Everyone at Everton Football Club is deeply saddened by the passing of John Hurst at the age of 76.
John passed away peacefully at home today following a long illness.
‘Gentleman Jack’ Hurst was an FA Youth Cup winner, a league title winner, part of Joe Royle’s backroom staff in the 1990s and continued to be a champion of the Club he loved throughout his life.
Only 16 players in Everton’s 145-year history made more appearances than him - but it was the manner in which the composed defender performed in those 404 appearances which made him stand out.
"John Hurst could be guaranteed not to turn a drama into a crisis," wrote Ivan Ponting in Everton Player by Player. "The tall, leggy, centre-back possessed one of the coolest heads in football, and when pressure mounted on the Everton goal, he would be found at the centre of the storm, defusing the danger efficiently and unfussily before seeking a chance to set up the Blues’ next attack.
"Yet 'Gentleman Jack', the quietest man inside the Goodison dressing room, did his job so unobtrusively that few public plaudits came his way. Inside the game, however, there was no lack of recognition amongst his peers. He was respected as an impeccable professional who offered class and consistency in equal and ample measure.
"When he returned to Everton for a spell as youth coach during the 1990s the new generation of Blues could not have wished for a more impeccable role model." Michael Ball, Danny Cadamarteri and Richard Dunne were part of the youth group brought through by Hurst.
Ex-Blues striker Cadamarteri said: "John didn’t just coach the youngsters, he instilled values and standards into the group. He knew what it was to be an Everton player and behave like an Everton player. And with those very high standards he brought expectations as well.
"You knew what was required and he was brilliant at getting his messages across. He was totally honest with us, which is important for a young player. He didn’t dish out praise regularly so if you got some, you knew you’d done well!
"You could say he was ‘old school’ but I would call him ‘real school’ because he’d been there and done it. I always enjoyed his coaching sessions and, of course, he was a great guy, too."
Hurst had been a youth star himself.
In 1965 he was an FA Youth Cup winner, confidently crashing in the penalty kick which defeated Arsenal and brought the trophy to Goodison for the first time.
Swiftly elevated into Harry Catterick’s senior team, he holds a unique place in Everton history as the first player ever to be introduced as a substitute in a League match for the Club, replacing Fred Pickering in August 1965. He was even denied a stunning introduction in that match at Stoke City by an over-officious referee.
"Hurst headed into goal brilliantly," ran a contemporary report "only to find the score disallowed by the blast of the referee's whistle a split second before the score could have become legal."
John himself recalled: “There were no tactical substitutions in those days. You only went on if someone got injured and I came on for Fred Pickering.
“It was nearly a dream debut. We had a corner right at the end and just as I was about to head the ball into the net, the referee blew his whistle for full-time. I couldn’t believe it!” John’s dedication and loyalty to the Club was absolute.
His beloved wife of 55 years, Rosemary, once said: “John was a dedicated player: he’d have died for Everton. He was incredibly loyal and always getting injured one way or another but it would have to be really serious for him to stop playing. I remember he had a split eye and his head cut open one time. He went off and had stitches and came back on wearing a skullcap. He was a proper glutton for punishment.”
Hurst was even diagnosed with hepatitis on the eve of the 1968 FA Cup semi-final, yet bounced back to play in the final at Wembley.
He was ever present for the next two seasons, including the league title-winning season of 1969/70 when he actually topped the Club’s leading scorers' charts after the opening two games - a fact he constantly teased his great friend Joe Royle with. The curtain came down on Hurst’s Everton playing career in 1976, when he signed for Oldham Athletic. In total he spent 11 seasons at Goodison Park, playing 404 times and scoring 34 goals.
He returned to Goodison as a youth coach when Royle was appointed manager in 1994 - and continued to work despite having a heart bypass operation shortly after the 1995 FA Cup final.
He left the Club for a second time in 1997 but was never forgotten by the Everton family.
In 2019 he was presented with the Dixie Dean Memorial Award by the Everton Heritage Society.
The Dixie Dean Trophy was commissioned by the Liverpool Echo in 1980 to commemorate the achievements and legacy of the man whose name it carries - and significantly, on its front, it bears the legend "For Sportsmen in The Great Tradition".
Hurst was a hugely appropriate winner.
He leaves wife Rosemary and daughters Samantha and Alexandra.