About 130 members packed into the Dugout for our February meeting when our guest speaker would be John Hawley.

Before John was introduced Chairman David gave a number of welcomes and thank you’s. There was a very warm welcome to the appointment of our new coach, Marco Silva and a spontaneous round of applause for the team’s performance the previous evening at Old Trafford. The meeting also offered their best wishes for a speedy recovery of Ryan Mason following his horrific head injury.

Our Walking Football team was given encouragement on the news that it will be taking part in a tournament on 12th February in York – despite having been sent an official set of rules which in no way compared with the way they had been playing here! Best of luck guys!

Following our successful visit to York and the National Railway Museum we are now looking forwards to the next trip – to the Black Sheep Brewery at Masham. A popular trip and the coach is already full. We will leave at 9.00 am from the KCOM. There are only a handful a places left for the 16th March visit to St George’s Park & the National Arboretum at Alrewas – we were reminded that this trip starts earlier, leaving the KCOM at 8.30 am. Alarms will need to be set!

Now those introductions were over we could give a really warm welcome to John Hawley. How better than to invite Club Poet, Dave Osgerby, to read his original poem celebrating John’s time at the club. A truly wonderful poem that clearly was a little embarrassing for John!! He was described in the poem as ‘John Hawley, the last of the Corinthians’ noting that he was probably the last amateur to play in the professional game.

What did we learn from John’s address?

That his first contact with the club was some 58 years ago when the young lad that he was had the opportunity to play football in the then new gymnasium at the back of Boothferry Park’s old South Stand. He went through the City Juniors Schoolboy network and at 16 years was offered £9 pw to sign as an apprentice. Consideration given he turned the offer down so as to work for his father in their local antiques business. He continued to train with the club in the evenings and was soon offered a Morris 1000 and £10 pw expenses!

His first team debut was delayed when they found that he was not registered and the unfortunate who was called up to take his place would go on to suffer a horrendous career ending injury. John recalled that his observations of the professional around him was that they all chewed gum on the field. He decided to follow the example by didn’t realise that they only had one piece – John put ten in his mouth and soon found that he could hardly breathe with so much! Thoughtfully he removed the gum and even more thoughtfully declined the opportunity to litter the pitch of his dreams with it, he held it throughout the half in his hand and spent the entire interval trying to remove it and open his hand!

Early in his career he was invited to travel with the team on an end of season tour of the West Indies – this for a lad who’d never been further than Scarborough! He recalled that in Surinam there was a plague of beetles which meant they couldn’t eat or even open their mouths.

He recalled another close season trip, this time to the USA when he would play for St Louis, was paid expenses of $100 pw, given use of a car and an apartment – he was in La La Land! On one occasion they had New York Cosmos flying in a fixture and their star man was Pele. John was quoted (or misquoted) on the front page of the local newspaper asking “Whose Peel?” It got him in some trouble with the club but after the match Pele came over to him and apologised that he had unwittingly got him in trouble!

John declared that he had no regrets playing as an amateur for much of his career and that in contrast he has some serious misgivings over the excessive wages being offered today. He mentioned George Best, Rodney Marsh and Bobby Moore as some of the special people he played against during his career. He seemed to have some doubts over the wisdom of his move to Arsenal and told the story of noticing some road signs bearing his name … Hawley Road etc. He then saw one with added graffiti “John” Hawley “is a w..ker”. He innocently asked his solicitor whether he had a claim for defamation and was told “No chance – I’ve seen you play!” It takes a great man to be able to show such modesty.

Of his final goal for City, a memorable peach against Sunderland, he modestly suggested that it had helped to cover up for a long time that he was really “c..p” Well, of course, he wasn’t anything of the sort. John was a Tiger’s legend and always will be. He made 114 appearances between 1972 and 1978 scoring 22 goals – including that ‘peach’ against Sunderland. Today John works for the club on match days, hosting the hospitality restaurant and looking after the sponsors. One member asked why he goes on to the pitch with the sponsors without a coat – don’t you feel the cold? John’s charming response was that “there are whales swimming in the Arctic with less blubber than I have”

John, a very special guest for the Senior Tigers, and we all thank you for the many memories of one of our own local boys doing so well in the game.