John Derrick tribute: He was Mr Welsh Cricket, says Mark Wallace

John Derrick
John Derrick played for and coached Glamorgan, as well as working for Cricket Wales

Writing this feels odd.

Not because of the sense of sadness and injustice that a great man like John Derrick has passed away before his time, but because there are hundreds of other people who could be penning something similar.

Hundreds of people all equally as well qualified to offer up their own thanks, praise and memories of how the man affectionately known as 'JD' touched their lives and influenced them. In many ways he simply was Mr Welsh Cricket.

Like so many cricketers around Wales, John was a constant part of my life growing up.

I was one of a host of players nurtured under his tutelage at Ebbw Vale Indoor Cricket School in the mid 90s and then when he moved back to Glamorgan as assistant coach towards the end of the decade he handed me a second team debut at the earliest opportunity.

The fact I was yet to play a first-team game for Abergavenny didn't bother him at all, he had a noted sharp eye for talent and, fortunately for me, a strong desire for local cricketers to succeed.

Mark Wallace
Mark Wallace, pictured here batting for the England academy side, was 15 when he first played for Glamorgan

I was 15-years old when I played that match, a boy amongst men, but John ensured I was looked after.

In those days the player-coach was still an integral part of the game and while I kept wicket John posted himself right over my shoulder at first slip offering advice and encouragement throughout.

He didn't move all game, even when Northants were racking up a mammoth score and fielders started disappearing off to far flung posts on the boundary, John remained stationed at slip making sure I didn't lose concentration, giving support and keeping an eye.

It's felt like he's had that eye on me ever since, whether at close quarters or from afar I could always rely on the fact that JD was behind me.

That is not to say that he didn't use that position to offer the odd well placed boot up the backside at times too.

John's good nature and humour are legendary but if you stepped out of line he'd let you know about it and a stern word from the 'Aberdare Axe Man' would seldom miss its mark.

But he was also careful to ensure the punishment would always fit the crime and minor misdemeanours were dealt with in his own special way.

John would always find out if you'd been up to something, however quiet you tried to keep it he would somehow know.

When the right day came around and when the rain was at its heaviest, you'd find yourself up in John's own personal courtroom facing the music.

Surrounded by baying teammates and armed with a Glamorgan cap to swear the truth upon, JD would delight in acting as judge, jury and executioner to the list of offences on the docket.

Glamorgan celebrate winning the one-day title in 2002
Glamorgan celebrate winning the one-day title in 2002 when John Derrick was coach

Witnesses were called, counter evidence presented and John would lay sentence while revelling as the accused tried to save their own skins by dragging others down with them, but there were few acquittals.

The sight of John's beaming smile while you served the standard punishment of running around the ground in the rain while wearing shorts, pads, helmet and dress shoes as both teams roared with laughter was enough to swear any player back to a life on the straight and narrow!

Not that any of us strayed too far anyway. Everybody loved playing for John and while that rings true of the sides I played in, it will be exactly the same story from teams up and down the different levels of the game.

Under JD you played with a smile on your face, always respected the cap that you wore and you put the team first. If you lost you didn't sulk, you dusted yourself off, learnt and moved on and if you won you enjoyed it.

Which we did, all of us, and such was John's pride at a job well done that seldom was a team song ever finished without a tear welling up in the big man's eye nor, might I add, an after-hours celebration brought to a conclusion without a rendition of 'Ernie' or a tune on the barstool bagpipes from JD.

And that was John, for all his fantastic skills as a cricket coach, ability to produce fine players and inspire trophy winning teams, it was never anything more than a game to him.

Something to be kept in perspective, enjoyed with teammates and opposition alike and never afforded an importance any greater than it truly deserved in the grand scheme of things.

We were all just playing a game after all and right up until the end JD had as much time for a 10-year old kid with a plastic bat at Ebbw Vale cricket school as he did for an Ashes winning hero at Glamorgan. Because to John everybody mattered.

Which, thinking about it, was probably what we didn't realise he was teaching us all along.

That it wasn't ever about keeping score, about winning or losing but about showing us what a good time you could have and how special the memories you could create can be when you learn how to truly play the game.

Rest in peace mate.

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