John Spalding was a talented scrum half who was unlucky to spend much of his career as understudy to the “general” Mickey Booth. Nonetheless he played 233 games for Gloucester and appeared for Western Counties and for Gloucestershire in the 1971 County Championship Final.
John Spalding was born in 1944 in Gloucester and played his early rugby for Spartans. He made his Gloucester debut as a 16 year old against Plymouth Albion in December 1961. The Citizen commented “Here’s a special pat on the back for Spalding, a Spartans player who took up the scrum-half position, despite his tender years, like an old pro.” He played one more game that season but after a season playing for Gloucester United joined Stroud.
Rejoining Gloucester from Stroud for the 1965-66 season, he had to compete for the scrum half position with Mickey Booth and Gary Mace and his opportunities were limited. In November The Times, reporting on the match with Cambridge University, commented “Spalding at scrum half was often so good that even Booth who had to stand down could not have done a great deal better.”
In the following three seasons Spalding became an established 1st XV player, making over 60 appearances, although still the No 2 to Mickey Booth, but in 1969-70 he became first choice, playing in no less than 49 games and even taking over the place kicking duties. He was playing well and in November in a match against Oxford University. The Times commented that Spalding “had enough ideas to hold his own even against Laidlaw” (the great All Black scrum half who was playing for Oxford).
In 1970-71 Mickey Booth returned and opportunities were again limited but although playing only 14 games for his club, he gained county recognition, playing for Western Counties against the touring Fijians at Kingsholm and against Northumberland in the County Championship semi-final and Surrey in the final at Kingsholm.
For the two seasons following Mickey Booth’s retirement, John Spalding was a first team regular at scrum half. He played for Public Schools Wanderers against the touring Argentine club Belgrano in February 1973 and in October of that year was scrum half in the centenary game at Kingsholm when Gloucester beat a star-studded International XV 24-14.
Spalding suffered tendon problems at the start of the 1974-75 season and with the arrival of Peter Kingston and a number of promising young scrum halves, he was described by the Citizen as “experienced and evergreen, hovering in the background.” On 26 October he played his first senior game of the season at Clifton in the morning and in the afternoon attended the county game at Kingsholm as travelling reserve. He played three further 1st XV games that season, his last being against Fylde on Easter Monday 1975.