Rob Sawyer comes from a long line of Everton FC supporters. Listening to his father and grandfather regale the stories of Dixie Dean and the Holy Trinity led to a deep interest in Everton's illustrious history. Whilst researching his first book, a biography of Harry Catterick, Sawyer found just how important TG Jones was to the Toffees. We caught up with him to find out more about.
As an Evertonian with a keen interest in the club’s heritage I have long been aware of the esteem in which Tommy “T.G.” Jones was held at Goodison Park.
The Connah’s Quay raised defender, best known by his initials, T.G., was a linchpin of the title-winning Toffees team of 1939. His thoroughbred style earned him the nickname The Prince of Centre-Halves. Possessing an all-round game which the great ‘Dixie Dean’ felt was peerless, T.G. became the benchmark by which future generations of Everton ‘stoppers’ were judged. This was affirmed when T.G. was selected as Everton’s Millennium Giant of the 1940s.
While researching contemporary articles and Everton match reports for Harry Catterick’s biography, I was struck by how pivotal T.G. was to the club. The post-war souring of T.G.’s relations with his employer mirrored the declining fortunes of the team on the pitch. A myriad of suitors tried, in vain, to prise him away from Goodison Park, which makes it all the more remarkable that when he finally left it was to the relative obscurity of managing a hotel in Pwllheli.
With my interest piqued, a Bangor City supporter opened my eyes to how T.G. had transformed the footballing fortunes of the North Walian city in the 1960s. He eulogised over T.G.’s impact as manager at Pwllheli and, subsequently, Bangor. Not only did he transform Bangor by attaining a, hitherto elusive, Welsh Cup victory but led the team into Europe - grabbing national headlines for three gripping encounters with Italian Giants, Napoli.
From that point I resolved to document the life and times of this Everton and Welsh football great who passed away in
2004. The research process involved trawling through local history archives, and tracking down family members, teammates and others with first-hand recollections of the man. I was also aided greatly by football history experts on Merseyside and in T.G.s Welsh homeland.
What emerged was a picture of a brilliant footballer who, robbed by war of seven of the best years of his career, became increasingly unwilling to compromise his beliefs on the way the game should be played. In the absence of film or television footage, it was mesmerising to hear people paint verbal pictures of T.G.’s immaculate style both on and off the pitch. With his natural ability, good looks and eloquence he would have been a global star had he been playing in the modern era. Instead he spent the last 30 years of his life in semi-retirement running a newsagent’s shop, sometimes expressing bitterness that his generation of players did not receive remuneration commensurate with their ability and fame.
It has been a labour of love documenting the fascinating life to T.G. Jones and I hope that, in doing so, I have raised the national profile of an icon of Welsh and Merseyside football.
To pre-order The Prince of Centre-Halves, please click here.