Tribute to former VS manager Jimmy Knox

Jimmy Knox
Jimmy Knox

Rugby has lost one of its most prominent sporting legends and non-league football one of its most successful players and managers with the sad passing of Jimmy Knox on Christmas Eve, aged 77.

Jimmy had featured as a player and manager for an earlier existence of Rugby Town across three decades in 1950s, 60s and 70s, and then had an 11-year spell in charge at the then VS Rugby – where he enjoyed considerable success, including leading the club to victory in the 1983 FA Vase Final at Wembley against Halesowen.

A minute’s silence in memory of Jimmy was held ahead of the New Year’s Day fixture against Daventry, in addition to a minute’s applause during the game in the fifth minute – to recognise the number five shirt that he was synonymous with.

Born in Brechin, Scotland on November 26th 1935, James H. Knox’s early footballing career saw him gain Scotland Under 16 international recognition, as well as spells at Dundee and Raith Rovers – where he appeared in the first team.

He made the move to the Midlands for the 1957/58 season when he signed for Coventry City – who at that point were plying their trade in the old Division Three South – making two first team appearances for the Sky Blues.

He then moved to the old Rugby Town, making over 250 appearances in his first spell of six seasons at the club – initially as an inside forward, and then in a more defensive role following a bad knee injury.

He captained the side to promotion to the Southern League Premier Division for the first time, and then returned for two further spells at the club – including helping them regain that status in his second stint.

He assumed managerial duties too for the 1971/72 season, and had two successful campaigns in charge at Oakfield – including consecutive fourth place finishes – before continuing financial difficulties saw the club go out of business in 1973.

Between 1973 and 1980 he managed AP Leamington and his success continued there, guiding them into what has now become the modern-day Conference Premier division.

He returned to his then home-town though in 1981, when the then Valley Chairman Mick Vousden convinced him to take over a club that were struggling in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division.

Alongside his longstanding assistant Bob Ward, Knox transformed the club taking them to that famous Wembley triumph within just 27 months.

He had only won one of his first 13 games in charge at Butlin Road, but it was not long before he steadied the ship to save them from relegation in his first season – before then taking the club from strength to strength.

The club’s elevation into the Southern League in 1983 gave him a familiar platform, and in addition to the Vase success, he led the team to a further six cup triumphs in his decade plus tenure with the Midland Floodlit Cup (1985 & 1990), the Birmingham Senior Cup (1989 & 1992), the Southern League Cup (1990) and the Leamington Charity Cup (1990) adorning the Butlin Road trophy cabinet.

In the league, Rugby achieved promotion to the Premier Division for the first time in 1987, and he also twice saw his side narrowly miss out on a further step up to the Conference with two third place finishes.

Most memorably, he was also responsible for a number of amazing FA Cup matches and runs, taking the club into the proper stages of the competition on no less than five occasions.

He was awarded a testimonial by the club and in August 1991, Butlin Road hosted a visit from a strong Manchester United side led out by Alex Ferguson – a game arranged as a result of an agreement with Jimmy’s brother Archie, who has been Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford.

He was also named Rugbeian of the Year in 1984.

At the end of the 1992/93 season his time at the club came to end after a fall-out with Chairman Roy Gallimore over finances, however he remained in football for some time after that in a scouting capacity for Glasgow Rangers.

Jimmy – who also sadly lost his wife Mary in August 2012 – leaves four children Caroline, Steve (who was part of the Vase-winning side), Kate and Jackie and their respective families.