BROWNE ON THE BALL: The man who legends admire

John Blackwell cuts his cake with wife Maureen and daughters Lisa and Katie.
John Blackwell cuts his cake with wife Maureen and daughters Lisa and Katie.

There are so many times during each and every season when a football fan looks glumly at the heavens and pitifully asks himself why he bothers.

A 4-0 stuffing. A miserable away end with no cover as the rain lashes down. Taking the day off work only for a fixture to be moved due to the opposition’s Orkney Islands Under 14s Reserves Walking Football Invitational Cup replay being more important. The match going ahead, only for you to miss it due to a cancelled train or a motionless M62.

The pain supporters put themselves through is ridiculous.

But then there are those days when suddenly things click into place and you think: “Yeah, that’s why my emotions and finances are all over the place. I flipping well love this!”

Saturday was one of those days.

Boston United’s 3-0 victory over Bradford Park Avenue - maintaining their place in the National League North’s top five - was a decent warm-up, but what followed was something even more special.

That evening fans, former players, officials and friends attended a surprise party for general manager John Blackwell (well, it would have been a surprise had he not received a phone call from Howard Wilkinson earlier that day regretting he couldn’t be there - honestly, you can guide Leeds United to the title but you can’t keep a secret!).

John is leaving the secretary-general manager post he has held at York Street for 38 years this summer, and some of the many people he has signed on for the club in that spell managed to make it to show their appreciation for what he has done in the the near four decades since a disagreement over the use of a local pitch with future Derby manager Jim Smith saw a friendship blossom, and the young John handed the ideal escape from a life of painting and decorating.

Taking to the stage, Chris Withe received a cheer as he remembered his days in Lincolnshire. There was applause as John McKenna revealed he still ‘follows the club like I do Everton’ and laughter as Paul Ellender and Mark Greaves recalled a dressing room bust-up ending with Daryl Clare lobbing a water bottle at Steve Evans.

Seeing those greats on stage and being reminded what the club meant to those players of yesteryear was a simple reminder of why a football club is like a drug, why you can’t not go, in the fear that you will miss out on that occasion which everyone will talk about for years to come.

But a club is not a club without people - be them players, managers, fans or loyal staff members like John.

Without the work of John and a select few others this club may well have gone under when the liquidators were hanging around a little too close for comfort.

But despite that, and all the other years of service, John shifted a little uncomfortably as the attention was bestowed upon him.

That speaks volumes about the man.

But nothing sums up John’s years with Boston United more than the fact that those described as legends will happily dedicate their time to honour him.