JOHN Powell – a member of York City’s first-ever promotion-winning squad – has died at the age of 81.

The York-born, left-winger passed away on Christmas Day, having suffered a stroke in April and been diagnosed with a brain tumour in November.

Powell made nine appearances and netted once under goalkeeping legend Sam Bartram during the 1958/59 campaign when the Minstermen finished third in the old fourth division behind Port Vale and Coventry.

He featured in the final game of the season as City celebrated going up at Bootham Crescent with a 1-0 victory over Gateshead when FA Cup semi-final legend Billy Hughes got the only goal and, in total, made 28 appearances and scored five goals for his home-town club.

Having grown up in the Groves, Powell played for Park Grove and York Schools, before impressing for a strong White Rose team in the York Minor League.

He had trials at Barnsley prior to joining City as an amateur in 1955 and then turned part-time in September of the following year, making his debut a month later during a 2-1 home win against Hull City when Norman Wilkinson and Billy Fenton – two more members of the famous Happy Wanderers’ team – were the marksmen.

Powell was often used as cover for Fenton and former England amateur international Charlie Twissell on the left flank but, as the team mounted their challenge for third-tier football in 1958/59, he hit the target during a 3-2 December victory at Barrow.

A painter by trade, who worked for Oxtoby’s and on St Peter’s School’s maintenance staff, the 5ft 8in attacker never signed a full-time contract with the Minstermen, despite also topping the reserves’ goalscoring charts in 1956/57 with 19 goals.

He netted in his last game for City, meanwhile, during a 3-1 defeat at Wrexham in April 1960 as the team were relegated back to the fourth division.

Preferring to remain part-time and play non-League football, Powell turned down offers from Huddersfield and Carlisle to become a professional and turned out for the likes of Scarborough and Goole Town, where he earned a reputation as a creative midfielder and laid on goals for former Bootham Crescent team-mate Jeff Barmby – the father of ex-England international Nick.

Powell moved from Goole to Boston United in 1969 and went on to end his playing days locally in the mid-1970s with Rowntrees and New Earswick.

His former City team-mate Barry Tait, who broke into the first team during that first of only seven promotions the club have managed in their 96-year history, has no doubt that Powell could have made his mark as a full-time professional, but probably was not helped by the timing of his Bootham Crescent career.

“You just couldn’t get in the team back then, because the side was so good,” declared Tait, who later became City’s youth-team coach. “You did well to get a game with the likes of Norman Wilkinson and Billy Hughes around, because they were players we idolised and were lovely people.

“They played for the love of the game, because they didn’t earn lots of money and Johnny was the same as a part-time player, who got his trade painting and decorating. But he was still one of the best players at the club and I’m sure he could have turned professional with York or somebody else and made more appearances.

“He had tremendous ability with his great left peg, but I think some of the guys who played in the semi-final side perhaps went on a bit longer than they might have done at another club and Johnny was up against Billy Fenton. Even though he had a great left foot, he also preferred to play in midfield rather than on the wing, but Colin Addison jumped in front of him.

“Ado proved to be a really top player and went further in the game, but there wasn’t much between him and Johnny quality wise. There were a lot of great players coming out of York at that time with Barry Jackson as well and it was tough for everybody to break through.”

Tait, now 79, was a childhood friend of Powell’s and the pair stayed in regular contact down the years with the former adding: “Before joining York, Johnny played for the White Rose team, which was run by my dad Bert Tait.

“They had an excellent team and formed part of the City Boys side that went a long way in the National Cup. Johnny was one of their key players, along with my brother Peter Tait and people like Peter Martin and Neil Smith.

“He was a good friend of mine and will be sorely missed even if he used to moan a lot on the field. We’d take the mickey out of him for that, but it was only because he wanted everything to be right and he had the high standards of a really good player.”

Powell is survived by son Ken and daughter Rachel, as well as seven grandchildren.

His funeral is at York Crematorium on Friday, January 26, 11am.