Ex-pros pay tribute to a true hero of local football

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TRIBUTES have been paid to John Maley, one of local football’s most dedicated figures and characters who died aged 72 last week.

Incredibly Mr Maley was in his 53rd season as secretary of the highly successful New Hartley Juniors Football Club.

And two former juniors who forged successful professional careers – Ray Kennedy and Ron Guthrie – were quick to acknowledge John’s outstanding contribution to the game.

They also questioned why he never received national recognition.

Kennedy, who found stardom with Arsenal, Liverpool and England, played for New Hartley Juniors in 1968 and two years later was top scorer in Arsenal’s double winning side as they clinched the league title and beat Liverpool to lift the FA Cup.

He said: “John was a good friend of mine – I’ve know him for a good number of years and he should have been awarded an OBE for his contribution and dedication to the game.

“Without a doubt, he will be sorely missed and his passing is a massive loss.”

Guthrie, who was in Sunderland’s FA Cup winning side against Leeds in 1973, said: “If there is anyone more dedicated in England than John, then I have yet to meet him.

“He was a lovely fellow and all he thought about was New Hartley Juniors, and I thought he deserved an OBE.

“John’s death is a great loss.”

John’s son, also called John, said: “Bobby Cummings was another player who came through the New Hartley set up whilst centre forward James Brown is the latest to join the professional ranks.

“David Walton, a former centre half who is based at Shrewsbury has been in touch and is also driving up to attend the funeral.”

Mr Maley took the Juniors to just over 100 cup finals in 53 years, winning more than 70.

The club have played in six different leagues, winning every one, and are still going strong.

When the club reformed in 1958, John began his indefatigable role as secretary.

Son John added: “My dad was steeped in football. He knew all about the 1950s, was Newcastle United daft and Jackie Milburn was his hero.

“He was also a lover of cricket, being a Yorkshire supporter, and admired Fred ‘fiery’ Trueman.

“All the work in his 53 years at New Hartley was purely voluntary.

“He had four big operations and bounced back but the fifth proved a bridge too far for him.”

John’s other son Michael is ready to take over the reins as secretary of the club, and last weekend’s scheduled match against Benfield Saints was cancelled as a mark of respect whilst this weekend there will be a minute’s silence when New Hartley host Grindon.

John leaves a wife Judith, sons John and Michael, and a daughter Lynn.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday, March 29, at 10am, in St Joseph’s Catholic Church at New Hartley followed by a cremation at Whitley Bay Crematorium.