Legendary striker tells of his 10-month stint in New Zealand: ‘I was petrified’

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He played more than 600 games as a pro footballer, scoring 352 goals … but Scottish international striker John McGinlay has told how a year in New Zealand helped launch him into the top flights of British clubs.

Considered a legend at Bolton Wanderers, McGinlay (58) says he was 20 when he got an offer to play national league football for North Shore United in 1983.

Alone, he crossed the world.

“I was petrified, to be honest,” he told the Fore Four 2 podcast.

McGinlay arrived at Auckland Airport, after travelling non-stop for 37 hours, to be welcomed by United’s manager Don Jones and his assistant.

“They drove me to a naval base,” he said.

There, he went straight into a first-team training session.

“I could barely move,” McGinlay said. “They must have wondered what they’d got.”

McGinlay survived sunstroke, two or three months of feeling homesick and played 24 games for North Shore, scoring 10 goals.

He said he enjoyed his time in Auckland, where he boarded with football and cricket commentator Alan Richards and his family.

At the end of the 10-month New Zealand season, he returned to Scotland and his previous club Nairn County, and spent a month on trial with Sunderland.

Then started a career with a succession of clubs, including Yeovil Town, Shrewsbury Town, Bury, Millwall, Bolton Wanderers, Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and a move to the United States where he turned out for Cincinnati Riverhawks and Cincinnati Kings.

McGinlay played 13 full internationals for Scotland, scoring four goals, and briefly managed non-league clubs Gresley Rovers and Ilkeston Town.

Today, he works as a matchday ambassador for Bolton Wanderers. He is Wanderers’ 10th-highest goalscorer of all time, having scored 118 goals in 245 games between 1992 and 1997.

He’s also the Director of Football at UoB Bolton Borough FC, a club formed in 2021 as a joint venture between the University of Bolton and Bolton Wanderers.

Watch the full interview

McGinlay recounts the story of his career in this 90-minute video, including five minutes about his time in New Zealand.

Click below, and the video will start as McGinlay recalls how he got the chance to sign for North Shore United.

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