Where Are They Now - John L Williams
For his next instalment of his Where Are They Now series Peverell Green puts the spotlight on the career of John L Williams.
JOHN 'CARDIFF' WILLIAMS - Born 27th January 1936 Rhymney, Wales.
After featuring the better known Johnny Williams a couple of weeks ago and mentioning he was one of two John Williams at the club at the time I thought I would find out what I could about John 'Cardiff' Williams as he was known at Argyle.
The internet had nothing about him, the excellent Greens on Screen database was able to tell me where he came from, where he went to, and how many times he played for Argyle but not much else.
I contacted some of the older fans who had been able to help me out with the Wilf Carter feature, but they didn't recall anything of note about him.
I thought to myself, this man has a Championship winning medal he deserves more than to be forgotten, just a name on a team sheet and a face in a black and white team photo. I re-read the chapter on John from the definitive book of the 1958-59 season, 'Plymouth Argyle - Thanks for the Memory' by Steve Rhodes, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this era of the club's history, it's still available on eBay at the bargain price of £5 and is a treasure trove of information.
Anyway, I let Steve know of my interest, he too thought John's story deserved to reach a wider audience and he agreed for me to use some of his interviews with John in a feature on him.
John lived with his parents and older sister in his grandfather's house in a mining village in South Wales his father worked for 45 years in the local pit.
John's football talent was first noticed at his local secondary school, his ability was also noticed by the Welsh Youth team selectors, which says a lot about his talent as he had rarely left his village and unlike most of the other youth team players he wasn't on the ground staff of any professional club, although he had played for Tredegar Schoolboys.
He was sixteen when he was selected to play against England Youth at Fratton Park Portsmouth, England won 3-1 with John scoring the Welsh goal.
As a result of his performance against England, Hull City offered him a trial; he obviously impressed them as they offered him terms.
His mother wasn't happy about him moving so far from home and wouldn't let him sign for them.
It wasn't long afterwards when Cardiff City, a first division (Premiership) club showed an interest, and in January 1953 he signed professional forms with them for £6 a week. John continued to live at home and travelled daily by train to Cardiff, with the club paying his £1 a week return rail ticket.
Like most men of his generation John was required to do two years National Service and he was called up when he was eighteen, serving the majority of his time at Bielefeld in Germany with the Royal Army Service Corps, although he played football for the Army there were no other professionals in the team.
When he was demobbed in 1956 he returned to Cardiff City playing in their Football Combination team. Unfortunately for John both of Cardiff's wing halves, his position, were international footballers with another one playing with him in the reserves.
John decided there was little chance of him getting first team football so he asked his manager for a transfer.
Near the end of the 1957-58 season he was told Norwich were interested in him and wanted him to play in a friendly against Leicester.
Norwich liked what they saw and proposed an offer of £4,000. John thought he would be moving to Carrow Road but when he returned to Cardiff was told Plymouth had shown an interest in him so he travelled to Devon to speak with manager Jack Rowley.
He obviously liked what he saw and was offered, for although Argyle offered Cardiff £1000 less for him they gave him better personal terms and he agreed to join Argyle, signing on at the same time as Gordon Fincham. He left Cardiff without making a first team appearance.
His Argyle first team debut came on 18th September 1958 in a 3-0 home win over Bury, keeping his place for the next fourteen games; he then lost his first team place to new signing Len Casey.
Sadly for John his time out of the first team co-incided with Argyle playing his old club Cardiff in the FA Cup third round in front of over 40,000 at Home Park. John regained his first team place in March which gave him the opportunity to play in the Easter Saturday game at Newport, with his proud parents and one of his former schoolteachers travelling from Rhymney to watch him play.
John's mother, obviously not a football fan had to be told by his father, David, that John's team were the greens and Newport the yellows. A Wilf Carter penalty ensured the family went home happy after seeing their son's team win, although John did say he thought his father was just as pleased to have been introduced to Jack Rowley.
John played in both the game at Accrington that secured promotion and the Championship winning match, a 1-1 home draw with Bradford City in front of 26,717 fans, he never featured regularly in the first team after that.
In 1959-60 he made 6 appearances, in 1960-61 two league and two League Cup appearances and in 1961-62 only two league appearances. A regular in the reserves John gained national recognition when in December 1961 Argyle played Tottenham's reserves at Home Park, the week before Spurs had signed Jimmy Greaves from AC Milan and as his registration to play in the first team hadn't arrived he made his debut in front of 12,000 Argyle fans and many journalists, with John assigned to mark him.
Although Jimmy scored two goals, keeping up his record of always scoring on his debut, John received great praise in the press for his tenacious and dogged display.
He played a total of 39 times for Argyle without scoring any goals.
A move to Torquay followed, where in three seasons he made 42 league appearances.
He then continued to move up the south coast when he joined Weymouth where he was signed by his old Torquay boss, Eric Webber. Unfortunately John's father suffered a stroke and he decided to return to Wales.
He joined Merthyr Town who played in the Southern League and later Ton Pentre playing in the Welsh League.
While at Merthyr they were drawn to play Wrexham in the FA Cup, who were now managed by his old Argyle manager, Jack Rowley, who took time out to welcome his former player.
After retiring from football John spent twenty years working as a Training Officer at the Hoover plant in Merthyr.
In 2008 John returned to Home Park with some of the other surviving members of the 1958-59 Championship winning team, he looked as fit as he must have done in his playing days.
After Steve Rhodes met with him he revealed that in recent years had run in two London Marathons, the Welsh Half Marathon and the Great Cardiff Run and still runs ten miles a week.
If there is anyone who does have memories of John, an unsung but invaluable squad member please let me know by email - Plymouth@vitalfootball.co.uk
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