My piece on one of Spurs’ last surviving former players from the early 1950’s – John Gibbons:
Back in the year 1950 Tottenham Hotspur football club was being moulded by manager Arthur Rowe into a side capable of achieving great things. During the 1949-50 season Rowe had guided Spurs to win the old second division, and get them promoted back to the first division where they belonged. With players such as goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, commanding centre half Harry Clarke, wing halves Ron Burgess and Bill Nicholson, and centre forward Len Duquemin, Spurs had a richly talented squad of players with talent and potential aplenty. During the 1950-51 season with Arthur Rowe’s revolutionary push and run style of football, Spurs would go onto spectacularly clinch the first division title for the first time in their history. This was not only a historic time in our clubs history, but also in the history of English football. To have been a player and have been on the books at Spurs during this magical time in the clubs history in the 1950’s, must have been a sensational and invaluable experience. One young man named John Ronald Gibbons experienced just that after joining Spurs during the 1949/50 season from Ipswich Town. Gibbons who was then a budding centre forward who had previously had first team experience with QPR and Ipswich Town, weighed around 11 stone and stood at five feet, ten inches tall. A bustling centre forward who liked to chase the ball, Gibbons stayed at the Lilywhites for three seasons and although he didn’t make a competitive appearance for the first team, he did play in a talented A and reserve team. Still going strong at the age of 95 John still follows Spurs and enjoys watching football. With the help of John’s son Paul I was able to write this brief piece on his footballing career and time at Spurs. Born John Ronald Gibbons on the eighth of April 1925 in Charlton south-east London, the young John Gibbons used to collect Will’s and Ogden’s football heroes cigarette cards. These cards would have had the likes of the great former Everton striker Dixie Dean on them, players who the young football fan John would have undoubtedly looked up to.
Gibbons’ footballing career started off at local club Charlton Rovers’ youth team who he played for. However, when the Second World War broke out young John’s hopes of becoming a footballer (John was also interested in cricket) would have been temporarily disrupted. He joined the army in 1943 and spent around five years there before being demobbed in 1948. After being demobbed the then young footballer made his first foray into senior football when he joined County Kent based club Dartford F.C in the same year. Gibbons made his competitive debut for Dartford in a 9-2 defeat to Bristol City in one of the earlier rounds of that seasons FA Cup (John scored a brace in this game). After impressing for Dartford during his first month there, Gibbons caught the attention of former QPR player and then chief scout at the west London club – Alf Ridyard. Ridyard was impressed so much by John’s performances for Dartford during his first month there that he wanted the young centre forward to come with him to QPR. Dartford however, were reluctant to let their recent acquisition leave however, they were unable to stop John leaving them as he had signed ‘ M ’ forms and therefore had no ties to them. A regular and consistent performer for the ‘ Hoops ’ reserve team who he scored roughly around 16 goals in 20 appearances for. Gibbons made his competitive first team debut for QPR on the 23rd of October 1948 at Loftus Road. One newspaper at the time said on Gibbons debut that the “ Choice of John Gibbons to lead Queen’s Park Rangers attack against West Ham at Loftus – road today raises the question whether it is wise for a young player to make his league debut in a full-blooded Derby game. ” Gibbons played around another seven first team games for the ‘ Hoops ’ scoring two goals. He also helped QPR get promoted from the third division to the second division that season and was awarded with a QPR shield.
After doing his bit at QPR John Gibbons departed the west London club to join Ipswich Town in the May of 1949, he played a few matches for Ipswich’s first team before leaving them in the March of 1950 to join Spurs. Former QPR player George Smith knew Tottenham manager Arthur Rowe and would have most likely recommended John to him. During that 1949/50 season John Gibbons made five appearances for our reserves in the Football Combination League (statistics for goals scored are unfortunately not available). In the following seasons he would go onto play for Spurs in the Football Combination Cup, the Eastern Counties League (he made 20 appearances in that league during one season alone), the East Anglian Cup and the Metropolitan And District League Professional Clubs’ Cup amongst others. However, one of the highlights of John’s time at Spurs was helping them win the Metropolitan And District League Challenge Cup. He played in most of the games leading up until the final when he scored two goals against Headington United to help Spurs to a 6-2 victory to clinch the trophy. John played with future Spurs great Tommy Harmer in the Eastern Counties League, a certain Viv Buckingham in the Football Combination League and also a very young Mel Hopkins in the Metropolitan And District League Challenge Cup. Gibbons would also mix with the likes of first Spurs team players such as Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsey who he remembers as gentlemen. He liked and respected these players as well as Arthur Rowe, but above all else he enjoyed his time at the Lilywhites. What an experience it all must have been for John to pull on that Lilywhite shirt during one of the greatest times in the clubs history. And for him to have been at the club and playing in a talented reserve side during that time is a testament to his ability as a footballer. After leaving Spurs in 1953 Gibbons returned to Dartford where he saw out the rest of his footballing career. We as Spurs fans should be proud to call John one of our own.