Hinckley’s Leicester Road FC finish off their pre-season programme with two high-profile and very meaningful home fixtures against Premier League new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers, plus Stoke City.
LRFC manager Neil Lyne has organised the matches in honour of the late John Perkins, a local football managerial legend who put Leicestershire semi-professional football on the national map with his ability to build highly efficient and successful teams based on local players.
He was also a leading Academy coach at both Wolves and Stoke – and LRFC (who play in Midlands Football League 1) will play the former on Friday 13th July for the John Perkins Memorial Trophy, and the latter on Tuesday 24th July in a special Remembrance game* -both kicking off at 7.30pm.
John, known to most simply as ‘JP,’ was way ahead of his time in terms of football philosophy and standards and soon attracted the best Leicestershire players outside the professional game to his beloved Leicester United. All players soon fitted into his highly drilled and efficient squad as it established itself as a top Southern League Premier outfit ready for the final push into the then Football Conference.
JP also masterminded several player moves from Leicester United into the professional game such as David Putnam to Leicester City (1988), Cohen Griffith to Cardiff City (1989) plus Tony Loughlan and LRFC’s Neil Lyne to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1989. He was senior Academy coach at Stoke City when he died in October 2016, aged 69, after a short illness.
Neil Lyne explains: “John was one of football’s good guys, a straight talking focussed individual who looked out for every one of his players. His professionalism was second to none, and attention to detail in planning and preparation for games and training was invaluable to us as players.
“I first played for JP in 1987 aged just 17 at Leicester United. He was a massive help to me on and off the pitch and this continued when we both made the move to Nottingham Forest in 1989 and throughout my playing career.
“We stayed close friends, sharing the same passion for free flowing controlled football, with John becoming one of my mentors as I moved into coaching. He was a frequent visitor to Leicester Road Stadium since the formation of LRFC in 2013 and was a true friend of the club – always willing to lend a friendly helping hand and pass on his wisdom and experience to our players and staff.”
JP worked at Wolves (2000-2009) as assistant academy manager and under-18s coach and was in charge when Wolves’ talented youngsters reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2005. Their sporting director Kevin Thelwell said of him: “JP cared deeply for young players, had a passion for youth football and would do everything to help them improve and develop both as footballers and as people. He was also an excellent coach.”
Wolves captain Danny Batth was just one of the Academy players to graduate into the first team under JP’s stewardship. He added: “John was a major influence and a massive help to me during my time in the Academy, both on and off the pitch. I stayed in touch with him all the way through since he left the club. He was one of football’s good guys and is sadly missed.”
It was inevitable that JP’s talents were destined for the professional game, but it took the persuasion of the legendary Brian Clough to convince him to leave his project at Leicester United for Nottingham Forest – working first with the U21s and then the U18 youth team over 10 years.
In total, he spent 26 years working in professional youth football, in various different roles, and held all the top coaching qualifications, including the UEFA ‘A’ Licence. Apart from Wolves, Forest and Stoke City, he also enjoyed coaching stints at Derby County and Portsmouth.