An Irish Cup winner in Ballymena's debut season alongside brother David, the experienced Scottish half-back was with the Light Blues for just the one year.
Born just outside Kilmarnock into a famous football family of the era, he moved to Belfast 1900 where John and his brothers would have a positive impact in senior football circles starting out in the Irish League before eventually progressing into England and Scotland.
John’s career started out in junior circles as a teen with Dunraven Star, Bloomfield United and Castleview before his breakthrough at Distillery, his Irish League debut came in the 1914/1915 season as a 16-year-old at Grosvenor Park alongside the elder Reid siblings David and Max.
In December 1915, it marked the unique scenario when the three brothers first all lined out for the Whites in the same game against Glenavon, coincidentally their other brother (Jimmy) was playing for the Lurgan Blues that day, meaning that four siblings would share the pitch. The three brothers (John, David and Max)
Play alongside each other 25 times for the Belfast club before their respective moves to England.
Despite the teenager’s early promise, his football career was put on hold due to the outbreak of the First World War as he personally enlisted to support the war effort. Reid remained registered with Distillery but couldn’t resume a regular contribution in the team until the 1918/1919 season.
John became a regular figure at Grosvenor Park as a 21-year-old centre-forward during the 1919/1920 campaign, and he scored twice in the final of the County Antrim Shield to claim his first senior medal at Solitude against Belfast Celtic in March 1920. The Whites claimed a cup double, by lifting the Gold Cup two months later after victory over Glentoran, Reid had scored an important hat-trick in the semi-final against Shelbourne in the semi-final stage of the competition.
By this stage John had earned a place in the Irish League representative side, winning two caps in November 1919. In his final season with Distillery, he added a Belfast Charities Cup medal to his collection after defeating Glentoran in May 1921, he finished with 63 appearances and 21 goals for the Belfast club before he was packing his bags for a move across the Irish Sea.
At the start of the 1921/1922 season, John and his team-mate and brother Maxwell were signed by New Brighton, a newly formed club from Merseyside with ambitions of gaining admission to the Football League. His elder brother David had already relocated to Liverpool the previous season and was starring for Everton in the First Division.
Reid acclimatised quickly to life with the Rakers in the Lancashire Combination, and at the end of his first season with New Brighton it was heavily speculated he would be transferred to Second Division side Hull City. John Reid would eventually remain with the fledgling club for their transition into the Football League in the summer of 1923, but an 18th place finish (from 22 teams) in Division Three North was the limited rewards for a debut season. Reid had now converted himself from a forward to an accomplished and reliable half-back further down the pitch.
There had been a call to New Brighton during his first season by the Ireland international selectors to enquire about his eligibility to play against England in a home international in October 1922 only to be rebuked owing to his Scottish nationality, which was unbeknown to the selectors.
Reid would spend seven seasons at the club, five of which in the Football League, in which New Brighton failed to make a significant impact in the league and were constantly beset with financial issues. The club’s best season during this period was a third-place finish in the 1924/1925 campaign, finishing just five points behind Champions Darlington in the race for promotion to the second tier.
By the summer of 1928, John was coaxed by brother David to return to Ulster and sign for the newly formed Ballymena club, his sibling had been appointed as club captain to lead an impressive assembly of players for the debut of a Braid club in senior Irish League football. John lined out for the Light Blues in their first ever game against Belfast Celtic
30-year-old John (alongside his brother, David) provided much needed experience across the middle line and their guidance on this exciting Ballymena team during the 1928/1929 season proved invaluable as the ‘Ballymena Babes’ captured the imagination of the local football public by defeating Belfast Celtic to win the Irish Cup in their first season at Solitude in front of 15,000 spectators. The team finished a respectable sixth place in the Irish League table and finished runners-up in the City Cup competition to cap a memorable campaign.
Having failed to agree terms to remain at the Braid, he was moving on after only one season – joining Bangor in August 1929. By the following year, he answered the call of his old club New Brighton to assist the Rakers for the 1930/1931 campaign but didn’t see the season out in Merseyside before returning home to finish his career at Distillery, where he played mostly in the Seconds before fading out of football without any great fanfare.
John Reid passed away in May 1966 in Belfast, aged 67.
Dunraven Star; Bloomfield United; Castleview; (1914) Distillery; (Sep 1921) New Brighton; (Jun 1928) Ballymena; (Aug 1929) Bangor; (Aug 1930) New Brighton; Distillery
Gold Cup: (winner) 1919/1920
County Antrim Shield: (winner) 1919/1920; (finalist) 1920/1921
Belfast Charities Cup: (winner) 1920/1921; (finalist) 1919/1920
Irish Cup: (winner) 1928/1929
City Cup: (runner-up) 1928/1929
Irish League Representative (2 caps – 1919)
Last updated: 20 December 2021