Davie McCrae

Signed:  Jan 1924 from Beith

Departed: May 1934 to New Brighton

Appearances: 352

Goals: 251

  • Top scorer in Saints history
  • 1926 Scottish Cup winner
  • 1934 Scottish Cup runner up
  • Scored the opener in the 1926 Scottish Cup final
  • Scored a record 20 plus league goals in 5 consecutive seasons
  • Scored a record 20 plus league goals in a total of six seasons
  • Scored a record 20 plus goals (all competitions) in seven consecutive seasons
  • Scored a record 15 hat tricks in his Saints career
  • First player to score over 100 goals for the club
  • Only player to score over 200 goals for the club
  • Only player to score 30 plus league goals twice in a season
  • Only player to score 20 plus top-flight league goals in more than two seasons
  • Only player to score a hat-trick in four consecutive top flight seasons
  • Only player to score six goals in one league match
  • Scored in 10 consecutive league matches
  • Scored in 11 consecutive seasons
  • Scored 5 hat-tricks in one league season
  • Capped for Scotland
  • Club Captain
  • Benefit/Testimonial match awarded

If Saints fans thought they’d never see a forward as sensational as Dunky Walker ever again after his transfer to Nottingham Forest in 1923, then thankfully they were wrong and within seven months of the record breaking forward leaving Paisley for England another number nine arrived by complete chance ready to fill the considerable boots of the prolific Walker.

Sometimes fate or luck brings a player and club together, and in early 1924 Saints were handed a Scottish Cup first round tie against non-league Beith FC on January 26th at Love Street. With the shock 1921 Scottish Cup defeat to Armadale still fresh in manager John Cochrane’s memory, he would have been looking for a far more comfortable afternoon at Love Street this time around against a team of similar status, however he didn’t bank on the goal scoring instincts of the Ayrshire sides twenty two year old diminutive centre forward who netted twice during a narrow 3-2 win for Saints.

Suitably impressed by this small and quick forward with incredible bravery, Cochrane didn’t let him leave Paisley without his signature on a St Mirren contract and a deal to take the previously unknown player to the club immediately after the match was agree in the main stand d. The name of the player was Davie McCrae, a twenty-two-year-old chauffeur from Bridge of Weir, and it was to prove another absolute masterstroke by the Saints manager.

Despite missing the goals of Walker, there was no real hurry to introduce McCrae immediately, in fact up until Christmas day 1923 Saints had only lost five of their nineteen league matches, but six games without a goal between the 8th of December 1923 and the 2nd of January 1924 convinced Cochrane to spend £500 on forward John Wood from Manchester United in a bid to add more firepower to a squad minus Dunky Walker.

Although Wood failed to score in his first four matches for Saints, he then netted eleven times in just five games between February and March 1924, and the goal scoring mini crisis seemed to have been solved with McCrae remaining in the reserves for the time being. This was to prove nothing more than an incredible run of form however from the ex-Manchester United forward, and Wood drifted out of contention as a relatively successful season came to an end allowing Cochrane to introduce McCrae to the first team in April 1924 for the final five fixtures.

McCrae made his debut on the 2nd of April 1923 at Easter Road in a 1-1 draw and three days later claimed his first goal for Saints during a 2-1 defeat at Firhill.  The following week McCrae scored the only goal of the match as Celtic were defeated in a win at Parkhead and seven days later the young forward opened the scoring as Saints thumped Ayr United 4-0 at Love Street to mark his first goal and debut in Paisley, meaning he had now scored in three consecutive matches.

Davie McCrae had now officially announced himself as a genuine candidate to take over long term from Walker in the team, giving Cochrane a proper decision about who would start the following campaign in the centre forward position between the previously unknown local chauffeur and his main attacking signing from Manchester United, John Wood, as the side finished a very useful sixth from twenty clubs at the end of the 1923/24 season.

