Old Yardleians RFC: Club News


Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:00

I had the pleasure and great privilege to be OY's Club Captain, when John appeared on the scene.
Ivor Enoch described John as a nifty left winger. With great respect to Ivor, he never saw him play, by the time Ivor had untangled himself from the black hole aka the front row, John had already scored.
John joined the Club at Christmas 1967, having been encouraged by Andy Dunn and Dave Crampton, fellow alumni from Sharmans Cross High School. He played his first game in the 1st XV on 27th January 1968 - 47 years ago today.
John was big, for a winger, fast and elusive with a poachers nose for the try line. In a pre season friendly against Camp Hill OE, John scored a brace of tries, on each occasion leaving Camp's full back Ron Walker (Cambridge Blue, Coventry, North Midlands) stranded. Ron sought me out after the game and said simply "he's good - you've got to feed him"
Well, feed him we did. In two and a half seasons John scored 28 tries, out of a team total of 121, including one hat trick and four braces., ie he scored one try in approx. every 4 tries scored by the team. Seasoned watchers, like Reg Singer, likened him to Bill Crinean, also an OY winger, who scored a hat trick on his county championship debut.
We had a set piece move we called 'Pancho' where John would cut in off his blindside wing, between the half backs, put the full back on his backside with a shimmy and sidestep, and stroll over. Thirty years later, at Twickenham, I saw England repeat the move with John Sleighthome, as winger - OY's setting the pace again !
John was known, with great affection, as Pancho, because of his shock of thick black hair, and his Elvis like sideburns.
My records only extend to 1970, when Andy Dunn took over the captaincy, but no doubt John's try scoring exploits continued. Moseley (who were then the Man U of English Rugby) approached him, of course, but John preferred the camaraderie of OY's. I firmly believe that if John had gone to Moseley, he would have played for England.
Off the field, John was a committed club man, and served on many committees. When we extended the changing accommodation in 1969,(another OYs self build project) John, despite being a soft handed quantity surveyor, did sterling work as a brickie's labourer.

Like everyone, I was saddened to hear of John's untimely death, and extend my condolences to his family. I hope OYRFC will be represented at John's funeral.

Dave Collen
Club Captain 1967 - 1970

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