As a long-serving volunteer in the 'team behind the team’ at Leicester Tigers, Tudor Thomas is among the inaugural inductees to the club’s Hall of Fame.
Tudor was known mainly inside the club as first-team secretary and as a ‘go-to’ for the players, in the tradition of men like Tom Crumbie, Jerry Day and John Allen in giving stalwart service while expecting no reward in return. But he also had visibility to supporters as stadium announcer and, for a man who could tell a good story, he became famous for his “Shhh” if behaviour threatened to disrupt a game or a kick at goal by either team.
Born in Penycae in North Wales in November 1928, J Tudor Thomas traded village school life there for city surroundings in the East Midlands as he took up a teaching role in Leicester in 1962 and he quickly began an association with the Tigers which stretched for half a century until his passing in June 2018.
Tudor’s long service to the club began as team secretary with the Swifts and then the Extras as the line-ups outside the first-team were then known. He became first-team secretary in 1978 just as Tigers were establishing themselves as the Cup kings of England, led by coach Chalkie White and captain Peter Wheeler.
Dean Richards was the talismanic focalpoint and leader of the following generation and also became firm friends with the Welshman.
“In my early years at Welford Road, it was Tudor who took my wife and myself under his wing and looked after us,” Richard remarked in his autobiography.
“He took on loads of duties, from being match secretary to ensuring that all the kit was cleaned, ironed and ready for the next game. And if anybody had any problems, they went to Tudor, and he invariably helped them out. He was always there to talk to.”
Tudor remained first-team secretary until 1993, then served as president (1993-95) before stepping into the role of honorary secretary at the start of the game’s professional era and was awarded Life Member status in 2007.
The official posts tell of his organisational skills and his reliability, but there was also a famous warmth and good humour known not just by Tigers but also by rivals when they came to town.
There were few players – past or present, friend or foe – who did not stop for a chat and a handshake, either in the old hut at the Aylestone Road end or later in the Groundsman’s Room and in the Droglites Bar. Tudor’s remained a face around the stadium which everyone recognised and a voice they all knew.
World Cup winners Ben Kay, Lewis Moody and Sir Clive Woodward were among the former players to pay tribute in 2018.
“Tudor was ever-present at my years with Tigers and was a great support and help on all fronts,” said Woodward who made nearly 150 first-team appearances for the club.
“He was such a colourful character to have around,” added Moody.
TV commentator Nick Mullins added his own tribute, saying: “His smile, his warmth, his voice for so long over the PA and more latterly the handshake as he sat next to us in the commentary box. Trips to Welford Road won’t be the same without Tudor.”
Tigers chairman Peter Tom CBE described Thomas as “a true Tigers clubman in every sense”, adding: “He was a very popular member of the team behind the scenes and a great number of players, officials and supporters will remember him fondly as much for his good humour and that unmistakable voice as for his hard work on behalf of the club.”
In recognition of his service, Tudor is included in the Hall of Fame inaugural intake alongside David Matthews, Martin Johnson, Chalkie White, Peter Wheeler and Dean Richards.