All at Falkirk FC were saddened to learn of the passing of Johnny Graham last month.
Johnny Graham was a really popular player at Brockville in the late 1960s and finished as the club’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons. He showed lots of promise while playing for Strathclyde and was signed up for Third Lanark, where he made his debut in 1963/64 season. His 7 league goals from 31 starts soon attracted the attention of other clubs, and he signed for Dundee United in 1964/65 season. There was fierce competition for places at Tannadice and the travelling up to Dundee didn’t suit his circumstances.
Falkirk moved in quickly and found a regular goal-scorer. Johnny made his debut on January 9th 1965 at Brockville in a 2-2 draw. The home side lined up as follows : Whigham, Rae, Hunter, Fulton, Markie, Scott, Graham, Allan, Wilson, Lambie, Gourlay. Johnny established himself as a prolific scorer and he was a great fans’ favourite. He topped the Falkirk scoring charts in every season he played except his last one, when Alex Ferguson pipped him to the title. He scored 17, 12, 13, 7 and 13 league goals in a Falkirk side that struggled to keep its place in the top flight.
He moved to Hibs for a reported fee of £22,000 in 1969/70 season and continued the goal-scoring form. Johnny played in an exciting attacked-minded Easter Road side and his outstanding performances were rewarded with two Scottish League caps. He made his debut on March 18th.1970 against the League of Ireland when Scotland won 1-0 thanks to a goal by George Connelly. He played well and the Scotland team had some class players on show. The starting eleven were: Cruickshank, Hay, Dickson, Stanton, McKinnon, Henry, Johnstone, Connelly, Hood, Graham, Duncan. Johnny was listed as substitute for the big match against a star-studded English League side on September 2nd 1970, and he replaced Henry Hall in the second half of the game. Johnny scored Scotland’s second goal in a narrow 3-2 defeat.
After 14 goals from 44 league games, Johnny moved to Somerset Park where he carried on his great run of consistency and found a new adoring audience who appreciated his skills. At Somerset Park, he scored 62 goals in his 168 games, including two seasons in the new Premier Division, and showed no signs of winding down. He kept his fitness levels high and gave great service to Ayr United.
As he approached the later stages of his career, he returned to Brockville and took up a deeper midfield role. He played 19 games in the ill-fated Centenary season and ended his Senior career at the club. His last game in navy blue saw Falkirk go down 4-0 at Dumbarton.
In total, he had played 203 first team games and had been a sub on another five. His 80 goals remains a remarkable tally, given that he played in many struggling teams. He well deserved his place in the original Falkirk Hall of Fame.
In his later years, Johnny was a sailor and bowler of some note and was often to be found on his boat in the Clyde. He was a quiet, modest man and he became involved in the Football Memories project as a volunteer in a care home in Baillieston. It is a real pleasure when you find that the heroes of your younger days turn out to be really nice guys when you meet them in later life. Johnny preferred to be known as John, and was always good company. The men he helped in that care home appreciated his football stories and memories which were never about himself, but gave a great insight into the game in the 60s and 70s. With his death on October 31st, at the age of 73, we have lost another link with the past and a real fans’ favourite. We all have our all-time Falkirk favourite player and I know for a fact that Gordon McFarlane had Johnny Graham as top of his list. Those who played with him will testify that he was some player.
By Michael White, Club Historian
Our sincerest condolences to Johnny’s family and friends at this sad time.