John White (footballer, born 1937)

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John White
Personal information
Full name John Anderson White
Date of birth (1937-04-28)28 April 1937
Place of birth Musselburgh, Scotland
Date of death 21 July 1964(1964-07-21) (aged 27)
Place of death Crews Hill, England
Playing position Inside forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1955–1958 Alloa Athletic 68 (26)
1958–1959 Falkirk 30 (8)
1959–1964 Tottenham Hotspur 183 (40)
National team
1959 Scottish League XI 2 (2)
1959–1964 Scotland 22 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

John Anderson White (28 April 1937 – 21 July 1964) was a Scottish international football midfielder and sometime inside right who played a significant role for Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) during their Double winning season in 1960-61. He had two brothers, Edwin and Tom, who were also professional footballers. White was killed by lightning at the age of 27.

Early career and transfer to Tottenham Hotspur[edit]

White had originally played for Alloa Athletic under the management of Jasper ‘Jerry’ Kerr (the John White Lounge is still a feature at the Clackmannanshire club's ground) before being sold onto Falkirk, where he played alongside Dougie Moran, but his lasting fame was assured when Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson took him to London for £22,000 in October 1959. White’s frail appearance had been the cause of considerable concern resulting in a number of English First Division clubs choosing not to risk the investment but following the reviews received from Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay (who had played in internationals alongside him) and information received from the Army that White was a celebrated cross-country runner, Nicholson decided to make good his interest.

"The Ghost"[edit]

At Spurs White initially occupied the inside-left position, having been bought by Nicholson to replace Dave Dunmore, but his talent flourished as an inside right as a replacement to Tommy Harmer. White’s worth to the team could be calculated in terms of goals scored (between 1959 and the conclusion of the Double winning season (a season in which he was ever-present) he contributed 18 goals) but his success mainly lay in a combination of skills: his passing, his ball control which helped sustain the attacking momentum but so too his runs to find space off the ball, arriving unexpectedly in the opposition’s penalty area which resulted in the White Hart Lane faithful giving him the nickname "The Ghost". With him Tottenham never finished worse than 4th in the First Division and in the 15 matches missed by White while on their books, Tottenham won only once.

Spurs had come unstuck against Benfica in the 1962 European Cup semi-final but the next season White was part of the successful campaign that saw Tottenham become the first English winners of a European trophy when they defeated Atlético Madrid by five goals to one in Rotterdam to lift the European Cup Winners Cup, with White scoring one of the five goals himself. Cliff Jones, his Tottenham teammate, said of him: “He was a great talent. People ask me what he was like. I say that he was like Glenn Hoddle. But he was different to Glenn in some ways. Glenn was someone who you had to bring into a game, whereas John White would bring himself into a game. If you’re not in possession, get in position, that was John White. He was always available if you needed to pass to someone”.

Death and testimonial[edit]

White was killed by lightning at the age of only 27 while sheltering under a tree during a thunderstorm at Crews Hill golf course, Enfield, in July 1964. He left a 22-year old widow, Sandra, daughter of Spurs' assistant manager, Harry Evans, whom he married in 1961, and two children, one of whom, Rob, collaborated with journalist and writer Julie Welch to publish a biography of his father in 2011 (the fiftieth anniversary of Spurs' double triumph).[1]

White’s testimonial was staged later in the year he died, on 10 November 1964, at White Hart Lane, when a Tottenham XI faced a Scotland XI. White's younger brother Tom, played for Tottenham in this match, scoring the first goal of the game from a pass from Jimmy Greaves. White's portrait has been erected in the entrance to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

His son Rob has no memory of his father, as he was only six months old when he died, and his older sister Mandy was only two at the time.[2] White also had a son, Stephen, from his first marriage to Helen McLean; however, he and his first wife separated within weeks of their marriage and he never saw his first-born son, who did not discover the identity of his real father until he was a teenager.[3]

Tribute[edit]

A French DJ, whose former name is Laurent Dieste, took "The Ghost" as his name in tribute to John White.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rob White & Julie Welch (2011) The Ghost of White Hart Lane
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]