Ian McPherson

Ian Buchanan McPherson was born 26 July 1920 and died in St Albans in March 1983).

He is one of those Arsenal players who tends to be forgotten despite his vital contribution to one of the club’s league winning sides.  Indeed he does not even warrant any text on Arsenal.com.

He started with Rangers but left the club to serve with the RAF during the second world war.  He was (along with Freddie Cox) awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The DFC is a military decoration awarded for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.  It is an award which goes back to the earliest days of the RAF and during the war was awarded to commissioned officers and Warrant Officers.

After returning from serving his country Ian joined Notts County and played in the regional league in 1945/6 when there was still no return to competitive football.  He was then signed in August 1946 by George Allison, who had returned to Arsenal at the end of the war (Reg Cumner travelling in the opposite direction as part of the transfer.)

He played at outside right in the very first post-war league match for Arsenal – a disaster in which we lost 6-1 away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.  Although four players lost their places in the team immediately after that opening game, Ian was not one of them and in all he played 37 league games that season, three at inside right.  He also played in the three FA cup games of the season, scoring once.

Arsenal finished 13th and at the end of the season George Allison (who had been writing for the club programme in 1910 and had been part of the club ever since) stepped down.

In the 1947/8 season Ian switched to the outside left position (not outside right as Wiki currently says) and won a league winners’ medal.  He was known for his pace, and his shooting.  Wiki also comments on his “inconsistent form” which may be correct.

Although he played 27 league games in 1949/50 he did not make the team for the 2-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.

Season Lge Games Lge Goals Manager
1946/7 32 6 George Allison
1947/8 29 5 Tom Whittaker
1948/9 33 5 Tom Whittaker
1949/50 27 3 Tom Whittaker
1950/1 26 0 Tom Whittaker
  152 19  

He did not make the starting line up at the start of the 1950/1 with Cox and Roper making the team but he did step in on either wing when there were injuries.

Ian McPherson left Arsenal in the summer of 1951 and returned to Notts County having played 163 games and scoring 21 goals.

He spent two seasons at Notts County playing 50 games and scoring seven goals, and finished his league career with four games for Brentford.  He played non-league football for Bedford Town and Cambridge United.

He died in St Albans 1983, aged 62.  Two weeks before his death he attended a testimonial lunch at Lords for Leslie Compton.  Sadly we have no knowledge of his life after his retirement from playing.

The anniversaries

  • 12 June 1945: Pat Jennings born
  • 12 June 1946: Bobby Gould born
  • 12 June 1951: Final appearance for Ian McPherson
  • 12 June 1980: Clive Allen signed from QPR in one of the strangest transfers ever
  • 12 June 1998. Emmanuel Petit plays for France in their opening world cup game.

The books…

See also…



12 Replies to “Ian McPherson”

  1. Hi
    I am Ian McPherson’s daughter born in 1955.I was a bit disappointed to hear that he has been largely forgotten as sports was his life and he was always up for a game. He was a sportsman in everything he did, be it a game of tennis or darts. That competitive spirit was behind everything and the emotion invested great. I suppose modern coaching might have supported the ‘erratic performance’ more balancing and harnessing that emotivity.
    He became a medical representative after leaving football moving up the career ladder to area manager with Smith and Nephew Pharmaceuticals. He took up golf and would spend his freetime on the course.His handicap was down to 5 at one point.
    He stayed married to Joyce his very gentle and loving wife. They had met in Cambridge when he had been training as an pilot and married after 3 months . Joyce was a teacher and is still alive, uses internet, drives and reads.We still talk about our lives with Ian, my father.
    In man
    St.Albans was a conservative city that offered a secure haven for Ian and his family and both daughters went on to University. Unfortunately he was surrounded by females and was basically a man’s man, loving all hobbies male. On the day he died he had played 2 rounds of golf.

  2. Karen, thank you so much for taking the trouble to write and tell us all more. All Arsenal players are logged on Arsenal’s web site, and all have some details about their lives, and most have a Wiki page too. So perhaps I am saying too much in using the word “forgotten” sometimes. But our aim within Arsenal History Society is to bring those members of the club to the fore, so that more is recorded about them, not just for supporters now, but in the future too.

