Sunday, 22 April 2012

Jim's column 21.4.12

                                                  Jack Evans in his playing days
                                        Jack leads off the old boys at Legends Day 2007

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of former Coventry City footballer Jack Evans. Jack who was 86 a few weeks ago was on City’s books between 1942-52 and was a regular in the reserve team for several seasons and made eight first team appearances between 1949-51. After leaving City in 1952 he had a long and successful career in local non-league football, playing at a high standard until the age of 36. He died suddenly after being taken ill on the golf course at Maxstoke Park last Sunday morning.

Born in Coventry on 11 March 1926, Jack was just too young to be called up for World War 2 but did his National Service in the army just after hostilities ended and was an accomplished glider pilot. He was signed by City after he wrote in asking for a trial and impressed the management staff. He played centre-forward and wing-half for Modern Machines (City’s Youth team) and in April 1949 after some good performances for the reserves he got his first team chance when injury ruled out Ted Roberts. The opponents in a Second Division match were Fulham at Highfield Road and a few years ago he told me the story. He was getting changed in the dressing room before the kick-off and the tannoy announcer gave the team changes. He read out’ “Number 9 – Jack Evans” only to be greeted by a chorus of boos. Jack however had the last laugh, scoring the only goal of the game against the side who would be promoted later that month.

Nemo in the Coventry Evening Telegraph was complimentary about the new boy:

‘Evans is the nearest thing to (Ted) Roberts on the City books. Lionhearted, not knowing what it is to be beaten, he did the job entrusted to him with real credit. It was a joy to observe his 100% enthusiasm and get a goal’.

The following week, with Roberts fit again, it was back to the ‘stiffs’ and it was the following season (1949-50) before he got another opportunity.  He made three appearances that season, two home 0-0 draws (v QPR and Preston) and a 0-1 defeat at Cardiff. 1950-51 was a good season for Coventry City – they were in the Second Division promotion hunt until the last few weeks of the season, in fact they led the table at the turn of the year. Ted Roberts was a virtual ever-present but when he was injured Jack made four appearances without finding the net:

Leicester (h)  won 2-1
Preston (a) drew 1-1
Cardiff (a) lost 1-2
Cardiff (h) won 2-1

Manager Harry Storer signed ace scorer Tommy Briggs the following week and Jack’s first team days were over.

Jack told me about a friendly game he played in in 1950 against the Turkish side Galatasaray at Highfield Road. They were probably one of the first Turkish sides to visit England and, according to the Coventry Evening Telegraph report, they created a wonderful friendly atmosphere at Highfield Road by carrying the Union Jack on to the pitch and throwing bunches of flowers to the crowd. A crowd of 9,350 saw City win 2-1with goals from Jack and Noel Simpson. Jack told me that the Turks were extremely sporting on the pitch, and they picked City players up when they fell down. Then in the second half, when Ken Chisholm was floored, he was picked up, had his hand shaken and was embraced by the Galatasaray player!

Jack obviously realised he wasn’t going to be a top-class footballer and whilst on City’s books he worked at Daimler and trained to be a carpenter, playing football as a part-time professional. Later he worked at Rolls Royce at Anstey where he was also involved in union duties. He told me that in those days he could earn more as a skilled carpenter than playing football full-time.

In May 1952 he was released by City and joined Nuneaton Borough and the following season had short spells with them and also appeared for Bedworth and Rugby Town. He was back with Bedworth for the 1953-54 season but by March 1954 he was appearing for Banbury Spencer and was playing at outside right.

In 1957 he joined Lockheed Leamington, where his former City colleague Les Latham was manager, and also a favourite grazing place for ex-City men. He played alongside several former City colleagues including Charlie Timmins, Ken Jones, Ken Brown and Mick Lane.

Moving back to wing-half he played his part in Lockheed’s golden era in the early 1960s and won championship medals in 1961-62 and 1962-63. In 1962 he returned to Highfield Road at centre-forward in the Brakes team that lifted the Birmingham Senior Cup by defeating Rugby Town 5-1 in what was my first ever visit to Highfield Road. Jack scored twice and winger Ernie Ward (a former City apprentice) scored a hat-trick. As a young boy I remember Jack leading the Brakes’ forward line and winning virtually every ball in the air with his bald head!

Jack hung up his boots in 1963 at the age of 37 and was assistant manager at Leamington for a time before being granted a testimonial against Nottingham Forest in 1964 for his service to the club.

Jack was a keen golfer and played regularly until his death. After growing up in Cheylesmore he lived in Duncroft Avenue, Coundon for many years. In 2007 he attended the inaugural Legends Day but told me then that he was disillusioned by the modern game and had no interest in coming regularly to City games. According to his old friend John Green, who played with Jack in the Modern Machines team after the war, Jack didn’t even watch football on the television.

A date for his funeral has not been announced at the time of going to press.

Thanks to Paul O’Connor, Paul Vanes and John Green for their assistance in preparing this obituary.

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