The last Aston Villa player to lead the top division in England in scoring was Peter Withe in the 1980-81 season. Withe scored 20 goals in 42 games that season, finishing joint top with Steve Archibald of Tottenham Hotspur.
Many people thought (and may still think) that Darren Bent has potential to win the Golden Boot at Villa. And while he still may end up doing that at some point, it sure doesn't look like he will at the moment.
Aston Villa have had a player win the Golden Boot seven times. Only Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland have had more winners. While its been a while, seven times is pretty decent. But one of these seasons stands out above the rest. And this profile is about that player: Tom "Pongo" Waring.
Thomas Waring was born October 12, 1906 in Birkenhead, England. At 19 years old, Waring signed for local club Tranmere Rovers, who were in the 3rd Division North at the time. In his time at Tranmere, Pongo scored 23 goals in 24 league appearances. Pongo particularly destroyed Durham City while at Tranmere. In the 25-26 season, Tranmere scored 11 goals in two league games against Durham. Pongo scored six of them. Durham City disbanded in 1938. One can only assume that they were still traumatised over what Pongo did to them.
In 1928, Aston Villa signed Waring for £4,700, beating Arsenal, Manchester United and Bolton to sign him. 23,000 came out to see his debut in a reserve game against Birmingham City. Pongo scored a hat trick. Waring played 13 games in the latter half of the 27-28 season for Villa, scoring seven goals.
The next season is when the goal scoring madness really started though. In his first full season at the club, Pongo scored 32 goals in 42 games, with Villa finishing third, just two points behind champions, The Wednesday. Pongo played just 23 games the next season, scoring 11 goals.
And then we get to the 1930-31 season. Aston Villa finished second in the league in the 1930-31 season, seven points behind Arsenal. All together, Villa scored 128 goals in 42 games that season. Which, holy crap. But they probably lost the title thanks to shipping 78 goals that season as well. Villa also got knocked out the of the cup in the second round, which was their first round, losing to Arsenal in a replay.
Pongo Waring played 40 games in the 1930-31 season. He scored 50 goals. 50. 49 league goals, 1 in the cup. Yes it was a different time, and yes players have scored more, even today. But still. 50 goals! 50! If any Villa played scored 50 goals this season, I think I would probably spend all of my time running around the streets with pants on my head laughing.
Pongo scored 1.25 goals per game that year. That equates to a goal every 72 minutes. 50 goals is still a record for the most in one season by an Aston Villa player.
How did Pongo follow up his 50 goals season? By scoring a not too shabby 30 goals in 38 games in the 1930-31 season.
Waring never quite reached the same heights again, as he received competition from fellow Aston Villa legend Dai Astley, who started playing for the club in 1931. Waring left Aston Villa in 1935 to join Barnsley. Aston Villa fans were apparently no different then as 5,000 angered fans called for Pongo to return to Villa.
Waring made stops at Barnsley and Wolverhampton Wanderers before returning to Tranmere Rovers. Back at Tranmere, Pongo scored 42 goals in 74 games for Tranmere, regaining his scoring touch that had lessened in his two previous stops.
Waring became a bit of a journeyman after his time at Tranmere. He made stops at Accrington Stanley, Bath City, Ellesmere Port Town, Graysons, Birkenhead Dockers, Harrowby, and New Brighton, before retiring in 1940.
The nickname of "Pongo" came about from a popular cartoon character at the time, as Waring had a reputation for being a bit of a joker. In addition to Pongo, Waring also got the name "The Gay Cavalier" in his time at Villa. In 226 Aston Villa appearances, Pongo scored 167 goals. He had 10 hat tricks with Villa!
After his career, Pongo worked at The Hercules Motor and Cycle Company in Aston. Not a ton of information was found about Waring's later life, but he died in December 1980, at the age of 74. He ashes were spread in the Holte End goal mouth before a game against Stoke City.
To end this, here's a quote from Aston Villa's captain of the time, Billy Walker:
"There were no rules for Pongo. Nobody knew what time he would turn up for training—ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, it made no odds. Nobody on the staff could do anything with him although I think I can claim, as the captain in his days, to be the only person able to handle him. He was a funny lad indeed. We started the weeks training on Tuesday mornings and every Tuesday he followed a habit which he could never break. He would go round all the refreshment bars on the ground and finish off the lemonade customers, storing the remains in the bottles! Then he would start a little of his training—but that seldom lasted very long."
Pongo Waring was amazing.