John Ritchie (footballer, born 1941)

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John Ritchie
Personal information
Full nameJohn Henry Ritchie
Date of birth(1941-07-12)12 July 1941
Place of birth Kettering, England
Date of death 23 February 2007(2007-02-23) (aged 65)
Position(s) Forward
Senior career*
1960–1962 Kettering Town 76 (40)
1962–1966 Stoke City 110 (64)
1966–1969 Sheffield Wednesday 89 (34)
1969–1975 Stoke City 159 (71)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

John Henry Ritchie (12 July 1941 – 23 February 2007) was an English footballer. He is Stoke City's all-time record goalscorer.


Ritchie began his career with his hometown club Kettering Town before joining Stoke City in 1962. In his first full season as a professional Ritchie scored an impressive 30 goals and hit 81 goals in 135 appearances. He was surprisingly sold by Tony Waddington to Sheffield Wednesday in November 1966 for £80,000. After scored 45 goals for Wednesday in three seasons Waddington decided that selling Ritchie was a mistake and re-signed him for £28,000. He continued to be a prolific goalscorer for Stoke City and helped them win their first major trophy, the 1972 Football League Cup and reach two FA Cup semi finals. He remained at Stoke until September 1974 when a broken leg ended his career. He had scored 176 goals for Stoke in 347 matches making him Stoke's record goalscorer. [1]


Born in Kettering, Ritchie is Stoke City's top marksman of all-time having scored 176 goals in 347 games during two spells at the club, from June 1962 to November 1966, and from July 1969 to May 1975. [2]

In September 1961 Stoke City manager Tony Waddington was in a telephone conversation with a fellow manager who bemoaned the fact despite finding a fine non-league player his club could not afford him. [1] At the end of that conversation Waddington rang around several colleagues to ask about John Ritchie, and he learned of a big strong striker who had scored 40 goals for non-league Kettering Town. [1] Impressed by what he heard Waddington contacted Kettering and completed the deal immediately despite never seeing him play. Ritchie actually took a pay drop to join Stoke as he had been working in a local shoe factory and playing part-time. [1] In his first season at Stoke Ritchie only made sporadic appearances while Dennis Viollet and Jackie Mudie held sway in the first team. [1]

Three months into the 1963–64 season he was given his chance in place of the injured Viollet. Ritchie grabbed it with both hands and scored twice in a 4–3 win over Bolton Wanderers. [1] That sparked a scoring streak of fifteen goals in nine games, breaking Jack Peart's 1910 club record for scoring in consecutive matches, although only six of Ritchie's were in the League. [1] The run was rounded off in a 4–4 draw against Sheffield Wednesday by Ritchie's first hat-trick. He also set a formative record for the club in the League Cup scoring ten goals which has only been beaten twice. Ritchie's goals helped Stoke reached their first ever cup final, the 1964 Football League Cup. Stoke played two legs against Leicester City and lost 4–3. [1] He twice scored four in a match, against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1965 and Northampton Town in February 1966 a feat not to be matched until 2000. [1]

Ritchie scored thirty goals in his first full season as a professional and 29 the following season and was a firm terrace favourite. [1] It came as a huge shock then when in November 1966 he was sold to Sheffield Wednesday for £80,000. It was even more surprising as Stoke had sold reserve forward John Woodward to Aston Villa for £30,000. Tony Waddington later admitted that selling Ritchie was a mistake. Ritchie's time at Hillsborough was not that great as after two good seasons he had a poor 1968–69 campaign and new Wednesday manager Danny Williams decided that he was past his best and Waddington took the chance to rectify his error and bought him back for £28,000. [1]

Ritchie returned as Jimmy Greenhoff arrived, and the pair struck a productive partnership which the local media described as 'telepathic'. [1] Ritchie top scored in 1970–71, 1971–72 and 1973–74 he helped Stoke reach two FA Cup semi finals in 1971 and 1972, Stoke losing both times to Arsenal. Stoke did reach the 1972 Football League Cup Final and beat Chelsea 2–1 to claim their first major trophy. [1] Ritchie continued to play for Stoke until he broke his leg in September 1974 ending his career. [1] He scored a club record 176 goals in 347 appearances for Stoke. [1]

After football

The 6 foot 2 hitman ended his career after a double leg fracture in 1975. After retiring from football, he concentrated on his pottery business based in Stoke. John Ritchie died on 23 February 2007 at the age of 65. [3] His son David was on the books at Stoke in the late 1989 but never made an appearance being sold to Stockport County for £10,000 in March 1990.

