When Tommy White arrived at Goodison as a teenager from Southport in February 1927 the Everton board were in the midst of a flurry of transfer activity that would not only save the club from the ignominy of relegation that year, but lay the basis of a team that would win an unparalleled haul of trophies over the subsequent six years. Twice during this time the League Championship would reside at Goodison, as would the Second Division title and the FA Cup. White would be in the thick of most of this action.
Signed as a centre forward, White would fill a number of roles – centre half, inside forward, right half – for Everton over the subsequent decade with distinction. With Sandy Brown and Alan Harper he can be considered among the club’s great utility men, an underappreciated breed of player that has always been fundamental to Everton’s success.
His debut came as centre forward in the 1927/28 campaign, a season defined by Dixie Dean’s astonishing haul of sixty goals. Yet Everton were no one-trick ponies and with Dean absent and White in his place Everton recorded their biggest win of the season, a 7-0 hammering of West Ham in which White scored twice. ‘The game was developed on the flanks, so that not so much depended upon White the ex-Southport player, as distributor and leader,’ reported the Daily Courier. ‘The young centre is coming along nicely in this class of football, and his goal each half should be a message of confidence for the future.’
White made no further appearances that season but plenty more opportunities were to come his way over the following two years as the club was rocked by injuries to many of its key players. Through 1928/29 he was called up in place of Jerry Kelly at right half, Albert Virr at left half, Dean at centre forward. He also partnered Dean in place of George Martin and Jimmy Dunn, Everton’s regular inside forwards. Everton finished eighteenth.
At the start of the 1929/30 season White re-emerged as Everton’s centre-half. Never the tallest of players he was nevertheless hard and uncompromising. ‘He had no pretentious to cleverness, but he adopted the line of least resistance every time, and did not stand on ceremony,’ reported one newspaper. Yet Everton’s form was disastrous: just two wins from their first eleven matches. Tom Griffiths replaced him in the heart of defence and White pushed up to more advanced roles, but on occasion also reverted to the half back role. A record run of six straight defeats in March 1930 saw Everton fall to the bottom of the division. Worst still, Dean was injured. White returned to his favoured centre forward berth and scored seven goals in the final five games of the season including a hat trick in the last match against Sunderland. But there were no celebrations afterwards: Everton were relegated.
Amends were made in the 1930/31 season, which ended with Everton Second Divisions Champions and a record haul of 121 league goals. But for injury White would have taken a more active role in this goal gluttony: he had managed nine in the first seven games as inside forward before injury struck. A year later he won his second medal – the League Championship – after scoring 18 goals from 23 games as inside forward. But his third success – the 1933 FA Cup – came at centre half, as did his solitary England cap, a month later against Italy in Rome.
White continued to serve Everton in a number of roles, mostly defensive, until the 1936/37 season, when he played just a single game. At the end of that season he was transfer listed for just £50 and joined Northampton Town, a year later returning to Mersyside with New Brighton. He later worked at Liverpool Docks and was killed in a dockside accident in 1967.