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John White, Spurs: He Enriched the Game / John White, Spurs: He Enriched the Game

John White, Spurs: He Enriched the Game

By on 27 April 2018

Tomorrow would have been the 81st birthday of Spurs and Scotland inside forward John White. Would have been but for the extraordinary circumstances of his death at the age of just 27 in July 1964. While sheltering from a storm on a golf course in Enfield, North London, White was struck by lightning. As our tribute to a talented footballer whose life was ended so tragically and so young, SoccerAttic is republishing his obituary from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, September 1964.

John White, Spurs and ScotlandWe’ll never know what he may have gone on to achieve. While he scored over 40 goals for Tottenham, his real talent was as passer and creator. He was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’, partly because of his pale, slight appearance, but mainly because he was elusive and almost impossible to mark. He epitomised the ‘give and go’ style of that great double-winning Spurs side. After carrying the ball and passing to a team mate, he would appear almost from nowhere in the opposition penalty area.

Other clubs had passed up on the chance to sign him from Scottish side Falkirk because they considered him too small and frail to compete at the highest level. But Bill Nicholson saw something others didn’t. With him in the side, Spurs never finished lower than fourth in the First Division and in the period of 15 games they had to play without him through injury, they won only once. It is thought that Bill Nicholson had planned to build the post-double Spurs side around him and he was undoubtedly a core feature in Scotland’s plans to qualify for the 1966 World Cup.

Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, as ever, rose to the occasion to publish this obituary in the September 1964 issue. Though it should be noted he was actually 27 when he died and it was in fact a European Cup Winners Cup medal he earned. But we’ll let the editorial team off just this once.

John White: He Enriched the Game

John White, SpursFOOTBALL was never so rich that it could afford the loss of a player like John White.

Today, when his kind of skill is rare, the lightning flash which killed him on an Enfield golf course on July 21, has made the game much poorer.

John gained 22 caps for Scotland. He was one of the men around whom the Scottish World Cup side was being built. With Tottenham he won two F.A. Cup-winners’ medals, a European Cup-Winners medal and one for the League championship.

He was a Spurs player for nearly five years, joining them from Falkirk in October, 1959. He was then in the Army with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. It was the advice of other Spurs’ players which hurried Spurs manager Bill Nicholson to make the deal. John White cost Tottenham £20,000. When he died so tragically he was worth five times that amount to any club.

He was a bargain for English football. For along with his great ability he was a great sportsman. In a hard game he never let the side down, or himself. He was always seeking to play in the highest spirit. A smooth stylist, he got through a tremendous amount of work in a typically quiet, facile fashion.

It took time for some people to appreciate his worth. But not the players, and certainly not the players of his team. They came to know him as a players’ player, as the fellow who was always quietly at hand to help…who made it so easy for others.

He was 26. He left a wife and two young children — to whom here we express our sympathy. He also left behind a game so much the better for having had him in its midst—and the poorer for his loss.

Spurs have raised a fund for his widow and family. It may be that our readers would like to show their recognition of a great fellow and a great player.

The address is:
c/o Tottenham Hotspur F.C.,
74B, High Road,
London, N.17.

White scored over 40 goals for Spurs. One of them in this thrashing of Polish side Górnik Zabrze in the 1961-62 European Cup.


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