    Many, many thanks for reading, and for getting in touch.

  3. Thanks Tony
    I have forwarded this link to my mother in the UK.(I live in Italy) and hope she can add some comments as she lived those glorious years in person and of course knew all the team.

  4. A brave man ,a strong man. a lover of animals ,his dogs ,his cats. a gentleness and care that was part of his strength. I remember the saturdays watching Arsenal play ,the excitement and sometimes despair. Golf became his final challenge ,he played to the end

  5. hi,im eleven and am his grand daughter i never met him but i know about him from my family and now from you,thank you for making a permanent record.

  6. I was associated with Ian in 1960 when we worked together in the medical sales field all the comments made about him are indeed true I remember him well as a fine gentleman in manner and strength we lost touch when I came to Texas to live and have just learned of his passing

  7. Hi walter bell, i don’t think you’ll see this but i’m writing anyway.
    I would be interested to know more about the grandfather i never met.

  8. Hello Sophie. I knew your grandfather. Are you Kim or Judy’s daughter? i was Kim’s friend at school in St Albans. We lived opposite each other on Meadowcroft, St Albans. They were 58 and we were 67 We got up to all sorts of adventures.

    i remember Ian as a passionate golf player and as Kim says a man’s man. I guess I was a little bit frightened of him. one year we all went on holiday together to Norfolk. Your great Aunt jean came and your grandmother, who we affectionately called Nan. I saw Ian in a different light then as he taught us to pick up giant crabs at low tide.

    I moved away when i went to college to train to teach ( your grandmother Joyce had some influence in that decision) and then we lived overseas. My dad John Winter died in 1986 in Spain and my mum Irene died last year, aged 85. I was interested to hear your grandmother is still alive. We thought she had died. Could you let her know my mum Irene Winter died last November. Sue

  9. I can add a little on Ian McPherson’s early football career in Glasgow. His football career took off in May 1939. At Queen’s Park Secondary School he was a good but not an outstanding footballer. On leaving school he played for Queen’s Park Former Pupils XI. However, he joined Junior (non-league, semi-professional) Maryhill FC in early May 1939. He immediately attracted interest from many Scottish and Football League clubs. His parents insisted that any professional offer needed to include a job, i.e. a part-time professional. However, legendary Rangers manager Bill Struth somehow convinced him to sign on full professional terms which he did on 1 June 1939. He only made one appearance for Rangers before League football was abandoned on the outbreak of the Second World War.

    The British Pathe news archive has some footage of Ian McPherson playing in the footballers’ golf tournament in 1949.


  10. I was pleased to provide it. I have been looking at the careers of footballers decorated for their bravery in both War and peacetime.

    I can complete the details of Ian McPherson’s football career in Scotland. His one and only game for Rangers was on 26 August 1939 in a 3:1 win at Ibrox against Arbroath. During the War Rangers would have retained Ian’s registration as a player and from what I can make out he played 19 games (14 goals) in various War time competitions for the club when back home in Glasgow. They would also give him permission to play for other clubs as a guest when RAF duties permitted. Rangers gave him permission to play for Aberdeen on 13 April 1940 but this was cancelled on 17 April 1940. In that time he played one game for Aberdeen at Falkirk on 13 April 1940. Ian was listed in the Aberdeen side as “McPherson (Rangers)”. Ian scored the only goal of the game and was noted as one of the best players on the park in a feisty encounter with both teams reduced to 9 men – three sendings off and one injury. He “guested” for Hamilton Academical in the first leg of a Summer Cup tie on 7 June 1941 versus Airdrieonians but RAF duties took him back to England before the second leg on 14 June 1941.

    In the London Gazette of 30 June 1944 announcing the award to Ian of the Distinguished Flying Cross was the award of the DFC to another famous footballing name who served in the same squadron.

    Acting Flight Lieutenant Kenneth WOLSTENHOLME (121908), R.A.F.V.R., 105 Sqn

    Both men subsequently were awarded a Bar to their DFC.

  11. I only recently discovered I had a connection to Ian through my mother stories and Myheritage website. I believe my mother’s dad Gilbert McPherson was Ian’s uncle. Ian’s dad Thomas was Gilbert’s brother.

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