All at 100 Years of Coconuts were sad to hear of the death today, at the age 75, of former Cambridge United defender and coach Jim White.
Jim will be remembered as a powerful, cultured player and thorough professional who graced United’s first season in the Football League, 1970/71. He later forged a strong reputation as a coach and manager in local football.
Born in Parkstone, Dorset on 13 June 1942, he started out at Bournemouth and became the youngest player to represent the Cherries when he played for the first team at the age of 15 years, 321 days on 30 April 1958.
He made just that one League appearance before joining Portsmouth in 1959. He played 34 times in four seasons for Pompey and was capped for England Youth before moving on to Gillingham. There he made 65 appearances before rejoining Bournemouth in 1966.
Jim played in 175 League games in his second spell at Dean Court before joining United on 9 December 1970 as player-coach, also taking on responsibility for the youth team. ‘Before I was even considered for the post everybody I met in the game spoke highly of the club, and when I came for the interview I couldn’t help finding that there was an attitude of tremendous pride among the people here,’ he told the Cambridge Evening News at the time.
U’s manager Bill Leivers immediately made Jim his team captain, and he made his debut on December 19 in a 2-0 home defeat by Northampton. He became a regular in the team as either a centre back or sweeper, depending on the tactics Leivers employed. After a defiant 1-0 win at Stockport on January 15, Leivers said: ‘Jimmy White is about the best professional I have come across. Obviously there are players around with more ability, but Jimmy is absolutely dedicated.’
Jim scored his first goal for United on January 30, an unforgettable 25-yard free kick in a 3-3 home draw with Barrow.
He lost his first-team place to Alan Guild for the 1971/72 season but continued his coaching and made regular appearances for the reserves in the Midweek League. In all, he made 54 full and two substitute appearances for United, scoring four goals.
He called time on his playing career at the end of that season but remained as coach until he left the Abbey Stadium at the beginning of 1973/74 to become first team coach at Reading.
Above, Jim White (left) in conversation with Cambridge United chairman Dave Doggett in October 2015, when he attended the League Two home game against Portsmouth as a guest of 100 Years of Coconuts. Below, Jim in 1971.
He later returned to the Cambridge area and managed or coached at King’s Lynn, Histon, Cambridge City, Chatteris and Swavesey, as well as enjoying a spell in Finland with TT Seinajoki. He combined his football activities with a job as rep for an upholstery business. He died peacefully, after a long illness, on July 24. He is survived by his wife Sue.
100 Years of Coconuts' work with primary schools, telling the story of Abbey/Cambridge United, continues. The latest visitors to The Story of the U's mini-museum were Year 6 of Fen Ditton Primary, and it was a real pleasure to have them and their teachers with us.