Winston White

Former Player Remembers: Winston White

Leicester-born Winston White was a skilful winger with pace who played for Leicester City in the late 1970s, but is perhaps more famous for his career away from Filbert Street.
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In a career which saw him play over 600 league and cup games, he also made 128 appearances for this week’s opponents, Burnley. Now based in Florida, he recently talked to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his life in football.

Winston started by remembering his schooldays in Leicester: “I went to Crown Hills. It was a really good school, particularly for sport. We had some talented youngsters there and a very good sports teacher who helped encourage and develop me, not just as a sports person but as an individual. That was a good basis for me to get involved with some local clubs in the area. I played for a team called Wadkins Juniors who were not a glamorous team but I liked my team-mates.

“When I was 14, I was spotted by Leicester City’s chief scout. His reputation went before him. He had been a manager. I was told that a City scout would be watching a number of our players, but I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be me being watched. When he knocked on my door, which was opened by my brother, he said he wanted to get me to the Club to train on a regular basis. They had a team called Leicester Beavors. I wasn’t interested in playing for them because I felt it was a bit elitist, so I played with my friends for a team that was closer to where I lived in Evington. Then, when I was 16, Leicester City’s manager, Jimmy Bloomfield, signed me as an apprentice.”

A member of a successful youth side at Leicester, Winston made his first team debut as an 18-year-old at Stoke City in March 1977, a day he remembers very well.  

He continued: “You never forget your debut. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Keith Weller was probably one of the greatest players to ever wear the Leicester shirt and my challenge was to get in the team in front of Keith. It was a tall order. I could play in midfield or as a winger, which was my best position. Keith was a great winger, but he got injured the week before. I never anticipated that I would be in the side but Jimmy gave me the opportunity to travel with the team to Stoke City. That was enough in itself for me to be nervous! He only told me on the morning of the game that I was actually going to start. I was fortunate to have a good game. I set up the winner for Frank Worthington. It was a dream start in many ways!

A highlight for me under McLintock was my first goal for my hometown club. It was at Anfield against the champions, Liverpool!

Winston White

“It was an incredible time. Jimmy had signed some great players but there was a lot of local talent as well. It was a really good mix. We had a fantastic youth team at the time. I became great friends with Neville Hamilton, who was a year below me. He was my best friend in football who passed away a few years ago. We were making finals and winning things. Jimmy was a player’s dream because he wanted to encourage young players.”

Winston then reflected on Bloomfield’s departure in May 1977, and the arrival of Frank McLintock as manager.

“Timing is everything in a player’s career,” he added. "When Jimmy got fired when Leicester finished 11th in the top division, nobody saw it coming. It was extraordinary. But players are very resilient and we got on with it but it did affect a lot of people’s careers.

“Frank had the best intentions but he had a really big problem. Some of the more established players became disillusioned with the decision to sack Bloomfield so they moved on, leaving a depleted squad. Frank, who was a super guy, brought in players who were not of the standard that Leicester had had before and he could not maintain the team camaraderie which is vital for any team to be successful. If you stick together and have the same objectives, you will win things.

“A highlight for me under McLintock was my first goal for my hometown club. It was at Anfield against the champions, Liverpool! I hadn’t played for a little while because Frank decided to go with the players he had signed. I was called into the squad with Dean Smith. Liverpool were riding high. We were not expecting to win, but we took the lead. I scored against Ray Clemence. We hung on in there but unfortunately Liverpool’s quality came out in the end and they beat us 3-2. However we gave a really good account of ourselves and I remember the newspaper headline a couple of days later: ‘Leicester City: down with dignity’.”

McLintock departed in April 1978, just prior to the Club being relegated. He was replaced by Jock Wallace.

These managerial changes were not ideal for Winston’s development, as he explained: “As a player, you want consistency. You don’t want mixed messages. It’s not just about playing. It’s about the culture a club wants to create. Every team in the Premier League has their own specific culture. At Leicester, under Bloomfield, the culture had definitely been to play attractive football. The players were exceptionally skilful and there was a lot of effort and a lot of work. It was a really good mix, very similar to what Leicester has now.  The three managers I had at Leicester all had different strategies. Jock was very far removed from what I was about. My game was technical. I was a skilful player, very quick. I wanted to be part of a team. Jock had this army mentality. He had success but I didn’t feel part of it. I felt that I needed to leave the Club because I needed to play in a style of play which suited me.”

This explains why, in March 1979, Winston went to Hereford United for a fee of £15,000.

