A NATURAL sportsman with a fiercely competitive spirit, John Anyan achieved more in his sporting life than most.
But testament to his refreshing modesty, John’s was a sporting CV which remained unknown to many right up to his death on New Year’s Eve.
Born in the Lincolnshire village of Woolsthorpe, John grew up with five brothers on his father’s farm at Market Overton.
Like many schoolboys they played football in winter and cricket during the summer months, their love of sport stoked by their father who would clear out a barn in winter to allow his sons to continue their sport indoors.
John developed into a talented striker who plied his trade for Midland Woodworkers and then Melton Town, but his talent could easily have transcended the Leics Senior League.
He is thought to have played for Nottingham Forest and was scouted by Tottenham Hotspur who offered the young man a contract.
But with footballers’ wages still comparatively low, before the maximum wage cap was abolished, John instead chose a more secure career in accountancy.
He was made commercial manager for the Midland Woodworking Company, in Melton, a company which later became Boulton and Paul and is now Jeld-Wen.
He also played badminton to county level and later in life became a decent golfer, but to many in Melton he is synonymous as a cricketer with Egerton Park.
Having been coached in the game by his village vicar in Market Overton, John joined Egerton Park in the 1950s and was made captain of the First XI in 1970, a role he cherished and held for seven seasons.
Team-mate John Bailey said: “He was a great leader and was possibly the first person to introduce the competitive edge to the game in our first team at Egerton Park.
“He never used the word lose. He said if we can’t win we will do everything to stop the other team winning. He was a risk-taker and did things off the cuff.”
John’s favourite fielding position was at short leg where he would get as near to the batsman as he could get away with to distract the man at the wicket.
John added: “He was a Jekyll and Hyde character on and off the cricket field. He was a lovely bloke and a fantastic captain who never shouted, but he did play the game right to the edge of the laws and a little beyond if he could!”
He also took his role as coach very seriously, particularly in badminton and cricket. It was fitting that the donations at John’s funeral were allocated to Egerton Park’s junior section, allowing his legacy to continue benefitting and encouraging young cricketers.
John’s wife Janet said: “Sport was just his life. His family came first, but cricket was definitely his first sporting love.
“John always used to say, ‘if you are involved in sport never divulge your age because you might not get picked’, and that became our joke.”
Despite his obvious breadth of talents, which also helped him become a Royal Marine Commando after leaving school, John was not a boastful character. Even his close friends were unaware of quite what he had achieved.
Janet added: “He was a complete and utter gentleman and was a gentle man, very kind, sincere and loyal.
“People who had known John for about 30 years were shocked when my son-in-law spoke about him at his funeral.
“He didn’t really talk about his past. What was happening then and was going to happen in the future were more important to him.”
As well as wife Janet, John also leaves daughters Sarah and Jennifer.