BURTON Albion Football Club was extremely saddened at the weekend to hear of the passing of the club’s former youth team coach John Appleby.
Known affectionately as Mr Staffordshire, John was secretary for Staffordshire Schools’ Football Association as well as a former teacher at Paulet High School in Burton upon Trent, and was involved heavily in supporting local youth football at all levels.
Before our Academy system was established, John oversaw the development of young Brewers players within the club’s youth team set-up, including the likes of Aaron Webster as they made their journey to the first-team.
John was one of the first trustees of Burton Albion Community Trust and was regularly seen at the Pirelli Stadium to offer his ongoing support to Trust staff, volunteers and programme participants.
John was also a former chairman of the English Schools’ Football Association from 2011 to 2012 and the esteem in which John was held locally has been clear by the tributes paid to him on social media over the weekend, including from Brewers midfielder Ben Fox and former Academy graduate Joe Sbarra.
Head of Community Matt Hancock said: “John was one of the first Trustees that the Community Trust had - he gave up his time voluntarily, doing great work, always staying in touch and giving opportunities to people.
“He was so very supportive of the work we do at the Trust. He was a genuine football man and loved football, but especially local football, and I know Burton Albion and Staffordshire Schools’ FA were very important to him.
“He will be greatly missed.”
“John was my youth team manager in the 90s,” said Brewers hall-of-famer Webster.
“My first trial with Burton Albion was in 1996 at the Baseball Ground against Derby, and that was the first time I met him. I played well and he signed me up after that - I played under him for two years.
“It was just a youth team system in those days - we used to train at Paulet High School, where John taught for a long time, and we’d play midweeks while the first team played at the weekend.
“He was a big influence in helping develop me as a Burton Albion player.
“Later he would come down with the Staffordshire Schools’ FA for local finals and I’d always spend some time with him. He would have me handing the trophies out and big me up to people!
“We were still very close.”
Chairman Ben Robinson paid tribute to John and the legacy he leaves, saying: “John’s near-50 years of service to football in our county speaks for itself, and the tributes left by those who knew him are a true testament to his passion and dedication to Staffordshire.
“He was a popular figure when in charge of our youth team and those who knew him in our Community Trust speak so warmly of him, of the support he offered and the man he was.
“It goes without saying that our thoughts and condolences go out to John’s family at this incredibly sad time. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy to football and those in our community that will not be forgotten.”
Picture kind courtesy of Staffordshire Schools FA.