Ronnie Burgess Tottenham Hotspur & Wales

William Arthur Ronald "Ronnie" Burgess (9 April 1917 - 14 February 2005) was a professional footballer who played in the wing half (midfield) position.  Burgess worked as a miner before joining Tottenham Hotspur from his local team Cwm Villa. He went on to captain the league championship winning Spurs team of the 1950-51 season, the year after he had helped them win the Division 2 crown.

Burgess captained the Wales national football team and won 32 caps for his country as a left half. He also played for the Great Britain team against the Rest of Europe in 1947.  Burgess joined Swansea Town in 1954 as a player and played until 1956, taking over as manager of Swansea Town from 1955 to 1958.  As manager of Swansea he was responsible for the transfer of the great Cliff Jones to Tottenham.

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Cliff Jones signs for Tottenham Hotspur on February 15th 1958 for a record transfer fee of £35,000 from Swansea Town.  Looking on are Swansea manager, Ron Burgess, left, and Spurs manager, Jimmy Anderson, right.

He was then manager of Watford from 1959 to 1963, where he steered the club to its first-ever promotion in his first full season in charge, and nearly managed a second successive promotion the following year.  It was while he was at Watford that he discovered and nurtured Pat Jennings who was sold to Spurs for £27,000 in June 1964.

Tottenham Hotspur early 1950s

Back Row (L-R):
Bill Nicholson, Alf Ramsey, Tony Marchi, Ted Ditchburn, Harry Clarke, Charlie Withers, Ron Burgess

Front Row (L-R):
William “Sonny” Walters, Les Bennet, Len Duquemin, Eddie Baily, George Robb

As a seven-year-old football mad kid in 1949 Ron Burgess was part of the team that first attracted me to Tottenham Hotspur and I have never regretted following them over the next 70 years.  The greatest accolade that could be paid to any Spurs player was to be described by Bill Nicholson as having all the requirements of the perfect footballer.  That was how he described Ron Burgess, left half and captain of Arthur Rowe’s “Push & Run” team.  Remember that Bill would later have two other great wing halves under his stewardship in Danny Blanchflower and Dave McKay.  Ron would have had a similar relationship with Arthur Rowe that Danny Blanchflower would have had with Bill Nicholson ten years later.  The manager’s voice out on the field.

A human dynamo, Burgess led Spurs from the Second Division to the League title playing a “make it quick, make it simple” style of football that was as revolutionary as the fluid possession football introduced by the Magical Magyars of Hungary in 1953 was to be.  He began as an inside forward and was spotted by Spurs playing for his junior side, Cwm Villa.  Less than a year after arriving in London he was told that Spurs did not think he would make the grade.  Calling at White Hart Lane for what he expected to be the last time to watch the “A” team he was roped in to play right-half, a position he had never played before in his life.  The rest, as they say is history.  He was outstanding in his new role, scored twice and was the star of the show.  Two days later he joined Spurs’ nursery club, Northfleet United, and twelve months later he signed as a professional on the full-time staff at White Hart Lane.  Ron made his Spurs debut in February 1939 and immediately made the position his own.  A powerhouse of a player, Burgess was the engine room of the team.  Never slacking for a minute, he was an inspirational leader, driving his side on and leading by example, but also able to get the best out of his colleagues with a quiet word of encouragement here or a bellowed demand there.  His incredible stamina and desire to attack were what caught the eye most, but he had skill in abundance, slick passing ability and a thunderous shot.  His ball control was immaculate, he could stroke the ball equally well with either foot, get up for headers and head the ball powerfully.  He could also defend when he had to, tackling with strength and determination, never knowing when he was beaten.  As Bill Nicholson said - the perfect footballer.

Ronnie believed that a captain must accept responsibility, must shape policy.  Listen to him in the dressing room before a league match or an international game and you would hear a soft-spoken man emphasising points.  He always gave instructions, not suggestions but the hallmark of a great skipper was that he would learn and, if necessary, amend his plans.  Little wonder that he was so very popular at White Hart Lane with Spurs fans but his staunchest fans were miles away from the metropolis in his little Welsh village of Cwm, Ebbw Vale.

Tottenham Hotspur’s brilliant left wing trio training at White Hart Lane in 1953 with, from left to right,
Eddie Baily (inside left), Ronnie Burgess (left half) and George Robb (left wing)

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