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One summer afternoon I was stopped in the Grammar School grounds by “Chunkie” Robertson and the conversation went:
Ah! Thompson your leaving at the end of this term aren't you? Yes. Well then go and join Worcester Rugby Club.
I didn’t know such a club existed as then it just wasn't on my, obviously limited, horizons.
I joined WRFC in August 1954, with several others, also propositioned by "Chunkie" for pre-season training, organised and supervised by the captain, on Pitchcroft. In those days there were not Junior or Colts sections so it was straight into the senior sides at 16. Therefore, following the club trials, I commenced in the "A XV" as the seconds were called in those days and made my 1st team debut in April 1955 against Shrewsbury away. We lost 6 – 0, a drop goal and I gave away a penalty. Never a regular, but played occasionally in the 1st team until National Service called in July 1957. I was away for two seasons (1957-1959) whilst serving in the RAF, during this time I played for RAF Hereford and then RAF Nicosia, who, in March 1959 beat the Welsh Regiment. Quite a victory as they were on a run of two unbeaten seasons in the UK and abroad. That year we also reached the final of the Middle East Airforce sevens.
In the early 50s the club played home matches on the field at the corner of Droitwich Rd and Bilford Rd, changing facilities were in The Old Talbot, Sidbury. Occasionally, if the opposition did not come by coach some of us younger lads changed at the pub then cycled to the ground to play and back again. Other favoured drinking places were The Crown in Broad Street and The Horn and Trumpet. However by the mid 50s the new ground and clubhouse at Bevere came into being and despite the Sunday trips with George Everton and his lorry to Stoke Works to load demolition hardcore (by hand) it was a great success.
Back row standing: (?) (?) Bob Paul, Eric Steele, Bill Mercer, (?) Dave Holt, Philip Sawyer, Arthur Wedgebury Front row kneeling: Derek Ellery, Tony O'Connell, Derek Thompson, Mike Nichols, Mike Jenkins, Roy Padden
In those days there were several "alacadoos" around to offer advice and help, lifts to away matches etc such as Ken Taylor, Ted Burnham, Don Arbuckle, Bill Battin, Ray Shrimpton, John Wilmott, Geoffrey Day, John Flay and Gerry Oldfield, and the senior players such as Cyril Waters, George Everton, John Clapton, Joe Flanagan, Tommy Jones and Lofty Johnson were most welcoming always offering to buy the beer. John Brittlebank was a real inspiration as were the "A" & "B" team captains Tommy Jones and Joe Flanagan. I also made some great friends, most of whom are now gone, but included Paul Burgess, George O’Keefe, Alan Goodman, Bill Mercer, Tony Young, Tony O’Connell etc, in fact Burgess, O’Keefe and myself used to meet on Sunday mornings, during the season, on Pitchcroft, to train and practise passing, kicking, etc.
On demob from the RAF, and, returning home, I re-joined the club, playing mainly in the seconds, with promotion to the firsts whenever Brian Wilkes was on representative duties. However a broken leg in the summer of 1960, following a traffic accident resulted in 6 months in hospital and 9 months in a plaster cast, this curtailed all sporting activity until the 1964/65 season. I did become a regular spectator at home and away. I returned playing, against the advice of the surgeon, on a regular basis, in 1965 until 1974 and then veterans and occasionally in the club sides until 1988.
One of my work colleagues was captain of the Old Halesonians. They were going on tour to Jersey, over Easter 1967, but their regular scrum half was unable to go and I was persuaded. It was a brilliant tour. On our return I completed the season with them, and carried on the following season. However a shoulder injury curtailed my next season and I was replaced by a young man from the colts, who, in the fullness of time went on to play for Moseley. I, in the meanwhile, had returned to Worcester.
I was also captain and organiser of the WRFC Sunday football team. We joined the local Worcester League, in 1968, and won four straight promotions to the Premier League. Since this involved considerable expense for travelling, ground rental, referees expenses, etc and the traditionalists in the club were against us anyway, we decided to drop out. The local stars hated playing against us, particularly when we turned out in wet muddy shirts from the Saturday rugby match and proceeded to take man and ball every tackle.
Despite having not been involved in the new club development, in fact I was one of those who thought it too far out of town, I was asked to join the General Purposes Committee 1974, the first year at Sixways, and, over the following years took on the following roles;
1974 – 1983: Chairman of selectors. I re-organised the approach to selection with a rota of selectors to watch all sides, there were 5 in those days with an occasional 6th. This ensured all players were watched and reported on, previously only the 1st and 2nd teams were watched by selectors. Neville South was captain during those first years, a very fair and caring man. Selection was held on Monday evenings, he insisted that anyone who had been dropped were told personally and, as we lived next door to each other, and usually travelled together, he and I went visiting sometimes late into the night. Other captains I had good relationships with were Micky Knott, Bob Lloyd (who returned to Canada after the 1980 tour) Bob Orledge and Alan Williams. I did spend, with others, many Friday evenings trawling the pubs in the Tything, from the Saracens Head to the Swan Inn, but quite often completed the "Wolfhounds" (5th) and "Staghounds" (6th) in the Lamb and Flag or the Landsdowne (Lannie).
