Class of 51 - Ron Burgess
23 March 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Manager Arthur Rowe used just 19 players when we won the Division One title for the first time in season 1950-51. Now, 65 years on, we pay tribute to each one. Here, John Fennelly spotlights the contribution of half-back RON BURGESS.
Games: 35. Goals: 2.
The great Ron Burgess enjoyed a marvellous career with Spurs and Wales. Yet that journey through the highest echelons of the game almost faltered at the first step.
Born in Cwm, South Wales, Ron was working as a pit boy and playing locally when Cardiff City took an interest. He was a forward at the time but we beat City to it and brought him to here for a trial after which he joined our junior ranks.
It didn’t go well and, after less than a year, he was released. With time to kill on the day of his intended departure home, the teenager dropped in at White Hart Lane to say farewell to some of his mates who were playing in an ‘A’ team game. They were short a man and...yes, you’ve guessed it.
Below: Ron in 1953
Burgess was asked to slot in at right-half, despite never having played anywhere other than in attack. He was such a revelation that his probable future back down the coal mine was forgotten. Yet we were still careful enough to only offer him an amateur contract and a place at our nursery club, Northfleet United.
He was a success there and was back at the Lane signing professional forms within a year. That was in August, 1938, and the following February saw him make his debut at Norwich.
From that game onwards, Burgess was a regular in our side. His energy was amazing, an adventurous, competitive, human driving force who utilised his attacking skills from deep.
He joined the RAF at the outbreak of World War Two, returning to play for us when he could and also played for Wales in 10 war-time internationals.
At the cessation of hostilities, Burgess picked up here where he had left off and was soon established as the best attacking wing-half in the country. He was made captain and was the inspiration behind this ‘Push and Run’ side that swept its way to the Second Division title and then the Division One crown the following year.
Although Burgess was noted for supporting the attack, he was also a wonderful defender who competed fiercely, with solid interceptions either through his excellent reading of play or via a thundering tackle. Yet for all his success, he remained a modest, genial man.
Below: A cartoon of Ron
I once asked Bill Nicholson, Ron’s half-back partner in those wonderful days, who was the best player he had ever played alongside. Bill didn’t think twice: Ron Burgess.
Ron also skippered Wales, winning a total of 32 caps between 1946 and 1954, as well as representing the Football League and playing for the Great Britain against the Rest of Europe in 1947.
Sadly, time took its inevitable toll and Burgess opted to leave us in May, 1954, when he returned home to Wales to take on a player-coach role with Swansea Town. He was soon player-manager and then went full-time as manager in 1955.
While at the Vetch Field he played a part in the emergence of future Spur Terry Medwin and then sold Terry’s fellow Wales winger Cliff Jones to us in February, 1958. And his excellent links with Spurs - and particularly Nicholson - brought us another future Spurs legend in Pat Jennings when he was Watford boss.
Sadly Ron died in Swansea in February, 2005, at the age of 87, but his memory lives on at White Hart Lane.