John White, our highly rated midfield wizard, was in the midst of a glittering playing career when he was suddenly struck down by lightning at Crews Hill Golf Club in Enfield on the afternoon of July 21, 1964.
He had taken shelter from a storm under a tree while out on the course – but was killed at the age of just 27, having helped us claim League and Cup honours just three years previously, in addition to a further FA Cup success (1962) and victory in the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1963) in the intervening time.
In 183 League outings for the Club, John netted 40 goals and scored once in 17 FA Cup matches, in addition to six times in 17 European games.
Fifty years since his passing, John’s close friend and team-mate Cliff Jones paid this tribute to the former Scotland international...
“It just seems like yesterday really – it’s unbelievable how quickly time has passed. It was a tragic time not only for John’s family but also for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I always looked at the glory years and said you had three players – Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay and John White – and if those players played well, the whole team responded and bounced off them. That about sums it all up – John was in there with Mackay and Blanchflower. That was a very special midfield and when John was tragically killed by lightning it started the break-up of that terrific team in the 1960s.
“If you’re going to talk about the original midfield dynamo who connected with the defence and the forward line, that was John. Bill Nicholson was one for midfield graft and skills and John had that in abundance. He was great with the ball and he also got his fair share of goals.
“As a person, John was happy-go-lucky, a cheerful lad, very positive and never down. He was just great company. Everybody respected that and he was just a special player and a very special character. He was my room-mate, a special pal. We had great times together and of course he’s always sadly missed and fondly remembered.”
Another of John’s team-mates, Terry Dyson, concurred with Cliff and emphasised how the former Alloa Athletic and Falkirk player’s untimely passing was the beginning of the end for our all-conquering side of the early 1960s...
“John’s death was the start of the break-up of the Double-winning side really. It was such a shock to us all. It happened right at the start of pre-season.
“John was killed, then Danny (Blanchflower) had to finish and Dave (Mackay) broke his leg. It was the nucleus of the side, really, and the three of them played a big part. We had other players around them but they were the nucleus of the team, in my opinion anyway.
“He was a funny lad, John. I remember one instance at a hotel in Liverpool with a very high ceiling. We started messing around throwing coins and catching them on our foreheads. He got this little orange and we tried to keep it up, but only managed about four or five. But John, he kept it up and kept it up until it was nearly squashed! It was little things like that – he was very clever.
“He was a superb athlete. He ran cross-countries and when pre-season training was on he was always at the front with Danny – he was superb in that respect. He used to float about in games – that’s why they call him the Ghost because he used to float around and people couldn’t pick him up. He was a crucial part of our team.
“It doesn’t (seem like 50 years since his passing). I remember the funeral – a lot of people couldn’t get in, it was packed. It was a very sad day.”