Small Country.

You may not know John Derrick but you will know John Derrick. Ours is the one who played for Glamorgan and Aberdare and who coached well, most of us in Wales, either as players or coaches ourselves, or both.

All of which sounds pretty bland. Like he’s just some ordinary bloke – which of course he is. But 500 people gathered at the SSE Swalec Stadium last night to honour and support this fella, suggesting there may be more, more of a story here. There is.

John has been poorly – frankly rather alarmingly so – having recently undergoing chemotherapy following an op to remove a brain tumour (I think).

(The truth is that those of us that love him to bits but don’t want to intrude too heavily into deeply private matters have inevitably ‘just heard’ a few things and not wanted to push too hard for details we fear may be distressing for family members to hear or describe. I think – it’s my understanding that – we can fairly describe John’s status as recovering… between bouts of chemo and awaiting an important review in the New Year.)

But back to the Swalec and last night. 500 people, many thousands of pounds raised to support JD and his family through tough times. Important but maybe (with all due respect) less important than the feeling.

Proper writers and proper writing swerves the sentimental but forgive me if I dip below the accepted standards in my scuttling after truths on this. A) I generally do and b) this really is about love, not money.

JD – as he is almost universally known – is a fabulous bear of a bloke. He is a smiler, a banterer, a real authority but no demagogue. If I say he is no orator, this too is a deep compliment, John being neither a maker of speeches nor a poseur or player-to-the-crowds. John is a player and a coach; he says stuff – good stuff – and folks listen.

Given the nature of JD’s  work, at Glamorgan Cricket, developing and overseeing Wales’s prime talent, it’s maybe important that the man has credibility in spadeloads. John is a Level 4 coach and as well as being massively skilled and experienced in cricket theory, he can demonstrate with the best of them.

One of the seminal moments of my own coaching development (hah! Such as it is!) came through watching John bat. During one of several JD-led workshops that I have attended, he creamed an endless serious of beautiful cover and off drives to the walls of a leisure centre in deepest Pembs. It was ridiculous; it was remarkable; it was educational. Something profound about stillness landed – stillness of the heart at the centre of some poetic whirl. John edited down the coaching of this phenomenon to a nonchalant point at his supremely immobilised bonce accompanied by a single, key-but-understated word. ‘Head’.

So yeh, John is one of those guys who can do it. You’d follow him – you’d want to. He has that rare gift of being great company – blokey, funny, slightly mischievous – and reflective, authoritative. (Often the former qualities get in the way of those latter ones, right?)

Built strongly, with powerful limbs and an arse the size Divine Comedy’s small country – that’s JD. Talented, yes; likeable immediately, loved and respected once known.

Last night they/we crowded in to show we rate him. The great and good and the brilliant – that third category including former Eng player and selector Geoff Miller, who ‘spoke’ magnificently and hilariously but was also visibly touched and proud to be able to support.

Phil Steele and Robert Croft also made notable, generous contributions to the evening’s entertainment. Jokes and stories were shared, stuff was sold or auctioned. All the accoutrements of a do of this nature were in place … plus that something else I hope you, at your club, maybe, or in your own way, have experienced. Goodwill of the very highest order.

I was there. In the building – table 16 – of about 50-odd. All of us feeling something poignant and wonderful and important. Something (with all due respect) more profound and nourishing than the significant pile of moolah we raised. Something well-earned and personal, something ab-so-lutely centred… around our own outstanding bloke. John Derrick.


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