Valley Legend Tony Mann Passes Away
Rugby Town lost one of its finest servants and the Valley family one of its fondest members with the sad passing of club stalwart Tony Mann last Thursday aged 76.
Tony's contributions to the Butlin Road outfit have stretched across the last four decades and saw him carry out many vital roles and hold a number of positions of responsibility in that time - including that of Chairman between 1998 and 1999.
Club President Peter Kilvert reflected on the impact of his good friend and one-time fellow Board member: "Tony was a great organiser and everything he got involved with - both here and in the rest of his life - he did with such enthusiasm and commitment. His presence at the club will be sorely missed."
Tony's first involvement behind the scenes at Rugby came in 1990 when his company Jaymann Finance supported a number of promotional initiatives - including match and player sponsorship and programme advertising, with shirt sponsorship at that time being provided by his brother Geoff's firm RHWL Architects.
Jaymann themselves took over the shirt sponsorship for a few years later that decade, whilst Tony began to take an increasingly active role at VS Rugby - assuming a Commercial Executive position and also joining the Board of Directors as part of a consortium of supporters who rescued the club in 1993.
He left the Board for a short period in November 1997, but remained actively involved at Butlin Road before soon returning as Chairman for a fourteen month stint immediately ahead of the arrival of Town's current owner Brian Melvin.
Tony's invaluable presence and inputs remained to the current day though, and he continued to organise and contribute to numerous footballing and fundraising activities - touching all he met in the non-league footballing community with his cheery and welcoming demeanour.
Club founder Keith Coughlan - another close family friend of the Manns - expressed his heartfelt feelings too: "Tony was such a special man who made everyone feel welcome and was a leader. He will always be remembered for all the brilliant work he did for the club and he played such a vital role in keeping the club alive in the 1990's."
His achievements at the club were many, and these included heading up the Jimmy Knox Testimonial Committee in 1991 which saw a game against Manchester United at Butlin Road and a dinner at the Benn Hall.
His introduction onto the Board coincided with the successful 1993/94 campaign under Ron Bradbury, which saw the club promoted back into the Southern League Premier Division and enjoy a memorable FA Cup run.
His 1998/99 season in the Chair also ended with some silverware, with the club winning the Midland Floodlit Cup. As befits his surname, Tony truly became the man for so many activities at the club in latter years.
He was often literally the first (always smiling) face anybody saw when visiting the club on matchdays whilst stewarding the car park, before he moved onto the boardroom to lay on his legendary buffet - the generosity of which always matched that of his personality.
He was part of the team that organised the Sunday morning car boot sales for many years and also responsible for the club's ongoing charitable contributions to the local Hope4 homeless charity.
It was his particular penchant for travel far and wide that saw Tony in his element though through his organisation of away match coach trips, providing the opportunity for Valley's fans to visit all four corners of the country specifically to cheer on their team but generally just to have a great day out.
Unsurprisingly his wanderlust spilled over into his life outside of the club too, and he regularly ventured out with a small group of friends to equally far reaching destinations - although these were usually by train.
There was also a passion for folk music and he supported a number of local artists, showcasing some of them at the club in the VS Bar.
Following the sad news of his death, many tributes to and memories of Tony's contributions and personality were posted on various social media channels by current and ex-players, managers and backroom staff, by home and visiting supporters and by members of the wider non-league fraternity alike.
Many of these recognised his welcoming and genuine nature, whilst others commented on his commitment and vigour. One word that continued to reappear though was that of "legend", with one supporter Glyn Jones clarifying this by posting: "Legend gets banded about too easily these days, but Tony was and always will be a Valley legend."