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By Jamie Arrowsmith Wednesday 02 January 2013 Updated: 02/01 15:09
RUGBY has lost one of its most prominent sporting legends and non-league football one of its most successful players and managers with the sad passing of Jimmy Knox on Christmas Eve, aged 77.
Jimmy had featured as a player and manager for an earlier existence of Rugby Town across three decades, and then had an 11-year spell in charge at the then VS Rugby - where he enjoyed considerable success, including leading the club to victory in the 1983 FA Vase Final at Wembley against Halesowen.
A minute’s silence in memory of Jimmy was held ahead of the New Year’s Day fixture against Daventry, in addition to a minute’s applause during the game in the fifth minute - to recognise the number five shirt that he was synonymous with.
Born in Brechin, Scotland on November 26 1935, James H. Knox’s early footballing career saw him gain Scotland u16 international recognition, as well as spells at Dundee and Raith Rovers.
He made the move to the Midlands for the 1957/58 season when he signed for Coventry City - who at that point were plying their trade in the old Division Three South.
He then moved to the old Rugby Town, making over 250 appearances in his first spell of six seasons at the club - initially as an inside forward, and then in a more defensive role following a bad knee injury.
During his third spell there, he assumed managerial duties for the 1971/72 season, and had two successful campaigns in charge at Oakfield - including consecutive fourth place finishes - before continuing financial difficulties saw the club go out of business in 1973.
Between 1973 and 1980 he managed AP Leamington and his success continued there, guiding them into what has now become the modern-day Conference Premier.
He returned to his then home-town though in 1981, when he took over a side that were struggling in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division.
Alongside his longstanding assistant Bob Ward, Knox transformed the club taking them to that famous Wembley triumph within just 27 months.
The club’s elevation into the Southern League in 1983 gave him a familiar platform, and in addition to the Vase success, he led the team to a further six cup triumphs in his decade plus tenure.
In the league, Rugby achieved promotion to the Premier Division for the first time in 1987, and he also twice saw his side narrowly miss out on a further step up to the Conference with two third place finishes.
Most memorably, he was also responsible for a number of amazing F.A.Cup matches and runs, taking the club into the proper stages of the competition on no less than five occasions.
He was awarded a testimonial by the club and in August 1991, Butlin Road hosted a visit from a strong Manchester United side led out by Alex Ferguson. He was also named Rugbeian of the Year in 1984.
At the end of the 1992/93 season his time at the club came to end after a fall-out with Chairman Roy Gallimore over finances, however he remained in football for some time after that in a scouting capacity for Glasgow Rangers.
Jimmy - who also sadly lost his wife Mary in August 2012 - leaves four children Caroline, Steve (who was part of the Vase winning side), Kate and Jackie and their respective families.
Of course there is no shortage of people ready to pay tribute to Jimmy Knox, with many of those who worked alongside, played for or came across him keen to highlight the qualities and skills that made him such a success in the non-league football arena.
Mick Vousden was the VS Rugby Chairman that appointed Jimmy as manager of the club in 1981, and he remembers the reasons why he targeted him: “It took me nearly two years to persuade him to join us, but when I finally managed to sell him the club, I was absolutely delighted.
“You wouldn’t want to meet a nicer, straighter man and I have so much respect for what he achieved."
Mick Preston was Knox’s captain at Wembley, and he too stressed the direct, clear and effective communicative style of his then boss: “He was a typical Scotsman, and made his point in no uncertain terms before the game.
“We knew what was expected of us and his tactics were first-class. After the games, he really looked after us though, and we had an unbelievable team spirit."
Derek Jenkins, who as a supporter of the old Rugby Town watched Jimmy in playing action and then also got to know him as a manager when he was a Director at VS Rugby. He remembers his absolute levels of commitment on the pitch.
“As a player he always gave 100 per cent. I remember one particular game when he had most of his front teeth smashed out, but despite that he was back out there again the following week.
“As a manager he expected the same levels of dedication from his players, as he used to give himself.
“As a result of what he did at the Valley, he created a side that was a truly feared entity in non-league football at that time.”
Keith Coughlan was one of the founders of the Valley Sports team in 1956 that is now known as Rugby Town, and he was Club Secretary for more than 40 years. He fondly remembers working with Jimmy: “Everybody loved being with him. He was always very approachable and had excellent man management skills.
“He got together a great group of players and backroom staff, and then gelled them together into a really successful unit."
Dr. Pete Kilvert has been club doctor at Butlin Road since 1978 and is the current Club President. He explained how honoured he felt to be part of the Jimmy Knox era: “Before Jimmy’s appointment, we had been going through managers so regularly that I wasn’t even bothering to introduce myself to them, but when I heard we were appointing Jimmy - it was something different.
“We knew about his fantastic reputation, his contacts and his ability to get the best out of players, and it was a privilege to see this in action at such close hand over the years.
“On behalf of everybody at the club, I would like to thank Jimmy for those wonderful memories and naturally our thoughts are with all the family at this sad time.”
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