Tales from the press room…

New Coventry Rugby Brand Logo Master with strapline NEW May 16I’m indebted to Tom Little for the following.

Tom, a former Coventry Rugby Club Press Officer of longstanding, contacted me a while back offering to write something for the blog to mark the retirement/semi-retirement of John Wilkinson and John Butler.

Tom has known the two Johns for many years and I can think of no one better-suited to say a fond farewell.

Thanks, Tom, for your kind offer…

…and thank you JW and JB for all you have done for club and its supporters over your many years of service.

Tim Smith


By Tom Little

With the news that two stalwarts of the Press namely John Wilkinson and John Butler will either be retiring or semi-retiring from Coventry Rugby as from the start of the new Championship season, I thought I would say a few words about their contribution to the Coventry Rugby club over the years they have been involved.

On a personal note I have known both John’s for well over 15 years, when we worked together. Wilko the Coventry Telegraph rugby reporter, JB the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire rugby reporter and myself as Press officer for the club, until I moved to the south coast some 5 years ago. Yet as my son reminded me JB, some 28 years ago, was helpful to him, as Coventry club historian assisting him with his Business Studies GCSE project on Coventry Rugby.

Of course since then roles have changed with Wilko becoming the club’s Media manager, and JB continuing on with the BBC work, and until recently programme editor.
Both John’s were instrumental in saving Coventry Rugby in its darkest hour, but my reason for this tribute is to recognise the utter professionalism and honesty of both of them in their portrayal and support of Coventry RFC. The following is a series of anecdotes; mainly gleaned from the three of us travelling on the team coach to away matches, which I hope portrays their dedication to the cause amidst a few moments of humour.

It is always a fine dividing line between press reporting on your team, giving an honest approach without getting too personal and destroying the trust of the players, without being too sycophantic and hiding any underlying issues. A case in point was before arriving at an away match, a former director of the club met the three of us and commented, that he hoped our reports would be positive. Needless to say the game was lost with the two John’s reporting the results and comments in their usual professional and honest away.

A less contentious issue, at least for two of us, occurred at Exeter, when we were all invited to a pre-match lunch. Very good it was too, but unfortunately for JB he was called away before his pudding to do his preview for the BBC. He never forgave Wilko and myself, for finishing off our puddings without him getting a taste, albeit with a twinkle in his eye.

However it didn’t take long for JB to get his own back. For some reason JB couldn’t attend the Old Albanian away match so Wilko did the Telegraph report as usual, whilst I did the BBC report. Unfortunately JB must have had an inkling of the weather with storms, thunder and lightning with driving rain coming in straight from the Urals. There was no shelter and in the end both of us gave up trying to write any notes and hoped that our brains could remember at least some of the facts.

Whilst we were at the picturesque ground at Wharfedale, I remember being asked by JB to shin up a stand stanchion with an aerial to try a get a signal for his BBC report. Those who know Wharfedale will realise that this was a forlorn hope.

Shinning up dangerous structures remind me of when JB and myself went to a cup match at Neath . When asking where the press box was, we were pointed towards the sky with seats on the stand roof. We both struggled up two long ladders and prayed there was no need for a comfort break. No such thing as health and safety that day.
It was another away day, this time at Esher, where JB got one over on me. JB had been let down by the non-arrival of a match summariser, so he asked if I wouldn’t mind stepping in. I was quite happy to do so but once again it was a dire away performance by the team. I swear JB noticed me nodding off from boredom, when he suddenly said on air what do you think Tom? At least it woke me up as I struggled to say a few mumbled anodyne comments, although I did comment at half-time on the excellent street food available.

I can certainly do nothing more than to praise out two gentlemen of the press, their utter professionalism and ability to see it as it is. On a personal note I thank them for their assistance, help and humour to me over the years. I am sure they will be still following Coventry Rugby in their new place in the Championship.

2 thoughts on “Tales from the press room…

  1. It should also be remembered the great service given to the club by Tom himself. Without characters like all three where would the club and its historical records be.

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