Date: 3rd August 2010 at 2:25pm
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John MacPhail is deservedly regarded as one of the greatest-ever centre-backs to play for York City and was a leading figure during their record-breaking season of 1983-84.

John MacPhail is deservedly regarded as one of the greatest-ever centre-backs to play for York City and was a leading figure during their record-breaking season of 1983-84.

Dundee-born MacPhail actually began his professional career with his hometown club before completing a move to Sheffield United in January 1979. He went on to make just short of a century of appearances for the Blades until joining York on loan – with the deal being made permanent in March 1983.

That decision proved to be a masterstroke by York player-manager Denis Smith, who as a commanding centre-half himself certainly knew the necessary requirements for his own successor in the side. As such, MacPhail became a vital figure in the centre of defence over the course of the next three seasons. He also mixed in with a number of important goals and was often handed the responsibility from the penalty spot.

In total he managed 29 goals in 173 appearances for York as he formed an impregnable defensive barrier with fellow Scot Ricky Sbragia. That brought him a third division championship medal in his first full season with the club in addition to five appearances in memorable FA Cup ties with giants-of-the-game Arsenal and Liverpool.

However, a dispute over terms saw him eventually leave York in July 1986, and a £14,000 fee took him to Bristol City. Within a year MacPhail had linked up again with his former boss Smith at Sunderland, and immediately claimed another third division title with the Wearsiders before helping them back to the top division with a second promotion in just three years. He eventually finished his playing days at Hartlepool United, where he also had a spell as their player-manager before his retirement after almost 600 career league appearances.

MacPhail was voted as ‘Clubman of the Year’ in successive seasons (1983-84 and 1984-85) at Bootham Crescent, which is undoubtedly a true testament as to just how highly their supporters valued him. His undoubted class and steadying composure provided the foundation for still the club’s only major honour as they racked up a record-breaking 101 league points, while smashing 96 goals in the process as they left the rest of the division trailing far behind them.

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