1974 – 1976: Commenced coaching the u'14s with Richard Kimberley, who I had known from school and the canoeing club, where we were active members. This was great fun and we had some very good players, particularly Mark Hartshorne and Adrian (Sage) Woodfield. Often short of transport for away matches, our wives would be drafted, with consequences for Sunday lunch.
1976 – 1985: Colts coach, a most rewarding role, not only working with some great young players, but also some great socialisers I seem to recall that the Crown in Broad St re-appeared on my horizons. Many from this period went on to the 1st team and some to even greater things in rugby and life. At one period we had several lads from Malvern, and, as we lived in Leigh Sinton and I wanted to be sure they turned up on time, Ann was drafted in again, occasionally, as a driver while, I picked up the St Johns contingent. Initially the colts generally travelled with the 1st Team but as time went on Brian (Wilkes) arranged fixtures with the likes of Cardiff, Newport, Leicester Bristol etc and we travelled separately, cue for many late runs. So many good players passed through the colts, but one was outstanding, not just as a player but as a person. He first played as a 15 year old, became captain, only ever missed a match through injury (but still came to training) went on to play in the club for some years. He still supports every function, most matches and is a touring legend. Take a bow Ron Saunders.
1985 – 1987: Assistant Club Coach, with coach Dave Hodgson.
1987 – 1990: 1st team manager. Several of those late seventies/early eighties colts were now in the First Team squad, playing some most attractive rugby. The socialising continued.
1989 - Final Match
April 1989, Worcester Veterans v Congleton Veterans Derek Thompson, front row kneeling, second right
1990 – 1992: President, following a several years on the Vice Presidents list, taking over from Richard Kimberley. It was a great honour and a position that I enjoyed tremendously. As a fund raiser I instigated a "tree fund". A donation funded an oak sapling which was planted along the main drive with a plaque naming the donor. The difference between the donation and the cost of the sapling supplemented the club's finances. However as the trees were beginning to flourish and create an impressive access they were lost to the major development of the now Sixway’s Stadium. I handed over the presidency to David Hallmark.
1992 – 1998: Chairman of Finance. When President I persuaded my great mate "Raddy" (Trevor Radford) to undertake the role of Treasurer, on the understanding that I would help him out when my Presidency was over. As the march toward professionalism began, WRFC were accused of paying players. An accusation made by an official of a rival club. We were called to a Finance Review by the RFU and despite an exhaustive enquiry, no evidence of untoward payments was found. In fact we were complemented on the quality of our records.
1995 – 1999: Vice Chairman
1999 - 2005: Chairman: It was during this period that the club went professional, and I undertook a roll as one of two WRFC members on the Board of Directors of WRFC (Trading) Ltd, the commercial company set up to run professional rugby at Worcester.
In the run up to full professionalism, recruitment to the then semi-professional squad was generally from outside the club, it meant that many of our younger players were not being given the chance to play league rugby. It was increasingly difficult to obtain friendly fixtures, at an amateur first team level, so players were leaving, the third team - named Wanderers - led by Steve Tustin basically became the amateur first team. The club below the semi-pro team, now well into the National Leagues, was in the process of dying. Something had to change. I approached the RFU via our domestic union (North Midlands) to allow us to put an alternative team into the league system. Initially they said no, however, following further correspondence and discussions, a meeting, with representatives of the North Midlands was convened and an agreement was reached. We would form a new club, sharing the Sixways facilities with the now fully professional organisation, and Worcester Wanderers were formed. This club had to have its own constitution, committee and affiliation to the RFU. The new club had to play a full season of friendly games, and, in season 2001/2002, started at the bottom level of the league system, North Midlands 3, however were soon achieving year on year promotions. A Director of Rugby was required to pull it together so I approached Stuart James, he accepted the challenge and took the new club straight through, with a couple of hiccups, to the National League.
It was also during this period that Worcester Ladies formed in 1996 were developing into a force of national importance.
Derek Thompson in Spring 2004 with The Webb Ellis Cup, won by England in 2003
2005: On completion of my time as Chairman I was appointed a Life Member.
2005 – 2007: Secretary
2007 – 2009: represented the club on the North Midlands General Committee
2011: Retired from the committee
2014: Returned to the committee in an ex-officio role
2018: Elected as one of the members representatives on the Management Committee
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