The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Peter Fox: The Players’ coach by Graham Williams and Peter Lush

This book was published in 2008, and it is perhaps surprising that it took so long for the Peter Fox story to find its way into print. Peter was of course one of our finest ever coaches and he had a huge impact on the club in two separate spells. When he was in charge from 1971 to 1974 he took Rovers to Wembley twice and to consistently high league positions. He came back in 1987 and stayed four more years, winning promotion and establishing Rovers once again among the elite of the game. His total of 304 games in charge remains a record. This very readable book covers those two spells and the rest of his colourful career as well.

The book is set out in chronological fashion and so part one covers Peter’s childhood in Sharlston and his playing days as a loose-forward at Featherstone, then Batley, among other clubs. The authors managed to dig out a number of rare old photos of Peter in his playing days.

Part two covers Fox’s coaching career and it was in this sphere that he triumphed. He took his first coaching steps with the Black Horse amateur team in the Wakefield District Sunday League, but his first professional appointment was when he beat Tommy Smales and Harry Poole to the Rovers coaching job in January 1971 and the rest, as they say, was history. After such success, it was a shock when he was allowed to leave in the summer of 1974. All aspects of the club including recruitment and team selection at that stage was done by committee. Peter wanted more of a say, and a power struggle saw him lose out and he quit. Looking back, although Rovers went on to win a Championship in 1977 and reached a couple more Cup semi-finals in 1976 and 1978, I firmly believe it was a huge mistake to let Fox leave, a move which was also against the wishes of Chairman John Jepson. Who knows how far the club could have gone had Peter stayed.

As it was, he built a championship winning side at Bradford, made with Featherstone players like Jimmy Thompson and Keith Bridges. He ran Australia close in an Ashes series, but failed to get the 1979 tour job. He also had a high profile spell at Leeds before coming back to Rovers in 1987. The one black mark on his contribution to Featherstone was the manner of his departure to Bradford in 1991, but there can be no doubt that he was a major influence on our club and on the whole sport with his forward thinking tactics and his legendary man management skills. Thankfully this book does justice to his achievements.

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