John Tanner (cricket and football enthusiast, Devon)

Bill Kirkman

Ball Boy / Girl
Joined
Feb 22, 2021
Messages
3
John Tanner, most recently living in Exmouth, has died.

Derek Taylor of Exeter Cricket Club has released the following statement in tribute:

It is with great sadness I advise John Tanner aged 77 years died peacefully in his sleep earlier today in a Churston Residential Care Home.

On October 8th John was found in Exeter City Centre having apparently suffered with a medical episode or a fall which caused serious head injuries. He remained barely conscious in hospital through to mid January when he was transferred to a care home to be closer to his Paignton family. There was no significant improvement to his health so it is perhaps reassuring he is no longer in pain.

John was an accomplished sportsman playing cricket to a high standard in the Midlands with Coventry and North Warwickshire being his main club. However he was professional/semi-professional footballer for some ten seasons with notable Southern League teams when the League effectively was what is now the National League Premier. Interspersed with his football John had a business interest as an agent for pop groups at various club and pub venues in London and the Midlands. His football clubs were Brighton and Hove Albion, Walthamstow Avenue, Nuneaton Borough, and Newport County where John had an involvement with European Football.

After moving to Paignton with his family to assist two other couples in a joint venture of purchasing and managing a hotel, John developed an interest in the Devon cricket and football scene. In retirement it was his only passion and he regularly watched 110-120 days of cricket and then from September some 100 football matches records of all he maintained in his files perhaps notable in that in the main he relied on public transport or lifts from fellow sports enthusiasts to access games.

John will be sadly missed by all that knew him in sport and especially all at Exeter Cricket Club whose activities he supported so passionately.
See https://www.facebook.com/groups/206599459358746/
 

buncranaboy

Reserve Team Sub
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
737
Team{s}
Bostock Stanley, Barnstoneworth United
Sad news. I used to see John a lot when I started hopping in the late seventies/eighties. Always genial and good company, his tales from the music industry were most entertaining. Barely saw him after he moved to Devon but fondly remembered.
RIP John.
 

Hoddy1.

First Team Starter
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
2,203
Team{s}
Crewe Alexandra.
England.
RIP John.
 

Jaundiced Hack

Junior Team Sub
Joined
Dec 11, 2019
Messages
34
Team{s}
Watford FC, Bridgwater Town FC Club Secretary
Sadly this was not unexpected as I heard a few months ago he was critically ill. John certainly led an interesting life and to the full. He and I were close mates when our children were young and it used to bring smiles when he spoke of his playing career, as seemingly every club he was at have since disappeared. John recommended a striker many years ago, to either Lincoln City or Exeter City, can't remember now, called John Dunkley I think, and was given a scouts pass as a thank you and would religiously keep records of who he watched after that. As Derek says in his obit, John was even more passionate about cricket and it took preference well into September and from early April every year. Sleep well mate and your missing nothing here at the moment.
 

Warwickian

Youth Team Regular
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
317
Team{s}
Leamington
I got to know John quite well back in the early 80s when I first started going around the grounds.Always excellent company and very knowledgeable about the non-league football scene.
RIP John
 

totallyuntamed

Junior Team Starter
Joined
Dec 19, 2019
Messages
78
Team{s}
Solihull Moors
I got to know John very well many years ago and had remained friends with him ever since. Frequently gave him lifts, although since he moved to Devon my meetings with him were much less frequent. Last saw him at Exeter Cricket Club two summers ago when he was his usual cheerful and friendly self. I wondered why I had not received a Christmas card from him...
Very sad news.
 

Bill Kirkman

Ball Boy / Girl
Joined
Feb 22, 2021
Messages
3
I first met John Tanner - JT, occasionally Tan the Man - around fifteen years ago. Those who knew him told me he'd been a semi-professional footballer in London and the Midlands and had since scouted for various professional clubs.

Thereafter I'd see JT at those midweek games which, when there's not much else on, attract enthusiasts like bees around a honey pot. With us both using public transport, and usually choosing to walk to grounds, we'd often be on the same train or we’d meet taking that short cut behind the houses. I’d be having tea beforehand and he’d suddenly turn up bellowing his trademark cry of "Where'd you go Saturday?" If this was shouted across half-a-dozen people, then so be it.

When I first watched football with JT it was utterly intriguing. He knew everybody, name-dropped all over the place and appeared to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of footballers. He was also a fountain of gossip which, like his “knowledge”, was derived face-to-face without any recourse to the internet. Equally he was a great supporter of the local press. If there was a misplaced copy of the (Plymouth) Sunday Independent in my local branch of WH Smith I knew I’d just missed him.

I never learned the full details of JT’s playing career. The clubs listed in the Exeter CC tribute, penned by someone who knew him well, are a little different to what I’d heard second-hand from others: Leyton Orient, Guildford City, Rugby Town, Atherstone Town and Lockheed Leamington.

Come what may he maintained a certain image wearing - during the winter anyway - the proverbial manager's coat and tracksuit bottoms. There was also a clipboard and a plastic wallet for his team sheet and programme. He cut the figure of the "insider"; he'd even know the referees and their accessors. If I'd been to a game he'd ask who had "done it". Ah, yes “he’s a good lad, a little fussy at times, but he’s decent. I think he can do the Southern League. Not that the Southern League is anything like it was in my day.”

The Southern League was never what it had been in JT's day. That was a recurring theme.

And of course, when he had the opportunity, he'd shuffle up to a manager and whisper a tip-off: "There's a good boy playing at Witheridge. You should take a look at him!"

