For nearly 90 years Jock McDonald held an undistinguished Everton record: the longest run of any outfield Everton player without scoring a goal. Not until March 2011 did Tony Hibbert – another Everton full back whose uncertainty in front of goal led to declarations that Goodison would ‘riot’ if he ever found the net – surpass his record of 224 goalless appearances.
The left back had earned Victory International honours while at Motherwell, but it was his form for Airdrieonians that attracted the attention of the Everton directors. They pursued his signature through the 1919/20 season but received repeated denials from the Airdrie board. Finally, ahead of the 1920/21 season, they submitted and McDonald became an Everton player for £2,200.
McDonald was what would be described a ‘traditional’ or uncompromising full back, in an era when the position was defined by a lack of flourishes. His first instinct was to stop attackers; his second to dispatch the ball as quickly as possible. This was, however, in contrast to the pattern of the Everton defence at this time, which was considered to be the team’s first line of attack; something that made the team pleasing to the eye, but was considered by others to be its soft underbelly.
For the 1921/22 season McDonald was made captain, which began in stunning fashion. Everton recorded a 5-0 victory over Manchester United at Goodison on the opening day of the season, and the Liverpool Post and Mercury reported that McDonald was ‘particularly brisk in his clearances, which were of the requisite length and kept well in play.’ Its correspondent added: ‘The new skipper was fairly in his element, and was entitled to all the applause, which came his way.’ However, the season quickly went downhill and McDonald was missing through large parts through illness then injury. Everton narrowly escaped relegation and the captaincy reverted to Hunter Hart.
This coincided with an upturn in Everton form and they finished the subsequent two seasons fifth and seventh, playing brilliant football. But they were inconsistent too, and by the middle of the decade were again flirting with relegation. After another near miss in 1926/27 – when Everton conceded a staggering 90 league goals – the board initiated sweeping changes. McDonald was sold to New Brighton for £100 where the goalless run quickly came to an end. He later gave fine service in the Cheshire League until long past his fortieth birthday.