A cousin of legendary Newcastle United, Ireland and Distillery full back Billy, Dromore, County Down born Bobby McCracken’s career followed a similar route to that of his illustrious relative without hitting the same heights. Initially a right winger, McCracken established himself at right half for Distillery’s City Cup success of 1913 having joined them in 1910. He served with the Royal Irish Artillery through the Great War returning to Distillery for a final successful season in 1919-20. The County Antrim Shield Final was won against Belfast Celtic then Shelbourne were defeated in the Gold Cup decider. In those Finals McCracken filled in at right back, one of seven positions in which he played during his Distillery career, during which he scored 6 goals in 188 appearances.
In the summer of 1920 McCracken moved to Division Three (South) Crystal Palace, making his Football League debut in their inaugural League fixture at Merthyr Town in August 1920. McCracken played eighteen times as the promotion and the Championship was won. That same season in October 1920, already at the age of thirty, he won the first of four Ireland caps against England at Roker Park, Sunderland in a 2-0 defeat, thus becoming the first Third Division player to gain full international recognition. Further caps followed a year later in a 1-1 draw against England and then in March and April 1922 against Scotland and Wales as Palace consolidated their position in the Second Division, by when he was missing very few games. McCracken’s final season with Palace was spent in Division Three (South) following relegation in 1924-25. The 1925-26 season did bring an appearance in the FA Cup fifth round, a club best at the time, though the run was brought to an end by an 11-4 hammering at the hands of Manchester City. McCracken returned to the Irish League with Portadown in August 1926 after 2 goals in 190 Palace appearances.
NB in the photograph Bobby McCracken watches as West Ham’s Vic Watson scores one of his four goals in a 5-1 victory against Crystal Palace at The Nest, Croydon, on 31st March 1923.