Style of play

Standing 6 ft 2 in tall and weighing 12 st 4 lbs, Ritchie was christened 'Big' John Ritchie by Stoke supporters. He was one of a dying breed of direct and fast centre forwards in the mould of a Freddie Steele, Tommy Lawton and Nat Lofthouse, Ritchie used his burly frame to good effect, shrugging of defenders with ease. [1]


He is remembered by a bust behind the Boothen End at Stoke's Bet365 Stadium. [4] On the bust is a plaque which reads:

John Henry Ritchie was born on 12th July 1941 in Kettering where he began his footballing life playing for his home club of Kettering Town. On the enthusiastic recommendation of a talent scout, he was signed by Tony Waddington for Stoke City, moving up to Staffordshire from Northamptonshire in May 1962. His wife Shirley remembers crying all the way but they were to settle happily here in The Potteries. In April 1963, he made his professional debut alongside Sir Stanley Matthews. In his first season, Stoke were promoted from the Second Division to the top tier of English football. Playing in the First Division was a challenge John rose to superbly, ending that season with 30 goals. His brave performances elevated him to cult status and he would go on to score a remarkable number of goals in the following three seasons. Despite scoring 30 goals in 47 appearances in his third season at the club, he was sold for £70,000 in 1966 to Sheffield Wednesday where he made 89 appearances and scored 34 goals. After three seasons, fans rejoiced to see John rejoin his beloved Stoke City in the Summer of 1969 for the fee of £25,000. He repaid the fans' adulation with more goals and heroic displays, leading the attack for the following six campaigns, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals twice and winning the League Cup trophy in 1972. John's career was cut short in 1974 with a double fracture of his leg. He scored an incredible 176 goals in 347 appearances for Stoke. He is Stoke City's top marksman of all time and lives on in our hearts of as one of Staffordshire's greatest sporting heroes.

Career statistics

Source: [5]

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
ClubSeasonLeagueFA CupLeague CupOtherTotal
Kettering Town 1960–61 Southern League
1961–62 Southern League
Stoke City 1962–63 Second Division 30101050
1963–64 First Division 2918429104230
1964–65 First Division412532524929
1965–66 First Division231310002413
1966–67 First Division1480011159
Sheffield Wednesday 1966–67 First Division241045002815
1967–68 First Division411843414922
1968–69 First Division2464210297
Stoke City 1969–70 First Division 321422103516
1970–71 First Division271356206 [lower-alpha 1] 34022
1971–72 First Division3212921247 [lower-alpha 2] 46022
1972–73 First Division311410312 [lower-alpha 3] 13716
1973–74 First Division301411402 [lower-alpha 4] 03715
1974–75 First Division7400000074
Stoke City total26913527153818178351176
Career total43420939254319178533261
  1. Four appearances and three goals in Anglo-Italian Cup and two appearances in Texaco Cup
  2. Four appearances and two goals in Anglo-Italian Cup and four appearances and three goals in Texaco Cup
  3. Appearances in UEFA Cup
  4. Appearances in Texaco Cup


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Stoke City 101 Golden Greats. Desert Islands Books. 2002. ISBN   1-874287554.
  2. Matthews, Tony (1994). The Encyclopaedia of Stoke City. Lion Press. ISBN   0-9524151-0-0.
  3. "John Ritchie - Prodigious Stoke centre-forward". Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  4. "Bust of legend to go under hammer". The Sentinel. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  5. John Ritchie at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)