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 Northampton 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.
Big John who passed away 10 years today. RIP.