It was with regret that we learned of the death of Ron Burgess on February 14, aged 87. Ron captained club and country with distinction from the left half position and went on to enjoy managerial and coaching appointments, taking him to over 35 years service to the game.
Capped 32 times by Wales, Ron played 457 senior games in our colours, scoring 56 goals. He arrived in 1936 as a junior player and left 18 years later to join Swansea Town as player/manager.
Born at Cwm on April 9, 1917, William Arthur Ronald Burgess attended Cwm Ryddach School, played at inside right in their team and was selected for Ebbw Vale schoolboys. On leaving school he worked briefly as a butcher’s errand boy before a two year stint as a pit-boy. He played for Cwm Villa in the Aberbeeg & District Boy’s League and signed amateur forms for Cardiff City whose promised trial never materialised.
Chief scout Ben Ives saw him play for Cwm Villa against the “Pick of North Wales” at Ebbw Vale in 1936 and offered Ron the chance to join our junior staff. Having played for South Wales Juniors against Tottenham Juniors at White Hart Lane on April 30, he signed amateur forms for the club on May 9 and was found digs with the Stevens family in Chingford and employment at a local metal works.
His first season was spent as an amateur with Tottenham Juniors — when he switched to the more familiar role in the half back line - and his second with our senior nursery club Northfleet United where he gained a Kent Senior Cup winners medal in 1938.
He also found time to make his ‘A’ team debut in a 2-1 win against Fulham ‘A’ on September 14, 1937 and his London Combination debut in a 4-1 home win over Bristol City on November 13, 1937. Upgraded to professional at Northfleet on May 9, 1938, Ron signed full professional forms for us on August 11, 1938.
With a further 15 Combination games under his belt, Ron was given his league debut in a 2-1 win at Norwich City on February 2, 1939. He kept his place for the remaining 17 second division games that season and scored his first goal on March 25 in a 3-0 home win versus Swansea Town.
When war was declared Ron became a reserve policeman and then worked in a South Wales foundry before joining the RAF in 1940, as a physical training instructor. He continued to turn out for us - scoring 40 goals in 134 wartime appearances - and also had spells as a guest player with Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Reading and Millwall. Playing at centre forward in an away match with Luton on October 21, 1944 Ron scored four of our goals in a 12 minute spell. We won the game 9-1.
During the war Ron was capped 10 times for Wales, gaining the first in a 1-1 draw with England at Cardiff on November 11, 1939.
February of the transitional season of 1945-46 saw him appointed club captain, a position he held throughout his remaining eight years with the club. With the Full international calendar returning later that year Ron made the first of his 32 official appearances for Wales against Scotland at Wrexham on October 19. A year later - gaining his fourth cap - he captained the side for the first time, against England at Cardiff on October 18.
Ron played for the Football League XI against their Scottish counterparts on March 12, 1947 and also featured for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe in front of a 134,000 crowd at Hampden Park on May 10, 1947, in a match to celebrate the UK associations rejoining FIFA.
At club level Ron led the side to consecutive league titles winning the second division of 1949-50 and the League Championship of 1950-51. By the time he left Tottenham on July 31, 1954, to take up a player/coach role at Swansea Town, he had taken his tally of Football League appearances for us to 297, scoring 15 goals. He also netted once in 27 FA Cup matches.
In 1952 Ron’s autobiography “Football — My Life” was published by Souvenir Press. It was dedicated “To my Club, my Country, and my Pals”.
Having taken over as manager at Swansea, Ron hung up his boots during 1955 having added a further 47 league games, and one goal, to his tally. He remained as manager until 1958 when joining Watford as coach. Again, he was soon promoted and had a four year stint in charge at Vicarage Road.
Ron applied for the vacant national team manager's post in 1964 but was unsuccessful. He did however take charge for one game when Dave Bowen was unavailable due to club commitments.
On leaving Watford in 1963 Ron served Hendon as manager, leading them to FA Amateur Cup success at Wembley, and joined Fulham as trainer/coach in 1965. Appointed manager of Bedford Town during January, 1966, he subsequently joined the coaching staff at Lincoln City, served Luton as a scout and coached at Kenton, Middlesex.
Amongst other employment he worked as a stock controller for a Wealdstone stationery company and as a warehouseman at South Harrow.
On retirement Ron moved to Worthing where he lived until moving back in recent years to his native South Wales. He passed away at a Swansea hospital following a long illness. He is survived by wife Doreen, daughter Geraldine, son Richard, grandchildren Samantha, David and Glen, and great grandson Thomas. The funeral will take place at Swansea Crematorium on February 23, at 3pm.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.