“Going to Hereford says a lot about my background and about the support system I had,” he said. “I am from an amazing family which still lives in Leicester. I had a very humble background but a very rounded one. I was determined, even though I did take a few steps down the league, to maintain my standard of football. I did well at Hereford United. It was a culture shock in many ways but I was always determined to get back up the ladder. I just wanted to play games. At that time I was 21. I needed to play. I signed for a good manager, Mike Bailey, the ex-Wolves player. Bobby Gould was his assistant manager. They wanted to bring young players on. Unfortunately, within half a season, Mike Bailey and Bobby Gould left and I was on the treadmill of different managers again. This doesn’t help a player’s development.” 

Between 1983 and 1986, Winston made a name for himself at Bury. He knew that Bury wanted to sign him but one or two players had to move on before they could afford him so he had short spells, whilst waiting, in Hong Kong and at Chesterfield, Port Vale and Stockport, before signing for Bury in December 1983.

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Winston White
Winston White

Winston White in action for Burnley against Nottingham Forest.

They were managed by the ex-Everton and Burnley star Martin Dobson and his assistant the former Burnley player Frank Casper. Winston had a very successful three years at Gigg Lane, and was an ever-present in their 1985 ‘old’ Fourth Division promotion season. After a spell at Colchester United, he signed for Fourth Division Burnley in October 1988 for a fee of £17,500.

“I have great affection for Burnley,” Winston continued. “The culture difference between Bury and Burnley was quite dramatic. Bury is not too far from Manchester, whereas Burnley is cut off from a lot of areas so it has this incredible identity. They live and breathe the game. When I signed for the Club, I was surprised by how many people loved the game there. When I made my home debut, I was so well received. I really did enjoy my time there. The season before I went there they nearly went out of the league so there was a lot of passion and emotion at the club. They were craving for success. Their infrastructure, based on their success many years before, demanded this. It’s no surprise that Burnley are now doing so well. They have the fanbase, the passion and an intensity you cannot escape from. The players can identify with the club and the fans, which you don’t always get at a club. I want to say thank you to the Burnley fans and to my Burnley teammates, for making my time there so wonderful.”

In March 1991, West Bromwich Albion, in the ‘old’ Second Division, signed Winston for £35,000.

He added: “We were going for promotion at Burnley. We had a good side. Manager Frank Casper was doing a great job as manager. Bobby Gould, who was manager at West Bromwich Albion, had tried to sign me the season before. I had turned the move down because Burnley was the right club for me at that time but, in the end, with West Brom being in the Championship, I just couldn’t turn it down. I was 31. I was in really good shape. I wanted another crack at a higher level. It was now or never. I had to go for it. Also West Bromwich isn’t too far from my home town, Leicester. I had travelled around a lot and it was important for me to be near my family again.

“Leicester and West Brom were both fighting against relegation when I signed for them. I actually scored against Leicester on my home debut. When I scored I vividly remember going to the stand where my brother was. I didn’t celebrate or go crazy. I just acknowledged that I scored. It was like redemption. I would have liked to be scoring for Leicester City but that goal was a vindication for all the effort and work that I had put in. It was a nice feeling but I didn’t want to disrespect my home town club by doing a merry jig.  

“At West Brom I picked up my first serious injury. I snapped my medial ligament on my left leg. I was out for quite a while. I never came back the same player. I didn’t have the same explosive power which had been a real asset for me. When you are playing at a higher level you need that level of speed. I went out on loan for a little while and became a bit of a journeyman. When you are injured you tend to become forgotten.”

Winston retired from playing in 1993 having amassed 610 League and Cup appearances, scoring 73 goals.

If it wasn’t for scouts at all different levels, going around all these different clubs, players like Jamie Vardy would not be where they are today.

Winston White

He concluded: “I was fortunate as, throughout my career, I had worked with the Professional Footballer’s Association. I did a lot of educational courses. I had always wanted to take a degree because being a footballer at 16, I didn’t have that opportunity. I had some properties in Birmingham so I went to university there. I got my degree in Business and Leisure Management and went on to get my MBA.

“I have done a lot of scouting. I have my own company called World Soccer Scouts Association, which delivers talent identification courses worldwide for anybody wanting to become a scout or a talent identifier. It is an exceptional skill and requires dedication to find that talent and develop it in the correct way. That’s why I want to give people who love the game the skills to identify talent, particularly at grassroots level. I travel all over the world doing that. It’s a fantastic experience. It brings me back to when I was spotted by Ray Shaw. If it wasn’t for scouts at all different levels, going around all these different clubs, players like Jamie Vardy would not be where they are today. Scouts go about their business watching thousands of games and they don’t always get the credit they deserve. They are the backbone of this game.

“This is why I have gone back into talent identification looking for players who may have been passed by and getting scouts who can identify these players. I am also the international director of a world-wide agency... I’m living the dream really!”

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