It was a great pleasure for 100 Years of Coconuts to welcome Jim White to the Abbey on Saturday. Jim, who as an ex-Portsmouth and ex-U's player had a foot in both camps, held his listeners in thrall as he recounted tales from a long, distinguished playing and coaching career and regaled listeners with his thoughts on the 3-1 Pompey win.
Dorset-born Jim was just 15 years and 321 days old when he made his debut for Bournemouth on 30 April 1958 – and he was still only 16 when he first played for Portsmouth, having switched south-coast clubs. Having been capped for England Youth, he moved to Gillingham before returning to Bournemouth in 1966.
He played in 175 League games for the Cherries before joining United on 9 December 1970 as player-coach, replacing non-playing coach Peter Watson and taking responsibility for the youth team. 'Before I was even considered for the post everybody I met in the game spoke highly of the club,' he said, 'and when I came for the interview I couldn’t help finding that there was an attitude of tremendous pride among the people here.'
Manager Bill Leivers made Jim his captain, and he made his debut on December 19 in a 2-0 home defeat by Northampton. He became a regular as either a centre-back or sweeper, and after a defiant 1-0 win at Stockport on January 15, Leivers declared: 'Jim White is about the best professional I have come across.'
Jim scored his first goal for United on 30 January 1971: a 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 was a regular for the reserves and continued to coach. He stopped playing at the end of that season but remained as coach until he left at the beginning of 1973/74 to become first team coach at Reading. He had played 37 times and scored three goals for the U's.
Above, Jim White chats to United chairman Dave Doggett after the game. Below, Coconuts volunteers Alan Burge (left) and Barry Benton get to know the great man.
He later returned to the Cambridge area and managed or coached at King’s Lynn, Histon, Cambridge City, Chatteris and Swavesey among other clubs. He still lives, with wife Sue, in Cambridgeshire and indulges his passion for the game regularly.
Coconuts thanks Peter Reeve for his sterling work in hosting his friend Jim on Saturday, and Andrew Bennett for providing the career information.