John Craven, a much loved, popular and proud Liverpool Rambler, died on Saturday. He had been treated for lymphnona for some time. In the knowledge he had only a short time left, some of his closest Liverpool Ramblers friends visited him during the last two weeks. The intention is to have a private family funeral with a celebration of his life at a later date.
Beneath is a slightly edited version of his write-up in the Liverpool Ramblers book:
John Craven was a charismatic character who loved everything about the Ramblers. His involvement with the club played a major part of his life. He was also a dedicated season ticket-holder and supporter of Bolton Wanderers. During one game at Moor Lane, when playing for the HAC, he told his team-mates at half-time he was ‘caught short’ and ran off the pitch. We waited, but with no sign of his return the referee insisted on the second half kicking off without him. Ten minutes later John came running onto the pitch, apologising profusely to his mystified team mates. He had found the previous Saturday’s Football ‘pink’ in the loo, with pages full of Bolton’s match and analysis which he just had to read through.
A Vice-president of the Ramblers, ‘Craven’ was at Repton school when he joined in 1963. His father was President of the Ramblers at that time. John’s first game was for the 4th XI, and arrived at the Crooked Billet to be introduced to the ritual of the Ramblers’ pre-match preparations. Two pints later he was given a lift by Anthony O’Connell to Moor Lane. He found residency in the 3rds under Paul Corkill; selection for the following week was automatic, provided you remained in the bar at the Clubhouse until 8pm. This was not a problem in the years before the breathalyser was introduced. Not surprisingly, he does not remember ever being dropped by Paul.
A year later he met up with Rocky Mowat and John Ashworth, who have remained lifelong friends. The away trips were full of memorable incidents. ‘At Shrewsbury there were a lot of disappointed masters and red-faced Ramblers after Steve Kershaw “forgot” to turn up with the booze for the Cocktail put on by the Club, as he had been at a brewery function the night before. Instead we all had to go off to the pub. My father was furious.
At Repton, Dora would always let you into the Red Lion immediately before the game, and when we returned after tea at the school she would join in the singing with Bert Andrews.
‘I remember Roger Keele as the youngest Rambler at the Hot-Pot making a speech in which he called the revered Rex Cafferata, Mr Cafeteria!’
John reached the dizzy heights of the 1st XI because Dick Heron allegedly would not play under Bryan Gourley, so John was picked instead. ‘Playing with Ian Short made football so easy, as he was always available for the short pass and would tell me when to attack, saying he would cover me. Kendrew was a great footballer, bloody idle, smoked like a chimney and scored tons of goals. Ben Marsh was highly competitive and always appealing to the referee.’
In Liverpool, John had been a management trainee with Ferodo when his next-door neighbour, a stockbroker, suggested he come down to the capital to meet his partners. The move to London in 1969 led to John being one of the founders, alongside Rocky Mowat and John Ashworth, of the London Ramblers. Playing for them against the Festerers at Whiteley Village he scored his best-ever goal. Jimmy Marshall took a goal kick and turned back towards his goal. Within a second he was staggered by the sight of the ball billowing the back of the net. Playing at centre-half, John had volleyed the ball from the halfway line with perfect timing. The laughter must have been heard back in London and the goal has been discussed endlessly ever since!
John restarted his Ramblers career on returning to the North, when he became a stockbroker in Leeds with Rensburgh. He captained the Vets from 1993 to 1995.
‘The Ramblers have given me everything as I would never have had the friendships that came through the Club. What was special was the lack of side or pomposity, where everyone is equal. Without the Ramblers my life would have been very different.’