LOCAL football afficionados of a certain vintage will remember the 1966 FA Cup final between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday.
Played seven days before the Saints-Wigan rugby league clash, it produced one of the most memorable comebacks of them all; Everton were 2-0 down to a rampant Sheffield Wednesday, before a ‘double’ from Mike Trebilcock and a 74th minute winner from Derek Temple brought the cup back to Goodison Park.
In the Owls team that afternoon, wearing the number 11 jersey was a St Helens lad, John Quinn, who had begun his football career with St Helens Town before joining Prescot Cables. Despite a typically whole-hearted display, he could do nothing to prevent his team’s Wembley demise.
Born in St Helens on 30th May 1938, John had signed for the Owls in May 1959, having given up his job as a welder. He made his senior debut in September of that year, later helping Wednesday to a credible second-place finish behind double-winning Spurs in 1960-61. His career was then disrupted by National Service, spent as a Physical Training Instructor with the 11th Signal Regiment at Catterick.
Quinn proved himself to be a valuable member of the Sheffield Wednesday squad for over seven years and played in every position but goal and centre-half, scoring 24 times in 194 appearances. Although not big physically, he made up for it with great energy and skill.
He was signed by the Owls as an inside forward and really came to the fore at Hillsborough under manager Alan Brown during the 1964-65 campaign. His team-mates included the likes of Howard Wilkinson, Colin Dobson, Don Megson, goalkeeper Ron Springett and the brilliantly-named inside forward Johnny Fantham.
Some eighteen months after his Wembley disappointment, he dropped down to the Second Division in November 1967 when incoming boss Tommy Docherty paid the Owls £27,500 to make him his first signing for Rotherham United. He was the ‘Doc’s’ natural choice as captain, a skilful right half and a real ‘cult’ figure with the fans to boot. The strains of the Manfred Mann song ‘Mighty Quinn’ echoed from the terraces at Rotherham’s Millmoor ground as Quinn went on to make 124 appearances for the Millers, including a dogged comeback from a ruptured Achilles tendon, which kept him out of action for 18 months.
John’s Yorkshire odyssey continued when he joined Halifax Town in 1972, becoming player-manager when George Mulhall was sacked in September 1974. Alas, the dreaded sack came in February 1976 and he joined non-league Worksop Town under his former Wednesday team-mate Peter Swan. He went on to manage the club and later saw service with Goole Town.
John ran sports shops in the Sheffield area, with former Wednesday team-mates Gerry Young and Peter Eustace. There was also a new team on the scene: Johnny Quinn’s All Stars, raising huge sums of money for charitable causes. In 2006 former Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United full-back Mel Sterland, a regular with the team, then took over the reins.
When news of John’s death emerged on 19th September, after a long illness, there were many heartfelt tributes from former team-mates and supporters. He was a real gentleman, well-respected and a popular figure wherever his career took him. The man who went to Yorkshire to pursue his footballing dreams had clearly left behind an admirable sporting legacy in the White Rose county.
Ironically, Gerry Young, John’s former team-mate and business colleague pre-deceased him on 1st September. The Geordie left-half’s error had led to Everton’s winning goal in that dramatic 1966 FA Cup final.