Ultimately, Cochrane chose Wood at first, and on the sixteenth of August 1924 Saints travelled to Broomfield, home of Airdrieonians to open the 1924/25 season minus Davie McCrae who had been left out of the side. The 2-0 defeat was followed by a 1-0 reversal at home to Hamilton, and the first door was ajar for McCrae once more. It wouldn’t close for a decade.

McCrae grabbed Saints first goal of the season the following week at Hampden as Saints once again lost, but the wins were not far off. Saints would lose only two of the next twelve matches, taking nineteen points from a possible twenty-four (2 points for a win) with McCrae scoring twelve times including a run of six matches in a row where he found the net.

In the last of these games, McCrae scored his first of fifteen hat-tricks for the club when he netted all four in a 4-1 win over Motherwell at Love Street that helped propel Saints to outsiders for the league championship as December loomed, however the form and momentum was quickly lost as five defeats from six followed with McCrae scoring just one.

Any fears that McCrae was a flash in the pan player like Wood was quickly dispelled however in early 1925 when a run of five straight wins in January of the New Year witnessed six goals from McCrae, taking his total to twenty in the league, only the second time any player had achieved this total for the club, after Walker of course.

This all led to the season ending with Saints once more in sixth position, and McCrae finished with twenty eight league goals during his full debut season and another four in the cup as Saints lost out in the quarter final to Celtic after three epic matches saw the Parkhead side finally come out on top 1-0 at neutral Ibrox. Saints and McCrae would put this matter right soon enough.

The famous 1925/26 season followed and was one of the finest campaigns in the club’s history. By early November Saints were clear at the top of the league after losing just once in the opening fourteen matches, taking an impressive twenty three points from a possible twenty eight, with McCrae grabbing twelve goals including a run of scoring in ten consecutive matches to equal the individual player record set by Walker a few seasons prior to this.

Saints were finally knocked off the top spot in the league after defeat at Parkhead in mid-December, and would finish fourth by the end of the season, however the cup form remained outstanding and the team reached the 1926 Scottish Cup final with McCrae surprisingly scoring just once in the six matches leading to this point, but perhaps he was saving himself for the final.

Just three minutes into this match played in front of a record crowd in Scotland at the time, McCrae defied his small frame by outjumping the Celtic keeper Shevlin to thump a header into the net from a Jamie Thomson corner, and Saints were on their way to a first ever major honour. This goal incidentally is the first ever St Mirren one captured on film and can be found easily on the internet.

McCrae then turned provider before half time when his pinpoint pass was converted by Jimmy Howieson, and there was no way back for Celtic as Saints lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time in their history. McCrae finished the season on twenty six goals, and the bottle of malt whisky given to him and the rest of the players was famously kept unopened by McCrae “until Saints win the cup again”, and in 1959 he finally opened his bottle on television interviewed by Arthur Montford where the Saints forward and captain David Lapsley enjoyed a dram!

Over the next few seasons Saints finished tenth, fifth and eight; with McCrae scoring thirty, thirty-four and twenty-five goals in the respective seasons as he built a legacy that would be extremely difficult to emulate in any era of football at any club. By 1929 however, long term manager John Cochrane had left the club for Sunderland and his successor Donald Turner replaced after only one year by ex-Saints player John Morrison, someone McCrae didn’t appear to have the best relationship with.

This didn’t stop McCrae finally making his debut for Scotland, and in the summer tour of 1929, McCrae was capped twice against Norway and Germany, but was used on the right wing both times and couldn’t find the net. Unlike Dunky Walker though, his sensational form was at least rewarded, but even two caps seem like scant reward for someone as prolific as McCrae.

The changing of management however was not what the players were used to after over a decade with Cochrane, and a disagreement between McCrae and club developed due to the forward being left out of the team by Morrison resulting in the Bridge of Weir player sensationally submitting a transfer request on the 5th November 1929 which was accepted by manager and Saints board.

