Chris Johnston

I'd recently moved from Hereford and was living in Pershore, when I decided to have a look at the new club at Sixways. The first person I met from Worcester RFC was Neville SOUTH.

It was that hot summer of 76, and the new club had opened the year before, as I drove down the drive I found Neville walking around the pitches, he saw me and came over. He immediately made a massive impression, fully of enthusiasm and very straight talking sort of bloke. At that time he was club Captain and took the time to show be around the club.

I was used to playing at Hereford one pitch, no lights to train under and only an old nissen hut as changing rooms, so you can imagine my reaction to seeing the new Sixways club with all the facilities.

Neville persuaded me to come training the following Tuesday so with new boots etc I turned up only to be greeted by Neville who handed me a shovel and wheelbarrow. I spent the full training session barrowing sand over to the floodlit pitch, which had massive cracks all over it. The pitch had been farmland and the heat of the summer had done its worst. My introduction to WRFC . Thanks Neville!

Still I met a few other players one of which was Michael J. KNOTT (Knotty) another huge character; as the years went by I was to become good mates with him, he helped me coach the senior combined counties side and eventually I bought a house next door to him.

Knotty and Neville were similar characters both full of life and leaders, Mick became club Captain in 1977; at that time they played in the centre together until Knotty decided he was a blindside. They had a strange sort of love hate relationship the banter was continuous between them.

Neville was very direct in the way he spoke and played, he ran straight and hard and was the same in defence, he tackled his opposite number whether he had the ball or not. I could never work out how he got away without being penalised.

I remember having a conversation with him about the offside law and eventually we agreed that the offside law did not apply to Neville.

An example of how Neville played was in a game at Bridgewater, it was our ball from a lineout in our twenty-two, the fly half Peter (? Teacher at Hartlebury) decided to kick for touch when Neville decided he was going to take the ball up. The result was a broken leg for Neville as Peter connected with his leg and not the ball.

Knotty was in his element and refused to help Neville off the field or give him any help in the changing room after. The trips down the M5 were always late runs usually ending up at a night club in Weston; Neville knowing this took a Taxi back to A&E in Worcester.

Another example of the rivalry between those two was another away match, Knotty saw an opportunity to borrow? an opposition first team shirt, this was generally accepted in those days. The shirt was hidden away in his bag and the bag quickly put on the coach.

On the way back Knotty decided to show everyone his trophy, but when he looked in his bag, it was gone, he immediately blamed Neville, which Neville denied. They argued all the way back with Neville refusing to let his bag be searched, eventually he gave in; Knotty searched his bag but the shirt wasn’t in there. Back at the club to have a few more drinks with Mick moaning all the way about that shirt.

Tuesday’s night training, which Knotty couldn’t make, saw Neville turn up in the said shirt. He had taken it out of Mick’s bag but had hidden it in someone else’s bag. Thursday night the battle resumed.

Another player that had a great influence on me when I joined Worcester was a gentleman of the name of Jim COOMBER. Jim had Worcester Rugby running through his veins, he was an open side flanker, a very good, intelligent player who had represented Hereford and Worcester combined counties. Jim played for the club into his late forties and would turn out for any team often playing at nine.

He took great pride in developing us younger players, tactically second to none with a wealth of rugby knowledge, which I have used to this day when coaching.

Unfortunately all three of these characters have now passed away. RIP.

Of course in those days this was before the official league system was introduced in 1987, however, there was a fixture system of which clubs of equal standing would play each other so an unofficial league system was in place really.

The good thing was obviously there was no relegation or promotion so a different type of pressure. It was important for the clubs standing to win, but it wasn’t as critical as it is now. I feel in a way it was better then because players could be developed without having the "we must win at all costs."

When there was a loss, there was disappointment, a few beers and on to the next game.

The fixtures for the 1976 – 77 season included, Stourbridge, Dudley, Walsall, Solihull, Winnington Park, Weston, Bridgewater and Clifton and Widnes.

There was also the floodlit trophy competition that started in 1975 and was played every Wednesday; this was organized from October to March. Entrance fee twenty-five pence.

Local clubs would compete in the first rounds to see who would qualify to face seeded sides in round two and three. This gave the local Worcestershire clubs great experience in playing teams like Moseley, Coventry, Ebbw Vale and Birmingham, all of which were top-level clubs at that time.

This took an immense amount of organising especially when the club regularly fielding five side and sometimes six plus a colts team. It was wall-to-wall rugby then; how times have changed, clubs today sometimes struggle to put out two sides.

1980, what a fantastic tour!

If Worcester Rugby Club hadn’t got enough to organise, a sixteen-day tour to Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Seattle was arranged. A chance of a lifetime that was organised down to the last detail by D.I.R.

Sixty-Two tourists players, officials and supporters went on that tour, two full teams of players to play six games. The group included players from local clubs such as Pershore and Malvern as well as players from Moseley that included an England International.

D.I.R. Dave ROBINS (AKA ERN) organised the whole trip down to the last detail, this was Dave’s day job, in that his business-organised Rugby Tours, Dave had also held every position in Worcester Rugby Club.

He had been Club Captain where he set a record of 200 consecutive first team appearances, Club Coach, Club Chairman and at the time of this tour was Fixtures Secretary.

Ern organised the tour right down to the last detail, especially the tour kitty, whenever all the tourists were together which was usually in a bar the beer just kept flowing. On the flight over we drunk the plane completely dry a record that made the local papers in Vancouver.

The tour was a complete success; in terms of rugby we won all the games and also made some great friendships not only with the teams we played, but also amongst ourselves. With such a big club whilst you know who the players are in the other teams you don’t get to spend time with them like you do on a tour like this; it made for a great atmosphere in the club on return. Two of our players actually emigrated to Vancouver as a result of the tour.

In 1981 I became second team (United) captain, I was also Captain of the local Police side, which was really useful if the Police side was ever short of players I was able to fill the position with players from the club. In the same way several of the Police side played at the club. Alan WILLIAMS who was already playing at Worcester also in the Police had become First team Captain in 1981 to 83 and led the club on the tour to Texas, yes another chance of a lifetime, this was in 1983.

One of the players from the club who turned out for the Police was Adrian SPENCER (The Bear). Aidie could play all three positions in the front row and some how made himself available every Wednesday, it wasn’t long before he became a regular member of the team, although he worked for Worcester Porcelain and not The Police.

We had to find The Bear, a job with the Police so he could play officially and be entitled to a day off a week, which was the norm in those days. So he became a member of the civilian staff at Worcester nick and actually completed thirty years in that job.

Aidie was called Bear because of his rendition of ‘Running Bear’ in the after game festivities only to be rivaled by Mike ROBINS (aka Scoop), fisherman. When the singing started, which it did regularly then, Bear would be pressurised into getting on a stool, which he did reluctantly, but then would sing every verse of Running Bear well the bits he could remember.

During that period approximately a dozen cops turned out for Worcester regularly which included the likes of Spanner, Gareth RICHARDS, Chris JAGGER and Dave LEWIS as a result the Police Side on a Wednesday had some great results.

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