Johnny Ballantyne
Johnny Ballantyne
Johnny Ballantyne
● Johnny Ballantyne, 1935 (LCC)

born in Scotland

John Ballantyne was born on Friday, 27th October, 1899, in Maryhill, Glasgow.

The 5' 8 (10st 12lbs) forward signed for George Easton's Thistle on Monday, 27th June, 1921, having most recently been with Ashfield.

Aged 21, he made his debut appearance on Tuesday, 16th August, 1921, in a 1-0 win at home to Clydebank FC in the SFL First Division.

Johnny scored his first two goals for Thistle on Saturday, 17th December, 1921, in a 2-1 win at home to Clyde in the SFL First Division.

He scored the last of his 95 goals on Saturday, 2nd March, 1935, in a 2-2 draw at home to Queen's Park in the SFL First Division.

That turned out to be his last game for the club, having clocked up an impressive 340 appearances as a Jag.

His club-list included Ashfield, Partick Thistle, Boston Wonder Workers, Falkirk and Queens Park Rangers.

Johnny died in 1977, in Glasgow, aged 77 or 78.

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Bio Extra

Johnny had done very well at Ashfield, and the 21-year-old bade his farewell to them after playing in the Scottish Junior Cup final in May, 1921, in which they were narrowly defeated by a goal to nil by Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in front of 20,000 at Hampden. Just weeks later, he finally made his big step up to the senior grade.

It may sound weird to say it, but although Johnny arrived at Firhill just months after the club had won the Scottish Cup, we were crying out for players who could put the ball in the back of the net. This had been a big problem since the departure of Neil Harris in 1920. Johnny, a clever inside forward, not only had the striker's instinct for goal, but he was a bit of a weaver and created chances for those in his slipstream. It was reported contemporaneously that he β€œhas that bit extra that divides the master from the useful player” and that he β€œpossesses a powerful shot and scores many spectacular goals; when in the mood he can make rings round the best… he is indeed, a bonny player.”

It did take him a while to find his scoring boots at Firhill, but he played his part in the team which finished Top 6 in his first season and reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. He was viewed as a key component in Thistle's quest to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Scottish game. He scored the first of his hat-tricks in April, 1924, in a 4-1 win over Liverpool during Tom Crichton's testimonial. It may not have been a competitive game, but it certainly got his name in the papers. However, as things turned out, that may not have been a good thing. After three succesful seasons as a Jag, Johnny signed a new contract in the summer of 1924 but, shockingly, he failed to honour it, his head having been turned by the lure of the American dollar.

In the States, soccer was very much on the rise and, the Americans being American, club owners threw money at it in attempt to have their team the shining stars. The Boston Wonder Workers were described as being β€œin the vanguard of this spending frenzy” and they began plotting their ascension to greatness by prising Tommy Muirhead away from Rangers to serve as their player-manager. The bold Tommy was key in similarly prising others away from their clubs back home including Jimmy Shankly, brother of Bob & Bill. In The Year in American Soccer - 1925 Steve Holroyd wrote:


Using Muirhead as a contact, Wood stunned the soccer world by signing former Scottish international Alex McNab away from Morton. McNab was signed for $25 a week to play soccer and work at the Wonder Works factory. These arrangements were not uncommon in American soccer, and had been used by Bethlehem Steel not surprisingly, another club with corporate financing and factory jobs to offer for years. Boston caused further controversy by signing Johnny Ballantyne from Patrick Thistle, even though he had already signed a contract with the Scottish club. The "Woodsies," as they were often called, did not limit their raids to Scottish clubs, however: Mickey Hamill, lured by Fall River from England’s Manchester City, jumped to Boston prior to the season, notwithstanding his having already played two exhibition matches with the Marksmen.

As Kennedy and Hosie tell in their Legends book, it was only after some delicate transatlatic negotiations (involving at least the return of close-season wages!) that Thistle reluctantly agreed to release him from his contract. Johnny won the American Soccer League Cup with Boston in his first season, as they defeated Fall River Marksmen by 2 goals to 1 on 29th March, 1925, in front of 17,000 at Rhode Island. They would win the same cup in 1927. As Wikipedia tells, that victory qualified them for the one-time American Professional Soccer Championship pitting them against the Ben Millers, the top SLSL team. The Wonder Workers defeated the Ben Millers over three games.

Johnny's time with Boston lasted four years, during which time he scored about one in three of his 150 or so appearances for the Massachusetts club, an excellent ratio for an inside forward. He returned home to Thistle in August, 1928; all was forgiven by the fatherly George Easton et al. Johnny would maintain his very decent scoring form in this settled second spell at Firhill. For the first-time he got into double figures (13) in his first season back, and did so again the following season (12) as well as 1933-34 (12) when he was second only to Sandy MacLennan in our competitive goals chart. Magnificently, Thistle finished in the Top 6 in Johnny's first 4 seasons back, part of the club's 5-in-a-row in that regard. It was a superbly consistent period for Thistle, and there were a great many personal highlights for Johnny.

In December '28, he struck gold in the Glasgow Dental Cup (a 2-0 final win over Rangers) and in April '30 he featured in the two most highly attended games in Thistle's history, a mind-boggling 211,163 watching our two games against Rangers. Alas, it was only a silver for Johnny that time, the Ibrox side narrowly prevailing by one goal to nil over the 180 minutes. He scored his second hat-trick in the close-season tour of Norway which followed, the Jags defeating Lyn by 5 to 2 on that particular occasion. In October 1931, he was selected to represent The Scottish League, playing in a 5-0 win over The Irish League. Johnny was very much at home on that occasion - it was played at Firhill! In March 1934, the 34-year-old Johnny scored his third (and first-ever competitive) hat-trick for the Jags, doing so in a 5-3 top-flight thriller at home to Cowdenbeath. Later on that same year, in October, the veteran inside left struck gold once again as the Jags defeated Rangers 1-0 at Hampden Park to lift the Glasgow Cup for the very first time. It would've been a somewhat emotional occasion for the Firhill faithful, some of whom would have been waiting the full 48 years of trying!

In March, 1935, Johnny scored in his last game for the club which, fittingly, came at Firhill in the top-flight, a 2-2 draw at home to Queen's Park. 10,000 were there to see Johnny earn a point for the cause, with a fine run and shot late on. He was loaned out to Falkirk just after that, as the Bairns were desperate to try and avoid the drop (they didn't). Annoyingly for Johnny, Thistle completed the Cup double in his absence. Again Rangers were ousted from the Glasgow Charity Cup (this time at the semi final stage) and Thistle were back at Hampden, where Queen's Park were defeated by 2 goals to 1. 1924 karma anyone?!

From there, Johnny signed Queen’s Park Rangers of the English Third Division (South) and made his debut in October '35 in a cup match at Brighton. Brilliantly, he scored on his Football League debut in a 4-1 win at Northampton Town the following month. He spent two seasons at Loftus Road all told, scoring 3 goals in 27 appearances before retiring from professional football in 1937. His was a splendid career, full of action.


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