Jack Pitt, who assisted Bristol Rovers as a player, coach and groundsman for a period of over 50 years, has died. A one-club man he was employed by Rovers from the end of the war through until the 1990s, and made a total of 467 Football League appearances, a figure surpassed only by Stuart Taylor and Harry Bamford for the club.
Born in Willenhall, Staffordshire, on 20 May 1920, Jack signed amateur forms for West Bromwich Albion during the 1937-38 season, but failed to make the first team at the Hawthorns and later played for Bath City. When peacetime football returned he signed for Bristol Rovers and went straight in the first team, making his debut in the opening game of the 1946-47 season at home to Reading at the age of 26. Jack quickly established himself in the right half berth, where he became known for his consistent performances, strong tackling and having the vision to create chances for his teammates.
Rovers struggled in the early post-war years, but gradually the club's 'no buy, no sell' policy began to bear fruit and their fortunes improved following the arrival of manager Bert Tann in 1950. One of the high points of Jack's playing career came when they won the old Division Three South title in 1952-53 and thus earned promotion to the Second Division for the first time in their history. Jack was an ever-present in that side, one of six players not to miss a league match that season, and made up a formidable half back line with Ray Warren and Peter Sampson. A tremendous unbeaten spell of 27 matches, combined with some prolific scoring from centre forward Geoff Bradford, ensured the title. The defence proved water tight, conceding just one goal in a run of seven matches at the turn of the year.
Jack went on to captain Rovers for three seasons from 1955-56 at a time when the club was enjoying one of its most successful periods as members of Division Two, consistently finishing in a top ten position. He made his final first team appearance against Ipswich Town on February 1, 1958, retiring as a player soon afterwards. He had played in a total of 502 senior matches for the club, scoring 18 goals. However, he remained at Eastville, firstly coaching the club's youngsters and then becoming one of the groundsman. Jack was still in his post in 1986 when Rovers moved on to become tenants at Bath's Twerton Park and two years later he received a well-deserved testimonial when Wimbledon were the visitors. He eventually retired in the mid 1990s when well into his 70s.
Jack was very much a player of his times, completely loyal to his adopted club (he apparently once admonished the Rovers' secretary for wearing a red tie - colours of local rivals City!). A tough and inspirational figure on the pitch he was also a perfect gentleman off it. He passed away at Blackberry Hill Hospital, Bristol on 17 August after a short illness.