Unsurprisingly, many clubs were interested in the prolific forward who had been called up seven times for Scotland as a reserve, in addition to his full caps for the country. Sunderland appeared favourites due to the relationship between McCrae and Cochrane, but Liverpool and Arsenal were also looking at the little forward who had a reputation in England of being similar in style to the great Hughie Gallagher who like McCrae was a small centre forward capable of scoring an incredible level of goals. 

It is probably no coincidence that the unsettled McCrae had the poorest return of goals to date in his career that season, scoring ‘only’ twenty and for the first time in his six years at Saints he wasn’t the top scorer as Alex Stewart managed two more than him, but the team still finished fifth at the end of the season, and eventually McCrae settled back into life at Paisley and withdrew his transfer request, perhaps the benefits match awarded to him on the 9th September 1930 was part of this decision as of course the player got to take home the gate receipts following the 3-2 defeat to Celtic.

McCrae was back on top of the goal chart the following season in 1930/31 with twenty-two, but the side slumped to fifteenth position, their lowest for seventeen years. As a result of this poor season John Morrison decided to bring in the versatile Jimmy Knox from Charlton Athletic who could play centre forward or right wing and in 1931/32 as the team finished fifth once more, both Knox and James Meechan finishing above McCrae in the goal charts, In fact the forward didn’t even make double figures as injuries kept him out the team, and now thirty one years of age McCrae was considered probably past his best.

The legendary forward had other ideas however, and season 1932/33 will go down as the great Indian summer of McCrae’s career as he blasted in twenty-eight league goals including hat tricks against Kilmarnock, Airdrie and East Stirling as Saints ended the season eighth. The twelfth of November 1932 however is another afternoon where McCrae made history when Saints faced Cowdenbeath at Love Street.

The final score of 7-1 to Saints was good enough, but the six goals recorded by McCrae is a club record for a league match to this day, and for the best part of thirty years stood as a record total for an individual in any competition before Gerry Baker scored ten in a Scottish Cup tie against Glasgow University in 1960. These six goals if counted as a double hat-trick however help equal Dunky Walker’s record of five hat tricks in one league season.

The next season, 1933/34, would be the last McCrae had at Paisley and once again he was in dispute with John Morrison and boardroom, this time, over his pay and contract length following his sensational season prior to this campaign. With the team struggling once more, the Bridge of Weir man only managed seven league goals, but played in the 1934 Scottish Cup mauling by Rangers in April 1934 before appearing in his final match for the club on the last day of the season as Saints were thrashed 6-0 at Central Park by Cowdenbeath. It was as unfitting an end to a legendary career as there will ever be.

Davie McCrae scored the last of his 251 Saints goals against Partick Thistle at Firhill six days before this Fife embarrassment, also the venue of his first ever goal for the club ten years beforehand.  His final goal at Paisley was during a 4-0 Scottish Cup victory against Brechin on the third of February 1934 and in the summer McCrae was released and signed for Liverpool based club, New Brighton, but also had spells with Darlington and Queen of the South before working for Saints as assistant trainer in 1937 and then trainer outright in 1939, a position he held for many years after war.

Season 1934/35 was therefore the first Saints had played without either Dunky Walker or McCrae in the squad since 1921, and the club was relegated for the first ever time. This is unlikely to be a coincidence and similar to Jamie Thomson, McCrae was the backbone and leader of a great Saints side for many years.

Although he may have had a stormy relationship with people above him at the club, Davie McCrea remained an absolute hero to the Paisley public and never let his personal relationships get in the way of his job of scoring goals for St Mirren at any point. We will genuinely never see his like again in a St Mirren shirt.

McCrae is of course far from forgotten, and like Jock Bradford was inducted posthumously into the clubs hall of fame, but the consistency of his scoring and value to the team should always be remembered meaning the name of Davie McCrae is unlikely to ever be removed from the history of the club.

Thankfully Davie lived a long life after football and passed away in 1976 at home in Kilmalcolm.