Just a couple of years ago we celebrated 125 years of Welford Road, but in the short time since we’ve lost two of the great men who helped to define everything for which it stands.
Tigers record appearance-maker David Matthews and Tudor Thomas, who never pulled on a playing shirt, made contrasting contributions to the history of the club, but the length and breadth of their service, not to mention the quality of it, were remarkably similar.
Together, the pair’s service stretched well beyond a century in the club’s cause and their loss will be keenly felt.
Tigers’ residence at Welford Road numbered 63 years when Matthews made his first-team debut in 1955. In the 64 years since, his influence has stretched beyond all four corners of the great ground.
Matthews, of course, ran out 502 times for Tigers and holds a record which will never be beaten. Put into context, Geordan Murphy took 16 seasons to get about 65-per-cent of the way to that total and 16-year careers are an exception rather than a rule in the modern game.
But, as we have heard since his sad passing a couple of weeks ago at the age of 82, David did a lot more besides, being involved in the early days of coaching, playing a pivotal role in presenting an opportunity for Chalkie White to plot the team’s rise to become the kings of the domestic game and to nurture a generation-defining squad. He was also a director as Tigers embraced professionalism more quickly and more efficiently than anyone else. He was a figurehead president and received life membership.
He was, as so many of his friends, colleagues and associates have said already, Mr Leicester. The legends’ legend.
Tudor joined Tigers in the 1960s as an administrator when he first arrived in Leicester from his Welsh home. He took on duties with the second and third teams before becoming a popular, efficient and long-serving first-team secretary. Later, he extended his duties to become Honorary Secretary and also served as President.
Past players know all about his work behind the scenes, while many supporters are will also recall his days as matchday announcer (and his carol-singing on the pitch each Christmas). He was always a popular visitor to the Droglites bar and his seat at the front of the Crumbie Stand allowed him to cast an eye over operations once he’d retired.
It speaks volumes that the two men are so revered.
It is easy to acknowledge the ‘Hollywood stars’ with their league titles, international spotlights and the glittering trinkets that go with that kind of success. But to a man, they have all spoken so warmly about what David and Tudor have given to the club, all of it without asking for anything in return. That says everything about them.
Gone but never forgotten.
* An online Book of Condolences in memory of David Matthews is open until the end of next week if you would like to add a comment to pass on to his family. Donations in David’s memory can be made to the Matt Hampson Foundation and Parkinsons UK.