Bill McCracken

William Robert McCracken (29 January 1883 – 20 January 1979) was a Northern Irish footballer who played as a defender. He is famous for inventing the offside trap. He was a cousin of Robert McCracken who also had a career as a professional footballer.[2]

Bill McCracken
Personal information
Full name William McCracken
Date of birth (1883-01-29)29 January 1883
Place of birth Belfast, Ireland
Date of death 20 January 1979(1979-01-20) (aged 95)
Place of death Kingston upon Hull, England
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[1]
Position(s) Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1900–1904 Distillery
1904–1924 Newcastle United 432 (8)
National team
1902–1923 Ireland (IFA) 16 (1)
1902–1903 Irish League XI 2 (0)
1918 England (wartime) 2 (0)
1919 Ireland (wartime) 2 (0)
Teams managed
1923–1931 Hull City
1932–1933 Gateshead
1933–1936 Millwall
1937–1950 Aldershot
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Playing career

During his career, McCracken captained both English club Newcastle United and the Ireland national side.[3] McCracken played for Newcastle from 1904 to 1924, helping them win three Football League titles and one FA Cup. In total he played 432 games for the Magpies, scoring eight goals.[4]

McCracken gained sixteen international caps (including one unofficial match against Scotland in 1903, but excluding two 'Victory matches' in 1919 against the same opposition), scoring one goal.[5][6] His team mates while playing for Ireland included Archie Goodall, Billy Scott, Jack Kirwan and Robert Milne. During World War I he helped to arrange two fundraising matches featuring top players and turned out for the England XI in both, facing Ireland on the second occasion.[7][8]

McCracken is one of just a few players whose actions have brought changes to the Laws of the Game when, as a right full back at Newcastle, he masterminded the technique of making opposition forwards ruled "offside" when the rules stated that three defenders must be between the attacking player and the goal line. So successful was McCracken's defensive ploy that the Offside Law was changed to "two defenders" between the foremost attacker and the goal line".[9][10]

Managerial career

After leaving Newcastle he went on to become Hull City manager in 1923, and he took them to the FA Cup semi-final in 1930. He left the club a year later.

He later had a short term in charge of Gateshead, before managing Millwall from 1933 to 1936. He went on to manage the now defunct Aldershot, and later returned to Newcastle as a scout.[3] In the 1970s, with McCracken in his 90s, he was scouting for Watford.[11]


As a player


Newcastle United


  1. Tynesider (21 August 1922). "Few big transfers in the First Division of the Football League. Newcastle United". Athletic News. Manchester. p. 5.
  2. "Bob "Roy" McCracken". Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  3. "Hall of Fame | Bill McCracken". Newcastle United F.C. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  4. Player Profile: William Robert "Bill" McCracken, Toon1892
  5. "Bill McCracken". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmermann. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  6. Bill McCracken, Northern Ireland's Footballing Greats, 31 July 2007
  7. 45,000 view the charity 'national match, Sunday Post, 9 June 1918 (via Partick Thistle History Archive)
  8. Testimonials, Clubs and Forces, England Football Online
  9. "Does anyone understand the offside law?". The Independent. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  10. Harris, Tim (2009). Players: 250 Men, Women and Animals Who Created Modern Sport. Random House. pp. 462–465. ISBN 978-1-4090-8691-8.
  11. Hornby, Hugh (18 December 2003). "A master tactician hated by the fans". Lancashire Evening Post. Archived from the original on 22 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.