It’s not always easy for a player to leave a team that he’s supported and a former “Hearts striker” Tom White admits that he wasn’t overly keen on a move to “Pittodrie” in 1965.
I didn’t really want to leave Tynecastle. It was nothing against “Aberdeen, they were and are a great club and I had taken it as a tremendous compliment that their manager the great Eddie Turnbull “once a member of the famous five” wanted and believed in me. The famous five were the Hibs forward line, Smith, Johnstone, Riley, Turnbull and Ormond a truly wonderful forward line. I lived in Musselburgh only six miles from Easter Road the home of the famous five and I read many a report on these great players.
I loved playing for the “Hearts” and being a Musselburgh lad it was just awesome, you don’t realise how good the club is until you play for them. When I went to “Aberdeen” I tried to put them off by asking for a massive signing on fee, we negotiated for hours and they eventually came back with everything that I asked for. Even after they had agreed my fee, I still thought that I was in the driving seat though. I said to Mr Turnbull that I would go home to Edinburgh and discuss the move with my wife, it was at this time that Eddie Turnbull the Aberdeen boss took control and shamed me into signing for “Aberdeen”. All he said was “I wear the trousers in my House” it did the trick, and with some trepidation, I duly put pen to paper and signed for the “Dons”.
I enjoyed playing at “Pittodrie” even though my time there was very brief, It’s no excuse but I joined them with a very thick ankle, just prior to signing for Aberdeen. I had gone over on my ankle and I wasn’t really fit, but if truth be known Hearts were in my blood. It was whilst I was with them that my brother John “The Ghost of Whitehart Lane” who was a member of the fabulous “Double Winning Spurs” they had a team full of great players to name but a few, Jimmy Greaves, Danny Blanchflower, Dave McKay, Bill Brown, Cliff Jones, Bobby Smith I could go on. John was always quiet but proud of his achievements in football he would tell me that Spurs were interested in me, and that all I had to do was to keep on scoring for “Hearts” and the future would take care of itself. John’s untimely death had a massive bearing on all of our family. In fact I would go as far as to say that it was a “defining moment” including the short spell I had at “Aberdeen”.
I joined Hearts in 1963 where I enjoyed a superb first season I scored thirty three goals in thirty seven matches, this earned me the nickname of “Goal A Game White”. Willie Wallace and I combined superbly but to be honest I was playing with a lot of fine players. Like everything in life, fate plays a huge part in everything that you do It was at this time that life conspired along with my dear wife Irene to have a car accident. It was somewhere in the spring of 1964 and it was during my recovery that my brother John was killed by lightning. This was the lottery of life, here we were, if I could take this moment to single us out. We were at the top of the tree in our sport, when life, fate, played It’s part There’s not a lot you can do when things happen like they did. The thing that everybody used to say to me was that “time is a great healer”, that maybe true but sometimes, just sometimes, time is not on your side.
It’s easy to say “if only” but I know myself that I would’ve enjoyed more time at the top of my sport had John not suffered his moment with fate. I remember after John had been killed, I was travelling in the team bus with the “Hearts” players, on our way to do pre season training on the sand dunes at Gullane. Every twenty yards or so I would shake all over with what can only be described as nerves, nobody on that bus ever sat beside me and comforted me, you just got on with life just as any other person would’ve done. I had a wife and family to look after and they were very important!
I struggled to maintain my first season scoring exploits, managing thirteen goals in eighteen games. I can’t explain the feeling of being let down by “Hearts” at that time, it was a hard and sad time but hey…. such is life. I’ve played for a lot of teams but I would’ve settled for being at Tynecastle for a long time. I’ve never spoken about the “Hearts” in this way but things happened to me that words can’t explain.
Tommy Walker was the manager and Johnny Harvey was the trainer, I was pulled into the managers office one day where he accused me of being out in Edinburgh on a Friday night before a Saturday match. I’ve always liked a drink in my life but to be linked to being in Edinburgh on a Friday night before a match was just not my thing. I considered myself to be a good pro and whilst I claimed my innocence. I had that feeling inside me that Tommy Walker and Johnny Harvey didn’t believe a single word that I was saying. After all this time It would be no skin of my nose to admit that I was there but In a “Thousand Years” it wasn’t me, God strike me down dead right now, if I were to lie.
On an other occasion I was involved in a wage dispute which came to the players notice through the front page of the Edinburgh Evening News. Our Edinburgh rivals Hibernians were reputed to be on twenty pound a week whilst we were getting eighteen pound per week and to top it all off, we were league leaders at that time. The senior players decided to have a meeting and we all agreed that each and everyone of us would send a transfer request in to the club. What happened next was truly remarkable the manager Tommy Walker received one letter for a transfer request and could you believe who’s it was…. T.W.’s.
I’m sure he knew what had gone on previously because he called this meeting where he told the players that something had gone on and that he’d received this one letter from Tom White asking for a transfer request. After which he then asked me into his office when I signed for the twenty pound, all the other players followed me and signed for the same figure. I have never understood why Tommy Walker hadn’t received more letters from the players, it has always stuck in my throat that I had sent that letter because as I’ve said before I never wanted to leave the “Hearts”. I couldn’t understand it, “thereby hangs a tale” but unfortunately for me It was just another bit of trouble from T. White.
