Pendleton, Lancashire born centre half Tommy White played his youth football for Holy Trinity Old Boys in 1924 before joining Third Division (North) Southport as a forward in 1925, making his Football League debut that Boxing Day at Doncaster Rovers. He spent two seasons with the Third Division North club where his goals in the FA Cup matches in a 3-0 win against Blackburn Rovers and a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in January 1927 brought him to the attention of bigger clubs.
In the summer of 1927, he joined First Division Everton where he made his debut as a replacement for Dixie Dean on 22nd October 1927, scoring twice in a 7-0 thrashing of West Ham United. This was his only appearance of the season as Everton went on to win the League Championship. It was in 1928 that he was first used at half back, becoming a regular member of the team from December that year. Described as “a striker of exceptional versatility” who was “just as comfortable playing in defence as he was up front”, White had a “direct style (which) endeared him to the supporters”. White’s versatility meant that during the 1928-29 season he was used as an occasional player, scoring six goals in 21 appearances, either as a half back or forward as Everton struggled, finishing 18th in the table.
The following year, White became an established member of the side, missing only seven league matches, scoring 11 goals. On the final day of the season, Everton were one of five clubs in danger of relegation; Everton needed to win their final game, at home to Sunderland, with at least two of the other clubs losing. In front of a crowd of over 51,000 fans at Goodison Park, White scored his first hat-trick in a 4-1 victory; unfortunately for Everton, this was not enough as Burnley, Sheffield United, Grimsby Town and Newcastle United all won, and as a result Everton were relegated from the First Division for the first time since the foundation of the Football League. Everton quickly regained their position in the top flight, running away with the Second Division Championship, although White made only ten appearances, scoring ten goals, although he didn’t play at all between September 1930 and March 1931.
White soon made his mark back in the First Division, with a hat-trick in the second match of the season at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park in a 3-0 victory. He contributed 18 goals in 23 League appearances as Everton claimed the League Championship, a year after gaining promotion.
By now White was playing as a half-back rather than a forward and in 1932-33 he only scored twice from a total of 40 appearances as Everton finished mid-table in the League. They made up for this, however, by reaching the final of the FA Cup where they met Manchester City. In the Final, played at Wembley Stadium on 29th April 1933, both teams, who normally played in blue shirts, were required to wear neutral colours with Everton in white and Manchester City in red; also for the first time in a first-class match, the players’s shirts were numbered, with Everton wearing one to eleven and City wearing twelve to twenty-two. White played at centre-half, wearing No.5, in a match controlled by Everton, who won comfortably with goals from Jimmy Stein, Dixie Dean and Jimmy Dunn to claim their second FA Cup triumph.
White’s successes with Everton earned him a call-up to the England when, along with his Everton teammate Albert Geldard, he was one of six debutantes selected for the first-ever match between England and Italy. The match was played on 13th May 1933 at Rome’s Stadio Nazionale PNF and ended in a 1-1 draw with goals from Giovanni Ferrari and Cliff Bastin. Like his fellow debutant Billy Furness, White was never selected for England again.
In 1933-34, White scored 14 goals in 28 League appearances, including a hat-trick in a 7-1 win over Blackburn Rovers on 14th October 1933, and in 1935-36 he made more appearances (36) than he made in any other season in his career with The Toffees.
White’s Everton career came to an end in October 1937, ten years after his debut, a knee injury picked up in a pre-season practice match in August 1936 forced his retirement after 66 goals in 204 appearances. Crewe Alexandra had made an attempt to sign White in July 1937. Then, Warney Cresswell, manager of Northampton Town, a former teammate of White, gave him a months’ trial in October 1937, but ultimately it proved unsuccessful and he never made a first team appearance. White returned north to join New Brighton in February 1938, but again never made the first eleven, retiring at the end of the following season.