Ron Burgess

The Pavilion, Cwm Betterment Field, Cwm, Ebbw Vale.

Ron Burgess Ron was born in Cwm into a mining family on 9 April 1917.

Ron’s talents were clear from an early age and this was first spotted by Cardiff City who he signed for as an amateur in his mid teens. 

After the disappointment with Cardiff he continued to play for his local side Cwm Villa and in one memorable season he netted 59 goals. This drew the attention of Tottenham who signed him up on amateur terms as an eager 19 year old.

Early signs of his strength and vitality were evident as a young miner. People who knew him as a boy joked that,’ with his boundless vitality, immense strength and readiness to toil until he dropped, he might single-handedly have emptied the South Wales coalfield if Tottenham hadn’t signed him.’

He eventually made his first team debut in February 1939 against Norwich in Division 2.

Just as he secured a regular first team place he career was brought to a sudden halt when World War II broke out. Ron joined the RAF as a Physical Training Instructor however he still found time to play and in addition to playing for Tottenham as well as guesting for Huddersfield Town, Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Reading.

Post war Ron became established in the team, only missing through injury or when he played for Wales. Under new manager Joe Hulme the team was rebuilt and when Arthur Rowe succeeded him, Ron not only captained the side that run away as Division 2 champions but became the heartbeat of the new ‘push and run’ style of play.

On the back of promotion in 1950 Spurs went on to take the First Division championship in 1951 and were runners up in 1952. Ron stayed on for another 2 season but by then, he was in his 38th year and a move away from the club was on the cards. His 16 year career at Tottenham earned him 324 appearances, most of which were a captain, 16 goals and back to back championship Medals in Division 1 & 2. He was the first owner of the No.6 shirt when numbering was introduced and was considered by Bill Nicholson to be the best midfielder the club had ever known, outranking the illustrious likes of Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Glenn Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne.

He joined Swansea Town in 1954 and within a year was their player manager.

Ron’s international career was severely curtailed by the Second World War however he went on to captain his country, winning 32 caps and scoring one goal. He was also the first Welsh player to be selected for the Great Britain team when they played the Rest of Europe to mark the 4 home nations return to FIFA.

His managerial career was far more of a carousel with stays at Watford (1959-63) where the highlight was an FA Cup run in 1959/60, Bedford, Harrow and Hendon where he won the FA Amateur Cup in 1965. He was briefly caretaker manager of Wales in 1964 and was also trainer at Fulham and scout for Luton.

The blue plaque was unveiled on12th November 2014 by former Wales goalkeeper, Neville Southall saying, ’It is an honour to unveil this plaque today. Ronnie Burgess was a Welsh football giant. He captained his club and country and led Spurs to back to back championships. He even discovered the great Pat Jennings.’

Former Swansea, Wales and Spurs Forward Terry Medwin was a former teammate of Ron’s, their careers overlapping at Swansea and for a greater part for Wales. Terry paid tribute saying, ‘Ron was one of the best players. He was a true all rounder and anywhere he played you always noticed him. He was like an engine, he had an incredible work rate and was a superb passer of the ball. With his mass of experience he led by example, he was so highly respected as captain, he got on with everyone, encouraging teammates on the pitch and enjoying a good laugh off it.’

Yet another Swansea, Wales and Spurs hero, Cliff Jones added, “When Bill Nicholson spoke about Spurs players he always said possibly one of the greatest players Spurs ever had was Ron Burgess and coming from Bill, that’s important and means a lot.

“Ron was the manager of Swansea when I was transferred to Tottenham. He’d come down a couple of years earlier as a coach, he was also captain of the Welsh team when I first played in 1955. He was a special player. I can remember when I was transferred to Tottenham there were quite a few clubs in for me – Arsenal, Wolves, Manchester United – and Ron said to me ‘do yourself a favour, sign for Tottenham, they will suit your style of play’. I took that advice and the rest is history, so to speak.

He was a special character and a special player and it’s great that he’s been recognised by Blaenau Gwent Council because he was a true Welshman. It’s thoroughly deserved.  When Bill Nicholson says he’s one of the best players ever, you take notice!”

Many of Ron’s family were present at the unveiling including his son, Richard Burgess who had flown in from France, Samantha James and David James his grandchildren from Swansea, Glenys Baylis, his niece from Cwm, Michael Burgess his Nephew and Shaun Burgess, Michael’s son.

Richard remembers how strong his Dad was, ‘his calves were so big and powerful they rubbed together as he walked. My Dad got 32 caps for Wales and was captain in 29 of them. He played another 10 times, but no caps were awarded over the wartime period.’

‘I remember him playing in pro celebrity matches  and it gave us children a great thrill to meet people like Des O’Connor, Tommy Steele and Sean Connery – Sean Connery was a great player.

Grand daughter Samantha James added, Gran used to collect all their autographs and we still have that book today. She would stick a photo next to the signature so we could remember who they were.’

Michael Burgess has fond memories of his Uncle Ron’s visits back home to Cwm. Michael would often find his grandparents house at 86 Currie Street full of football legends who had come back with Ron to visit Cwm. There he met Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and Ted Ditchburn to name a few.

‘His Welsh team mates loved their visits to Cwm too. They especially liked their social visits to Cwm Con Club. My grandfather would have them up at the crack of dawn for a few laps of the Cwm Welfare Pitch to get them ready for action.’

The erection of the plaque was initiated by Cllr Hedley McCarthy, Leader of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, recognizing the importance of celebrating local heroes he said, ‘Kids in Cwm grew up with Ron as their footballing idol, just as Gareth Bale is today. He was a giant of Welsh football and we are recognising this fact today.’

Ron Burgess Portrait

Ron Burgess Plaque

Ron Burges Plaque Unveiling

Family Of Ron Burges