season in charge guided Stoke to a highest position finish of 4th. World War II disrupted what could have been a successful spell for Stoke but in the first season after the war McGrory's Stoke made their first real attempt to win the First Division. But an ongoing dispute with star winger Stanley Matthews saw him leave for Blackpool just before the end of the season and Stoke went on to lose their must win match against Sheffield United. McGrory remained in charge until 1952 when he ended his 31-year association with the club. He spent a short spell in charge of Merthyr Tydfil leaving after one season due to ill health. He died a year later on 24 May 1954.
Born in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, McGrory began work as an apprentice joiner on a shipyard in Clydeside. In 1914 he signed for Dumbarton, despite only previously playing boys brigade football. He missed only two games in five seasons for the "Sons" and began at attract interest from south of the border. Burnley signed him in August 1920 for a fee of £3,500, but he failed to become a regular Turf Moor making three appearances. He joined Stoke on 23 April 1921, spotted by soon to be chairman Arthur Sherwin. Rumours has it that McGrory had reservations about joining Stoke as he did not like the look of the City. Whether this was true or not, he went on to spend 31 years living in Stoke-on-Trent.
Solidly built at 6 ft, McGrory was frequently described as 'stout-hearted' and played with 'an absence of flurry' no matter what the situation. He acquired the reputation as a fearless man-marker, and if 'dour' described McGrory's approach on the field, it aptly summed up the non-nonsense Scot's personality off it. After an early 7–1 aberration at Hull City, Stoke, with McGrory a major influence at the back, lost only two of their next 27 matches, with the defence conceding just six goals in 16 matches. The run allowed Stoke to claim second spot in 1921–22 to gain promotion to the First Division. McGrory proved to be one of the few Stoke players to cope with the top-flight as Stoke were relegated back to the Second Division. He took over from Alec Milne as club captain in 1925 a position he did not lose for ten years. Stoke suffered relegation again in 1925–26 but McGrory's drive helped Stoke win the Third Division North title in 1926–27.
Famously consistent he played 101 consecutive league games from Match 1926 to September 1928. From 1930, the now 39-year-old McGrory began to coach the Stoke reserve team as well as playing for them, His replacement in the first team was this long-time full-back partner Billy Spencer, who deputised during the 1932–33 title winning season. By Christmas 1933, with McGrory-less Stoke floundering in the top flight Tom Mather recalled his 'old war-horse' to add his experience to a somewhat leaky defence, and it worked as in the second half of the season Stoke picked up more than any other teams bar champions Arsenal and runner-up Huddersfield Town, finishing in respectable 12th position. Promoted to assistant manager in 1934, McGrory appeared in all 42 league matches in 1934–35 at the age of 41. His career at Stoke the took a dramatic turn as Mather left to become manager of Newcastle United and chairman Sherwin offered the job to McGrory who accepted. McGrory's club record of 511 appearances for Stoke would stand for 24 years.
McGrory's managerial style was abrasive, contrasting starkly with that of his predecessor. Aware of the financial problems that had dogged the club in the past, McGrory implemented a policy of blooding young talent. He replaced himself with Charlie Scrimshaw while Frank Soo displaced Harry Sellars is midfield and the emerging Freddie Steele edged out Tommy Sale. It was brave management and it paid off as the young players developed into one of the most exciting teams in the country in the 1930s and in McGrory's first season in charge they finished a highest ever position of fourth with 47 points.
Stoke's most well known player at the time was a certain Stanley Matthews who had become an England international and a very high profile player however tensions soon surfaced between McGrory and Matthews. Under Mather, McGrory's room mate and best friend, Bobby Liddle lost his place in the side to Matthews and McGrory took every opportunity to avenge this injustice. In 1937 Matthews wanted the maximum signing-on fee of £650 rather than the normal £500. McGrory refused and as a result Stoke held him to his previous contract and Matthews was 21 days over the deadline before signing. Tensions between the pair simmered all through the season which came to a head in February 1938 when Matthews handed in a transfer request. Around 4,000 Stoke fans met with the directors at the King's Hall to see the board of directors come to the conclusion that Matthews must not leave. Matthews refused and reiterated his request to leave. Stoke rejected his request and Matthews wrote to the local paper thanking the fans for there support and he forged an uneasy truce with the management and board. Matthews pledged to do his best for his home town club and he did so until 1947 when he joined Blackpool.
He was manager of Stoke during World War II during which time Stoke found a number of impressive younger players. After the war and league football resumed Stoke had their first real attempt to win their first English league title in 1946–47. However with Stoke challenging for the title McGrory's feud with Matthews resurfaced and he was allowed to join Blackpool for £11,500. Stoke then went into their final match of the season against Sheffield United knowing if they win they will be champions, they lost 2–1. McGrory tried in vain to re-establish Stoke as title contenders and after two consecutive relegation battles he left Stoke in May 1952 ending his 31-year stay at Stoke City.
In 1953 Merthyr Tydfil, an ambitious non-league side seeking election to the Football League, tempted McGrory out of retirement, although ill-health meant tenure lasted just one season. He died in his native Glasgow on 23 May 1954.Sourced from Bob McGrory profile at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
Football League Third Division North champions: 1926–27
Football League Second Division champions: 1932–33