In this article, John Essex recalls the work and career of the first England junior team manager. Not many anglers will remember the name of Roy Jeffery but in my opinion, during his lifetime, he deserved to be on the Queens New Year's Honours list for his contribution to junior angling.
I first met Roy in the summer of 1971 when we were both practising with Leicester Angling Society for the last weight National Angling Championships on the River Severn. There was much switching of cars as we were dispersed over a number of sections some miles apart. Roy finished up driving his friends estate car with me in the passenger seat. After a few gear crunches with jerky stops and starts Roy said something like 'I've got the hang of it now!' and we set off for our respective sections.
This first encounter led to a long and lasting relationship for both of us, linked to junior angling. Fortunately, I was selected to fish that national, but Roy finished up as reserve. As many readers are already aware, my team, Leicester AS won the last weight National and received gold medals engraved on the reverse 'Presented by the Daily Mirror'. Roy never told me if he was presented with a reserves medal but I doubt it. However, he did fish for Ibstock in Division One and captained their side in 1974 on the Welland. Sadly, the team was relegated.
Roy soon established himself on the Leicester Angling Society committee later becoming chairman. Also, on the committee were Ivan Marks, Trev Tomlin, Bill Skelson and me. The reason for mentioning that will soon become clear. It wasn't long before Roy campaigned for Leicester to set up a junior side to fish the National Federation of Anglers National British Benzol sponsored Junior National Angling Championships.
After a few practice sessions, the championship day arrived on Saturday 17 August 1974 on Leicester's favourite senior venue, the River Welland. What better coach could there be than the legendary Ivan Marks? The young Leicester side, which included Andy Else, Mick West, Stu Killen and Gary Sadler, beat Birmingham to the title with 655 points and a total weight of 43-11-4. Sixty-two teams of 12, 744 young anglers, fished on that dour blustery day.
Roy was over the moon and with a civic reception at Town Hall with the Lord Mayor, the scene was set for the foundation of the 'Leicester Juniors', a club run for youngsters in the Leicestershire area. All were welcome whatever their skills or social backgrounds. Angling skill and success was the key driver.
Soon coaching sessions ran fortnightly at the Blackbird pub on Blackbird Road Leicester. The two regular coaches were Trev Tomin and me with guest appearances from Ivan and some of the other members of senior Leicester side. Over the years, Roy cajoled many angling stars of that era including World and National Angling Champion Robin Harris, Dickie Carr, Alan Mayer, Archie Braddock and Billy Makin who all turned up willingly to offer their expertise.
This system needed lots of support from parents and friends and Roy relied heavily on Bill Skelson as his right-hand man, Jack and Margaret Toach, Jane and Chris Brown and parents for fundraising and social activities. Fortnightly trips were organised to local and sometimes distant angling venues like the Great Ouse and the River Lea. There was never room on the coach and I often travelled by car along with many others. Parental support for the youngsters was fantastic.
In 1976 Birmingham turned things around to take the title on Leicester's other favourite water, the Nene. Leicester trailed in seventh place though Leicester's Andy Else took second individual spot to Roger Shelley of Cambridge. The coach behind the Cambridge team was none other than Percy Anderson the 1974 individual Division 1 national winner.
Roy took a leaf out of the Leicester City Football team colours to conjure up a simple blue and white team jacket ready for the 1977 match, once again on the Welland. The Angling Times headlines said it all 'Dressed to Kill' as the dapper young Leicester squad, captained by Mick West, secured victory once again with 576 points. John Clarke, who later fished for the senior squad, won his section and Mick West won his section for Ibstock in the 1977 Division One senior national on the same venue later that year.
Success breeds success and youngsters, boys and girls, flocked to join Roy's young anglers club. A second, then a third place were eclipsed by the Leicester Juniors win in the 1980 River Trent Junior National, setting Leicester up with a record three wins. You may recognise some of the team. Richard Kinnersley, Brad Titmas and Steve Hemmingrey. Both Roy and Trev Tomlin were NAC Grade 1 angling instructors so were at the forefront of junior coaching in its formative years. Trips to Ireland followed plus the annual trip to fish junior events on the Lee Navigation at Broxbourne where, apart from the social aspect, the juniors twice carried off the title.
But it didn't stop there. A win in the 1983 junior national on the Suffolk Stour was followed by individual and team wins in this event on the Trent in 1985. This saw Leicester take the rostrum again setting new records in the Junior National event. Roy said 'To get both the individual winner and the top team placing is something special.'
The title went to 12 year old pint sized Christian Chesters who caught 9.130 kgs of Trent chub from just above Cromwell weir. Thanks to his dad, Christian was able to travel from his home town of Hull to Leicester in order to practice and fish with the Leicester squad. This was Leicester's fifth win in 12 years and Roy was presented with an award from the youngsters as the 'Best Junior Manager'. By 1986 Leicester had won five times, with two second places and three thirds. Much later with team numbers reduced to six Leicester AS Juniors won again in 1995.
During the 1980s Roy became heavily involved with the National Federation of Anglers as their youth team manager. Captained by Ian Moulton the team clinched victory on the River Inny in Northern Ireland with Stu Conroy winning a bronze medal. The team grabbed the second placed trophy in 1990 at Holme Pierrepoint rowing course.
Roy organised selection days when up to 60 young angling talents would apply and fish for a place in the team. With support from Stu Killen and many others, Roy coached some great lads like Dean Barlow, Wayne Bartholomew, Mick Vials, Kevin Hodkinson, Will Raison, Stuart Conroy, Ian Moulton and many others. Ably supported by NFA stalwarts George Copley and David Kent enough angling talent was turned out to supply top-flight Division One teams and senior World Championships sides for years to come.
To raise anglings profile as a sport locally, for 40 years Roy wrote the Leicester Mercury angling column and as an amateur photographer I supplied him with photographs. Later in his life Roy received a silver tray from the Loughborough Soar AS as a thank you for his contributions to that society as chairman for many years. He helped with running the Soar Valley Winter League putting in his own team aptly named 'Leicester Juniors'. Sadly Roy passed away in December 2009, the West Chapel at Gilroes cemetery was packed as his family, friends, angling colleagues, and ex-juniors paid their respects to a man who had worked tirelessly for the benefit of others in the world of angling.
The Trust, with support of the Wigston Angling Society, held a series of Let’s Fish! taster sessions on the Grand Union at Glen Parva and Kilby Bridge this summer and other event have been held further south at Foxton courtesy of the Wellingborough Nene club.
Three Wigston Angling Club members have now completed their level one coaching, which is a promising sign that the club is committed the future of the sport. Could we soon see a resurrection of the conveyor belt of great Leicester juniors? If you live in or around Leicestershire and would like to find out more about playing your part in helping that happen, please do get in touch with us.
John Essex was a key member of the legendary Leicester Likely Lads match team of the 1970’s. He picked up five first division one national championship team medals and was third overall in the 1975 match on the Nene, landing two carp, which was a remarkable angling feat at that time. John coached the Leicester juniors to five NFA junior titles and chaired Leicestershire Angling Federation for nearly 30 years
Still fishing weekly at club level, John is an avid collector of books and old tackle with an extensive library of nearly 1000 books. He will be releasing his first book, 'History of the National' shortly. John blogs for us about angling history and heritage.See more blogs from this author