In memoriam of our former forwardIt is with great sadness that we announce that former Royals inside forward Johnny Brooks passed away on Tuesday evening at the age of 84.
Commonly acknowledged as one of the most gifted players in his position of his generation, it was here with Reading – his hometown club – that Brooks made his first forays in football. He joined the Biscuitmen as a 17-year-old in 1949 (firstly as an amateur, before signing pro forms less than two months later), and then made his Royals whilst serving his two-year spell of national service for the Army Catering Corps in Aldershot – where he also represented the Army football team.
Over the course of 49 appearances for the Royals, Johnny found the net six times; just as importantly, he demonstrated outstanding control, an ability to spray passes with perceptive accuracy to all areas, brilliancy in dribbling and a powerful strike with either foot. It was for that reason that Tottenham Hotspur exchanged Dennis Uphill, Harry Robshaw and £10,000 to bring him to White Hart Lane in February 1953.
Brooks made his breakthrough into Spurs’ regular XI in the 1954/55 season, and then he scored 11 times in the 1956/57 campaign as Tottenham finished runners-up to Manchester United in the top tier.
His performances with the North London club earned him international recognition too – he made a maiden appearance for England in November 1956 during a British Home Championship clash with Wales at Wembley, scoring a debut goal in a 3-1 victory and becoming the first ever Reading-born player to represent England. Brooks also netted in his second appearance for the Three Lions – later in the same month, in a 3-0 win against Yugoslavia – and earned his third and final cap in a 5-2 World Cup qualifying triumph against Denmark, in December.
After six seasons with Spurs, where he made 179 appearances and scored 51 times, Brooks made the cross-city move to Chelsea in 1959, where he was reunited with his former Reading manager Ted Drake. And two years after that, he transferred to neighbours Brentford – the Bees were relegated from Division Three in his first campaign, but he was the architect of a hugely successful campaign the next year as he netted 22 times from his playmaking role, helping the West London club to the Division Four title in 1962/63 – the first silverware of his playing career.
The rest of his full-time playing days were spent with Crystal Palace and across the Atlantic with Toronto City. Returning to England, he combined playing part-time non-League football with Stevenage with a job as a messenger at the Stock Exchange in London. Johnny later played briefly with Cambridge and as Knebworth Town’s player-manager. Johnny’s son Shaun also played professionally, most notably with Crystal Palace and over two spells with both Leyton Orient and Bournemouth.
Even after hanging up his boots, Brooks often returned to Reading to feature in friendly and charity matches – even after settling into retirement in Bournemouth in 1997. Fittingly, the homegrown forward featured in the very final match to ever be hosted at Elm Park – a veterans’ tournament on 25th September 1998.
After a long battle with Alzheimer’s, Johnny passed away peacefully on Tuesday evening. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.