Club historian Roger Wash's tribute to our 1960s scoring sensation
Everyone at Kenilworth Road has been saddened to learn of the death of John O’Rourke, a Luton Town fans' favourite who had an amazing scoring record for the Hatters in the 1960s.
After starring for England at both schools and youth international level, John seemed to have lost his way after failing to gain a first team spot at either Arsenal or Chelsea so reluctantly accepted an offer to move to Luton in December 1963.
John became a teenage sensation at Kenilworth Road banging in 22 goals in only 23 appearances in 1963-64 to save the Town from seemingly certain relegation to Division Four (now League Two). This incredible goal haul included four at Brentford in a 6-2 win – the Town’s first victory on the road for 16 months.
Badly injured on the opening day of the following campaign, at Brentford, he made only 21 appearances as the Town, badly missing his goalscoring prowess, sunk to the football basement.
Not the tallest of players, John was a brilliant header of the ball and he was back to his best in 1965-66, netting 32 times as the Hatters narrowly failed to win promotion at the first attempt.
Inevitably, bigger clubs came calling and a £20,000 fee took him to Middlesbrough where his goals helped the Teesiders to immediate promotion.
John then did the same for Ipswich, and played for Coventry in their only European season. After finishing his League career with Bournemouth, John stayed in the area and became a newsagent in Highcliffe.
Our condolences go out to his family and friends.