JT’s reading of the game and individual players always appeared to be impressive; he could talk the talk and look the part in a way that was (almost reassuringly) in keeping with a certain level of football in an age that was always slightly before the present. He’d greet the local "faces" as old mates - and refer to them as “Jonesy” or “Smudger” - even if they didn’t always recognise him. Best of all, from what I saw, he relished the business of spotting emerging talent. I was at a youth game with him once when he greeted a couple of associates with a shout of “Well, well, the Villa’s here! Nothing much on show here lads, is there?" How these two characters, who lived locally and were sporting the usual line in club-branded leisurewear, fitted into Aston Villa’s scouting network I‘ll never know. But JT was in his element that Thursday lunch-time badgering the officials for the line-ups and comparing notes with the like-minded.

I suspect JT could have been a decent player in his day; he may have tipped off managers about players they later signed or (as I believe he did) help provide valuable information about forthcoming opponents. Certainly, on occasions, a player's name would crop up in conversation and he'd gleefully say "One of mine!" or "George and I did that one!".

What did strike me about JT was that he was an enthusiast. I've rarely met anyone who enjoyed watching football as much as he did. Nor did he ever show any sign of giving up on the game. Right to the end he'd be travelling miles home on the last bus; Cullompton to Exeter, then on to Exmouth. Arriving home after midnight for a game that had finished at 9.40. At the first opportunity the game, as has been noted, would be recorded in what he always referred to as one of his “books”.

The game was the thing with JT as was the ambience of wherever he visited. His interest in football players was unmatched amongst the people I know..

JT also maintained a fascination for where football teams played. At the end of each season he'd be able to tell you exactly how many games he'd seen and where he'd visited for the first time. As others have said he'd clearly been doing this for a long time and would frequently say things like things like "You'd have been to the old Walthamstow Avenue ground. Wasn't it wonderful?" Usually I had to say "no"; I've only been doing this thirty years.

And, yes, amongst all this I’d say cricket was JT’s bigger enthusiasm. Whilst JT refused to touch football friendlies he'd watch any cricket that was going. One year, when he told me he'd seen 110 days of cricket, I couldn't see how he could do this without watching school, university, Sunday XIs and scratch games. When I met him on a train from Plymouth where he'd been watching a Wednesday afternoon under-15's school game I knew how.

I once dropped in on a Sunday game, full of players either too young or too old for Saturdays, and JT was watching intently set for the duration. In Topsham one day I wandered across the university playing fields; JT was the only spectator watching a 2nd XI game. At cricket, just as with football, he spoke to everybody, seeking out the gossip and giving the impression he'd played a bit himself.

JT eschewed what he called "pyjama cricket" and, rather than a big one-day game at Taunton, he’d much prefer to be at Budleigh Salterton or Sidmouth watching a hungover August touring team. But he'd turn up for the occasional county championship day at Taunton. There, in the manner of me often referring to JT as “The Scout” when mentioning him to people, Somerset friends knew him as "The Nudist". JT loved the sun; he was Tan the Man in more ways than one.

There’s a fair few people in these parts who will always picture JT in his customary summer attire of singlet and shorts. For me he was an intriguing amalgam of all sorts of characters I've encountered at football grounds over the years but without the anger or sense of grievance that's been present in all too many of them.
 

totallyuntamed

Junior Team Starter
Joined
Dec 19, 2019
Messages
78
Team{s}
Solihull Moors
What a magnificent piece of writing Bill. Thanks so much for sharing this with us - I have a few tales I have heard about JT but as they may be apocryphal and not rooted in truth won't be sharing them on line.
 

Bill Kirkman

Ball Boy / Girl
Joined
Feb 22, 2021
Messages
3
Thank you for the kind words, totallyuntamed.

I suspect you're a man of wise judgement. I'd go for the word 'apocryphal' too.

Football needs characters - sometimes the tired old cliches are the best!
 

old fartonian

Ball Boy / Girl
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
5
Very sorry, indeed to hear of John's death. Enthuiastic and passionate are both undersatements when it comes to describing John. I originally met him some 16 years ago when my Western League club were playing an F A Vase Replay one evening at Dawlish. After some fascinating conversation I gave him a lift back to his home at the time in Exeter. Since then I've continued to bump into him at least once a season, sometimes more, when I've been at a game in Devon. It was always a joy to engage him in deep converation about all aspects of the game. In fact it dawns on me that I met him this season at an evening game at Cullompton which, from my reckoning, was only 5 days before he collapsed.

One fact that's not mentioned is that his uncle and namesake, John Tanner, was a mainstay of the famous Pegasus side that took the Amateur world by storm after the war. He was a regualar between 1948 and 1956 which coincides with their heyday.

It will be strange not to encounter a game again without bumping into him - a man of some character and distinction - it's unlikely I'll meet someone quite like him again! And thank you Bill Kirkman for such a comprehensive story.
 

Bigaitch

Reserve Team Sub
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
650
Team{s}
None in particular
I can’t say I have ever knowingly met John, but having read about him on this thread, I regret it.
He seems a character and someone blessed with deep knowledge of his passions in life.
Thanks Bill for writing such a memorable piece about John, it was obviously from the heart.
 
Top
AdBlock Detected

Polite request!

NLM relies on advertising to pay the bills to stay online . Could I ask that you disable your AdBlocker for this site. Alternatively if you are a registered user you can remove all ads and get other benefits for as little as £1.50 a month. Just go to your Profile and click on Account Upgrades. Most visitors will see this message only once per visit...... Thanks

I've Disabled AdBlock    No Thanks