This series would not be possible if it were not for some excellent past articles constructed by contributors to sites such as the Chronicle, Spartacus-Educational and several other open sources – so thank you.
Len White was born in Skellow near Doncaster in 1930. His love of the game was formed whilst turning out for Upton Colliery before he joined Rotherham United in May 1948. Len was employed a right winger and managed 15 goals in 43 appearances for the Millers during his two seasons with them.
By now Newcastle United had taken notice of Len. We needed a replacement for the ageing Tommy Walker, the Newcastle winger who had now turned 30-years-old and was beginning his inevitable decline. Len signed for the Magpies in February 1953 for £12,000 – leading to Walker’s exit in 1954 following 12 loyal and dependable years with the Toon. The same season would see the arrival of Jimmy Scoular for £26,000, with Jimmy immediately being handed the Captain’s armband. Len would find himself in the company of some very good players in the shape of Scoular, Jackie Milburn and 1 goal-in-4 left winger Bobby Mitchell. We have some brilliant wide players back in those days and knew how to supply the forward line, something we sadly lack today.
Len White was signed as a winger. He made his debut against Liverpool and scored 2 goals in 12 appearances that season. The following season Len scored 14 goals in 29 appearances from the wing – helping the Toon to finish Division One in 8th place. In 1955 Newcastle would win the FA Cup for the 3rd time in 5 years. Len had scored in a 2-0 semi final victory versus York following an assist by Jackie Milburn, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVIWOA6pnBo
In the final, Len set Jackie up from a corner kick to put the Toon one up against Man City after just 1 minute. City pulled one back by half time, but they had lost a player to injury. This was significant because substitutions were not introduced until 1965, so the Magpies were playing against 10 men. In the second half Jimmy Scoular tuned into a beast, spraying the ball across field with a series of pin point passes to set the likes of Mitchell and White off on marauding runs down the wings. It was a real Captain’s performance and Newcastle would go on to win comprehensively with a 3-1 victory.
Interestingly, Wor Jackie had spend a lot of time injured in the run up to the final and the manager Dugald Livingstone had planned not to start Milburn. Back in those days, managers had to present their proposed line-ups to the Board and upon seeing Milburn excluded, Livingstone was ordered to play him. They could see a fan backlash if their hero was left out. A a result of this forced change, Len White was removed from the team. However he was given a reprieve when Reg Davies went down with laryngitis. Lucky Len!
White had an unspectacular season following the FA Cup win, but did find himself playing as a centre forward following injuries to Wor Jackie and Vic Keeble. By the end of 1958 Len was the undistributed #9, following in the footsteps of the great Hughie Gallagher. He was unstoppable, running at players with power and pace, creating his own goals and getting the Gallowgate end on their feet in rapturous applause on many an occasion. He was only 5’6’’, but as proven by many great diminutive players down the years, sized means nothing so long as you have the talent and drive to succeed. Ken McKenzie, the Newcastle reporter for The Journal, described Newcastle’s second goal during a 4-1victory over Man City in 1958;
“A solo dribble by Len White from 15 yards inside his own half ending with a great 12-yard shot into the net past the advancing Bert Trautmann, the best goalkeeper in football, made memorable the burial of the relegation blues in the St James’ Park floodlights last night. The crowd of 53,280 cheered a back to form Newcastle off the field for a stirring show.” That Ryan Giggsesque goal helped keep Newcastle in the top flight.
In the next 2 seasons Len would score 53 goals in 70 games. The 1961 season would see Len score 28 goals in 33 games. Len took part in two spectacular wins in the 1959-1960 season. The first was an 8-2 drubbing of Everton at St. James’ Park. Newcastle were not doing well in the League and nobody expected the Toon to come up with much, however Len was in devastating form and secured a hat-trick by half time as the Magpies went in 4-0 up at the break. Expectations had been so low, only in the region of 23,000 fans turned up. In January 1960 Len would secure another hat-trick in a stunning 7-3 win against Manchester United, with 4 goals being scored at the Leazes End. There were calls made for Len to be recognised by England, but the call never came.
By the end of the season Len had been moved to outside left, but the goals continue to flow and he scored a screamer against Wolves in a goal regarded as goal of the season. Unfortunately his footballing year would end prematurely in March 1961. A nasty tackle came in from Spurs’ Dave McKay during a 2-1 victory for the Toon in a year that we were again fighting relegation whilst Spurs were aiming for the double. We had won that game having gone 1 down. That’s the difference between then and now, fighting spirit. Our current crop need to read up about our past hero’s and realise what wearing the shirt means.
Len would never truly recover from that tackle and was moved on to Huddersfield Town in 1962. He would return to St. James’ park in 1963 with the Terriers, receiving a massive applause before helping his new side take all 3 points in a 2-1 victory. He’d go on to turn out for Stockport County before retiring in 1966. Despite his retirement, he’d play on in non-league football into his 50th year! Over 25 years after his Newcastle exit, the fans arranged a testimonial for him in 1989 – such was their admiration for him. Of course Newcastle United would not allow this to happen to St.James’ (why?!), so it was done at Whitley Bay and 2,000 fans turned out. This Newcastle United legend passed away in 1994, aged 64. No personal controversies in this bloke’s career. He was described as quiet and hard working. A proper pro.
Newcastle record: 245 appearances, 197 goals. What a record. He is a 3rd highest total goal scorer in history, behind only Alan Shearer (206) and Jackie Milburn (201). What is so impressive is that a lot of Len’s appearances came as a winger. Furthermore, Shearer need 395 appearances to reach his 206 goals, whilst Wor Jackie needed 399.
Written by Shamrock.