Birkenhead, Cheshire born centre forward Tom “Pongo” Waring began his football career with Tranmere Celtic in 1921 before joining local professional Third Division (North) club Tranmere Rovers in early 1926, making his Football League debut at Rotherham United in August 1927. Waring had scored 24 goals in only 27 appearances including a hat-trick against Wigan Borough and an astonishing double hat-trick in an 11-1 victory over Durham City, when First Division Aston Villa stepped in, paying £4,750 for his signature in February 1928. A crowd of 23,000 saw him play on his Villa debut in a reserve game against local rivals Birmingham City, in which he scored a hat-trick. He then scored in a 3-2 win at Sunderland on his first team debut and twice in a 5-7 defeat at Newcastle United in his second game, at the start of a seven year period that would see him become one of Aston Villa’s all-time great centre forwards.
In his first full season he scored 32 goals as Aston Villa finished third in the League Championship. These included hat-tricks at Arsenal and against Burnley as well as one in the FA Cup in a replay at Clapton Orient at the start of a run which saw Villa, with Waring in the side, beaten 1-0 by Portsmouth at Highbury in the FA Cup semi final in March 1929. In 1930-31 Waring scored a remarkable (club record) 50 goals in just 40 matches as Aston Villa finished runners up in the League Championship, his total that season including 4 goal hauls against Manchester United, West Ham United and Sunderland as well as a hat-trick against Blackpool.
Such prolific feats brought him to the attention of the England selectors and he was included in their May 1931 European Tour, scoring on his England debut in a 5-2 defeat to France in Paris and playing two days later in a 4-1 win over Belgium. He scored twice in a 6-2 win over Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast, in October 1931, and played a month later in a 3-1 win over Wales at Anfield, winning his fifth and final cap, and scoring, in a 3-0 win over Scotland at Wembley in April 1932.
He again topped the Aston Villa scoring chart with 30 goals in 1931-32, including back to back four goal hauls against Chelsea and West Ham United in September 1931 and a hat-trick against Blackpool in November, but injury was starting to catch up with him and his truly prolific days were over, with Waring scoring 14 goals in each of the 1933-34 and 1934-35 seasons. His 225 appearances for Villa yielded 167 goals, before he was sold to Second Division Barnsley in November 1935, who broke their transfer fee record to bring him to Oakwell.
An Aston Villa legend, his reputation was buoyed by his likeable personality as discussed by Villa’s captain of the day, Billy Walker. In Walker’s autobiography, he wrote:
“There were no rules for Pongo. Nobody knew what time he would turn up for training—ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, it made no odds. Nobody on the staff could do anything with him although I think I can claim, as the captain in his days, to be the only person able to handle him. He was a funny lad indeed. We started the weeks training on Tuesday mornings and every Tuesday he followed a habit which he could never break. He would go round all the refreshment bars on the ground and finish off the lemonade customers, storing the remains in the bottles! Then he would start a little of his training—but that seldom lasted very long.”
His spell at Barnsley lasted only the duration of the 1935-36 season, producing 9 goals in 22 appearances. He then returned to the Midlands joining First Division Wolverhampton Wanderers in July 1936, where he had scored 3 goals in 10 appearances before returning to Tranmere Rovers in October the same year. His goalscoring touch returned at Prenton Park, Waring topping their goalscoring charts in 1936-37, and he scored 26 goals in their 1937-38 campaign which saw Tranmere win the Third Division (North) Championship. In November 1938 Accrington Stanley broke their own transfer fee record to bring him and Herbert Hamilton to Peel Park, and he scored 13 goals in 27 appearances for Stanley before joining Bath City in 1939.
He guested for New Brighton in 1939-40, and after the Second World War he had spells in non league football with South Liverpool and Ellesmere Port Town in 1945, Grayson’s in 1946, Birkenhead Dockers in 1947 and finally Harrowby in 1947 before his retirement.