JOHN O'HARE, Footballer

johOne of the best footballers to come from the Vale, and certainly the finest footballer to come out of Renton since Alex Jackson, John “Solly” O'Hare, strangely enough goes as under-recognised as Jackson does. Solly was born in Renton in September 1946. He attended St Martins School where his football prowess already stood out, and then went on to St Patrick's High School in Dumbarton.

He joined Sunderland as a centre forward in October 1963, when he had just turned 17, and stayed there for 4 years until August 1967. While at Sunderland he was the first of a trio of Valemen, being joined there by Bobby Kerr, who is a year younger than Solly, in 1964, and then in 1965 by Ian McColl who became the Sunderland manager in the summer of 1965. He made his debut for Sunderland in August 1964 and in all played 51 games for them, scoring 14 goals.

In August 1967 Brian Clough spent £22,000 to take the then 21 year old to Derby County, who were then in the lower reaches of the old English Division 2. Virtually for the rest of his playing career, Solly was one of the small core of players that Clough took with him whichever club he joined. There could be few better endorsements of a footballer's talent. Solly repaid Clough's faith. In a seven-year period from August 1967 to August 1974 John played 248 times for Derby scoring 65 goals. Just as importantly for Derby, with Kevin Hector he formed one of the most effective scoring partnerships in English football. Derby won the Division 2 title in 1969, and the First Division in 1972.

While at Derby, Solly won all of his 13 Scottish international caps between 1970 and 1972. A young Kenny Dalglish made his Scottish debut alongside John in the 1972 game versus Belgium. Even Dalglish's emergence and that of Joe Jordan in 1973, do not explain Solly's lack of caps after 1972, when he was good enough to be playing for the European Cup winners in 1980.

When Brian Clough took on the job as Leeds United manager vacated by Don Revie on his appointment as England's manager in 1974, one of the first things he did was buy John O'Hare from Derby for £25,000. Clough's short reign at Leeds ended in great acrimony, caused by a dressing-room revolt against Cloughie. It couldn't have been a pleasant time for Solly, because the recalcitrant Leeds players would have seen him as Clough's man. In more ways than one he was a spectator to that whole Leeds - Clough saga, because he only played 7 games in 6 months at Leeds, before Clough signed him once again, for the third and last time, for Nottingham Forest on 1st February 1975 for a fee of £25,000. This was half of what Leeds had paid for him 6 months previously, and is as good an indication as any of Leeds' feelings to-wards Clough. Time pretty quickly showed who was to have the last laugh in that spat.

Just like when he had joined Clough at Derby, Forest were in the lower reaches of the old Division 2, and it took them 2 seasons to be promoted. In their first season in the First Division, 1977-78, Forest won the League Championship, and in the following year, 1979, they won the European Cup and retained it in 1980. In the 1980 final, John came on as a substitute, joining the small band of Scotsmen who have been victorious in a European Cup Final, the only Vale person to have been so.

While John now lives and works in Derby, he has an extensive family network still based in Renton, but extending throughout the Vale and beyond.


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