I always wore my heart on my sleeve that’s for sure, but I loved the club and whilst I accept that the manager and the trainer need informants it is imperative that their information is true. I made a statement that I was sure that Tommy Walker new, I wonder if their informant was one of my very own colleagues. To think that I was judged as a trouble maker is shameful because I’m sure that I could’ve continued to be a truly long standing servant to this great Edinburgh club.
I started my senior career at Raith Rovers in 1959, I made my debut against Celtic at Starks Park then moved to St Mirren because I wanted to play at centre forward. Jock Shaw, ex Hibs full back had taken over at Raith and had me down to play in the midfield. Whilst at St Mirren with Jackie Cox being the manager I scored twenty goals in my first season, this sealed a move to the club of my dreams “Heart of Midlothian”. I was only a year at “Aberdeen” I then moved down to England where I played for approximately six years. My first club was Crystal Palace under the stewardship of Bert Head, then I was signed for Blackpool by Stan Mortenson, it’s a great club just like all the others. I then went on to play for Bury where my career was to finish. Afterwards I became a director of Blackpool for twelve years and was a caretaker manager for the Pool. I was sacked by Owen Oyston along with two other directors Gordon Bloor, Malcolm Melling, they were good people, Mr Bloor was the Vice Chairman of the club.
Overall life has been a ball, I’ve been lucky to play for a lot of good clubs. I’m sure things would’ve been different had John not been struck down by lightning. It is a long time since I was asked to play for the great Spurs by their legendary manager Bill Nicholson in my brother Johns memorial match. In those days you had to be transferred to Spurs then transferred back to your own club. I scored the first goal of the match from a pass from Jimmy Greaves, the experience was bitter sweet.
In the first half Bill Brown the Spurs goalkeeper, hit a long ball up field. I controlled the ball well taking it past big Ron Yates and in my stride I struck this shot which was a fraction too hard as it glanced off the post, I was unlucky not to score. At half time Bill Nick gave us a team talk during which time he said that had I scored that second goal instead off hitting the post I would’ve been playing for them on Saturday. It may well have been a throw away comment, but the fact that he said it was good enough for me. I was full of adrenaline during the match, I didn’t want to let John or my family down, the match was against Scotland… unfortunately we were beaten.
I was at The Lane last year when Spurs played Hearts in a European trophy not the Champions league but one of the minor ones. I hadn’t been back to The Lane since the time I’d played for Spurs in Johns memorial game which was some 47 years earlier. The place has changed but John is still revered at Tottenham, but as I said before fate plays it’s part in every ones life. I have been pipped on goal average for two league titles. Once at Tynecastle when Kilmarnock won the title by one goal, then at Blackpool when we were promoted with twenty minutes to go at Huddersfield. We were three goals to one up when reputedly there were some strange goings on at Aston Villa, I can’t be one hundred percent sure there were shenanigans at Villa Park but it had been mooted.
I remember when I played against Scotland at Ibrox for the Scottish league, brother John was in the Scottish side. I remember when he asked me if I was OK, it was because I was his younger brother. As it happened we were on the centre circle ready to start the match when the Liverpool player Ian St John passed the ball to our John at a very slow pace, it was meat and drink to me… I couldn’t help myself. I went straight through our John, he was classed just like any other player but for a laugh John told our Mum, he said I had just asked him if he was OK when the next thing I know, I’m in a heap. John also said that Ron Yates another Liverpool player said to him… “what the –ck do you feed your brother on”.
That particular night I fancied keeping the number nine shirt. Davie Kinnear who was the Rangers trainer but was the Scottish League trainer on the night, asked me after the match where the number nine shirt was. He said come on Whitey there’ll be plenty more of them the way you played tonight.
I also missed a full international cap against England at Wembley. Tommy Walker who came to the Hospital after our car crash, it was a Sunday night, he told me that the selectors had asked him if I’d be available for the match. I recollect that I asked Mr Walker to declare me fit for Wembley, but he said that he couldn’t. I understood his reasoning but all I wanted was to be selected for the occasion.
I was out for a good few weeks following our car crash maybe six or seven weeks in total. Sadly I wasn’t to play or represent Scotland again, fate’s the name.
Where did it all go wrong, when did the cracks first appear, is it a dream, yesterday, or a another year
Family, friends, they paint a picture once a life of dreams, now a tattered structure
One of lives proverbs, written in stone what lies ahead, is always unknown
Life would be a different kind if hindsight, had sprung to mind
A journey called fate, long and unclear cards that are dealt, often bring a tear
Fame and fortune, all lost in time years gone by, like auld lang syne
One thing so sure, no need to run, the clock ticks by, waits for no one
So, where did it all go wrong, when did the cracks first appear
Is it a dream, yesterday, or a another year
Life would be a different kind, had hindsight sprung to mind
Written by T. White. 1998