Hinckley’s Leicester Road FC once again include two high-profile and very meaningful home fixtures in their pre-season programme – against Championship sides Stoke City and Nottingham Forest.
For the third consecutive year, LRFC manager Neil Lyne has organised the matches in honour of John Perkins, a once-local football manager that put Leicestershire semi-professional football on the national map with his successful teams based on localised players.
He was a leading Academy coach at both Stoke and Forest for many years – and LRFC will play the former on Saturday 6th July (kick off 1pm) for the John Perkins Memorial Plate and the latter on Tuesday 30th July (kick-off 7.30pm) for the John Perkins Memorial Cup.
John, known to most simply as ‘JP,’ 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.
Neil Lyne explains: “When I first signed 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 the rest of my playing career. Moving to Forest was a massive leap forward, but I believe for John, due to his professionalism and attention to detail in his all-round planning and preparation for games and training, it was less of a transition – as even in non-league football, he always set the standards as if at the highest level.”
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 ten years. In total, JP spent 26 years working in professional youth football, in various different roles, and held all the top coaching qualifications. Apart from Forest and Stoke City, he also enjoyed successful coaching stints at Wolves, Derby County and Portsmouth.
JP was senior Academy coach at Stoke City when he died in October 2016, aged 69 after a short illness, and their current Academy Manager Gareth Owen says: “We’re delighted once again to play in this poignant fixture, which of course is to honour a man who became much-loved by both clubs over the years. John will always be someone who is remembered very fondly by us all at Stoke City and his messages and ethos will be applied in our Academy forever more.”
Neil Lyne adds: “Stoke City’s support for these memorial matches over the past couple of years has been superb and we’re really pleased to be playing host to them once again. The previous fixtures have been fabulous footballing affairs with Stoke just managing to win the tightly contested games. It is pleasing when Stoke themselves enquire to continue with the fixture, which not only shows their respect to JP, but also what the fixture brings to them in terms of their pre-season preparations for the new season.
“This year, I’m delighted to confirm that we will be hosting a Nottingham Forest XI during this pre-season too, because that’s where it all started. I am grateful to Roy Keane (recently returning to Nottingham Forest as assistant manager) because after a few emails exchanged between Roy, Tony Loughlan and myself, he has been instrumental in making this John Perkins Memorial Trophy fixture happen – and looking back it was during that exciting 1989-90 period that Brian Clough was to recruit young under 21 players like Roy, Ian Woan, Gary Bowyer, Tony and myself, all coming into the club and under the initial guidance of JP.”
Last pre-season, LRFC were edged out 0-2 by Stoke City in an entertaining game where they more than held their own, but then beat Wolves 1-0.