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John Till

John played several games for Old Longtonians while still at Longton High School in the late 1950’s. He had played every game for the school’s very successful 1st XV for 3 seasons and was vice captain in his last year. Since the school had an annual fixture against Old Longtonians, he had played against the club before he played for them.

On leaving school in 1960, he immediately joined Old Longtonians and played the first few games of the season but for the rest of that season his availability was limited because he was studying at Liverpool University. However, by the next season John had acquired a minivan and decided to come home at weekends so he played on a regular basis; playing rugby was not the only reason for this decision but it was certainly important.

John played at hooker all through his rugby career and considers himself fortunate to have played when referee’s ensured that the ball was put in down the centre of the tunnel giving a good specialist hooker a decent cance to take a strike against the head.

John played regularly for the first team until his late 30’s. He does not think he would have survived that long in the modern game when very crooked feeds into the scrum are allowed. Although primarily a specialist hooker, he was also a ‘steady Eddie’ goal kicker; long range penalties were normally out of range but he could be relied on to convert a high proportion of tries and he was the first choice goal kicker for several seasons

When John started with Old Longtonians, the committee comprised almost exclusively of current players; there was no-one else. John was keen to get involved but living in Liverpool mid week for 6 years was a problem. Therefore, he started as publicity secretary which required him to write a weekly match report for the Sentinel together with an occasional item for Ray Pardoe’s weekly local rugby column. On returning home full time, John took on the Treasurer’s role for 2/3 seasons before swapping with Barry Nicklin and becoming Fixture Secretary. Although he later took on apparently more senior roles such as Chairman and Secretary, John considers his time as Fixture Secretary as his most significant contribution. This was because at this time, before the introduction of leagues, the Fixture Secretary was responsible for arranging all the fixtures for the current and future seasons. As the club’s playing standard improved a stronger fixture list was required; this was not easy because many clubs were reluctant to play what they regarded as a more junior club with poor facilities. He managed to secure fixtures with several of the stronger Birmingham area old boy’s sides and the likes of Newport who at the time played at a higher level. He was delighted to break the glass ceiling to get fixtures with Stafford and Burton who at that time were considered to be among the Staffordshire elite.

After 5 years as Chairman he returned to Fixture Sec and then briefly House Chairman before becoming Secretary for at least 8 years. This corresponded with the move from Roughcote to Trentham Fields. John was not a major player in acquiring the new ground or the vital funding. However, as Secretary he was closely involved in all the legal aspects of the move including getting a full bar licence to replace our club registration licence.

John final achievement as Secretary was to convert the club into a limited company; this was done on the advice of the RFU who provided a template which needed to be customised to our requirements

On approaching 70, John resigned for the committee feeling that it was time for a younger generation to take control. Within a couple of years, he suffered a series of health problems which meant he would have needed to step down anyway.

Throughout his time with the club, John was keen that Longton should play  a more active role in Staffordshire rugby. To that end he frequently represented the club at Staffordshire meetings , briefly served on the Staffs F&GP and finally served on the Staffs Disciplinary Committee for some 10 years before ill health forced him to stand down

For more than 50 years of his time with the club, John has been supported by his wife Sue. Sue was one of a group of ladies who prepared and served after-match food for some 20 years at Roughcote. She was also an active member of the Ladies Committee which organised social and fund raising events for many years.