TOMMY ORD, 1952-2020

Posted by Mickey Cooper on 10 January 2021

The Deres are very sorry to hear of the death of Tommy Ord, who died in Newcastle on 11 December 2020 aged 68.  Tommy made 61 appearances for the Deres in 1971 and 1972, scoring 10 goals.  Later in his career he spread the Deres' name further than most, and played in highly distinguished company - the only Dere (unless someone knows better) to have played alongside Pele!

 

Tommy, born on 15 October 1952, made his E&B debut in a Kent Floodlit Cup game at Bromley on 9 March 1971, and after three KFC games he was pitched into the Athenian League promotion campaign replacing the injured Alan Whitehead.  Deres beat Horsham 5-3 in his first league game, and Tommy kept his place, providing the corner from which Del Pratt scored the promotion-clinching goal.  Roy Dwight commented: “He has a fine football brain and great ball control, and I am sure he has a great future”. 

 

That August a 30-yard Ord screamer briefly put E&B top of the Athenian premier division, and he made 40 appearances in the 1971-72 season, despite being one of the “Tooting Seven” who left en bloc in December – he was the first to return.  He also played for a Kent representative side in March.

 

But even a series of five-star performances at the start of 1972-73 couldn’t have prepared him for what happened in October.  Seemingly out of the blue (if you pardon the pun), Tommy was invited to a trial with Chelsea by Dave Sexton.  Accompanied by manager Peter Peters, Chelsea fan and Deres secretary Eric White and team-mate Junior Crooks, Tommy played and scored in a practice match on the 18th, signed on the 19th, and on the 21st the former driver’s mate from Woolwich travelled on the first team coach to Spurs chatting with Peter Osgood.  No money changed hands, Tommy having been an amateur, but part of the deal was Chelsea’s visit to Park View on 13 November 1973, with a team captained by Ray Wilkins and including John Phillips, Bill Garner, Gary Stanley and Kenny Swain.  Garner scored the only goal and none of the Chelsea players left the bar before 11pm!

 

Tommy made his First Division debut for Chelsea on 7 April 1973, with a large proportion of the crowd at E&B v Boreham Wood following on transistor radios, and scored against Stoke City, although the Blues went down 3-1 at home.  His Chelsea career didn’t progress much further, however – two further appearances and no goals - and he was not retained after a loan period with Bristol City.  By the end of 1973-74 he was at Chelmsford, and later played for Bexley United during their last two seasons, scoring 23 in 37 appearances.

 

In 1973 he spent the close season with Montreal Olympique in the North American Soccer League: he spent 1974 and the first half of the 1975 season with Rochester Lancers, including the game in which Pele scored his first goal for New York Cosmos in a 3-0 win.  Tommy moved to Cosmos in mid-season for $75,000, at that time a NASL record transfer fee, and scored twice on debut against his old club.  Pele, injured but watching from the bench, remarked: ”He's dangerous and opportunistic around the goal. He's worth every penny we paid for him."  Tommy finished the 1975 season as third top scorer in the NASL. 

 

After 31 appearances for Cosmos, Tommy moved to Vancouver Whitecaps (44 appearances), then Seattle Sounders.  His team-mates at Seattle included Alan Hudson, Jimmy Neighbour and Ron Davies.  Pele features in his story again, since on 28 August 1977  Tommy played in “Soccer Bowl 77”, the championship final of the 1977 season, in Portland, Oregon.  Seattle’s team included Mel Machin (future Manchester City manager), Mike England and Jimmy Robertson (both ex-Spurs), while Cosmos’ line-up boasted Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer as well as Pele, playing his last ever competitive match.  Tommy scored an equaliser for Seattle before Giorgio Chinaglia, Italian international and all-time NASL top scorer, clinched it 2-1 for Cosmos 13 minutes from time.

 

Tommy also played for Tulsa Roughnecks and Atlanta Chiefs before retiring in 1981, not yet 30.  He was 27th on the all-time NASL top scorers list with 53, one behind George Best and two behind Clyde Best! (full list at http://www.rsssf.com/tablesu/usatops-allt.html )

 

In 2010 a Chelsea fan, Mike Campan, who had played with Tommy in a semi-pro league in Arizona in 1983, told cfcnet.co.uk that at the time Tommy was married to an American woman and had a daughter, adding: “For us Americans at that time, Tommy was an awesome forward for his ability to play with his back to goal, turn and shoot without mercy. Also, a very nice man, not bragging about his “glory days”. . He liked to party like the rest of us as well”.

 

Tommy died in Newcastle on 11 December 2020 aged 68.  George Gibbs, his old team-mate at Deres, Bexley United and Rochester, paid tribute: “Fantastic friend, player, person, great sense of humour. Proud to call him my friend.”

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