31st March 1940 – 2nd January 2021
Obituary written by Wood Army member Brett Lewis
The passing of Boreham Wood supporter John Weston (aka John the Dog) at 80 years old on 2nd January, although not unexpected, was still a shock to us. He was a popular loyal Boreham Wood supporter with great passion for the Club but had been suffering poor health for a few years. For this reason he hadn’t been seen much at the Club for a while. Thanks to Wood supporter Sarah Bowyer, we had been updated regarding John’s health for the last few months and it was her who broke the sad news last week.
It’s fair to say that John’s life revolved around Boreham Wood FC. He was a season ticket holder for a number of years and sat in front of the press box at Meadow Park where his voice would be heard by listeners of every radio station that covered the game. He was a regular at away games, too. When the “away travel club” started in 2015 following our promotion to the National League, John would travel to every game on the minibus with other supporters and was always good company. He lived within a short walk of Meadow Park. As well as attending all Boreham Wood home games he would often spend his days there when the team weren’t playing. Many years ago when I used to do a bootcamp on the astro turf pitches at the Club, I would see John at the there picking up litter, and that was at 7.30am! He always watched first team training and often gave Luke Garrard and the players his words of wisdom while no doubt shaking his famous stick in the air in the process. When the team weren’t training, he would pop into the Club to inform Loretta Browne, the Club’s Kit Woman, that he was on his way to breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the many of the café’s on Shenley Road, Borehamwood. No doubt, they will also be mourning his passing and the financial impact his death will have on their takings! In later years when John’s health deteriorated he would occasionally turn up at the club at 2pm saying he was on his way to get some breakfast!
There are many amusing stories I’d like to share about John…
The funniest one was on the day we were due to play at Barrow in our first season in the National League in December 2015. A number of Wood supporters and Club officials travelled by train and when the match was called off due to “Storm Desmond” while we were on the train just outside Warrington. Rather than waste the day, some of us went to watch Wigan play Barnsley instead while the rest went home. Loretta Browne decided to go home but before she left, she left me in charge of the group train ticket and said “make sure John gets home safely.” These words would ring in my ear for the rest of the day. What she was really saying was, if he didn’t get home safely, she was holding me personally responsible!
Anyway, fast forward a few hours, we watched the Wigan match and all arranged to meet at the bottom of the steps outside the ground so we could walk back towards the station together for our journey home. While the rest of us congregated at the agreed meeting place, there was no sign of John. He would cause a period of panic that would define our day. John was nowhere to be seen. A few of the guys stayed where they were in case he turned up while some of us persuaded the bloke on the gate to let us back in the ground so we could look for him. For all we knew John had collapsed in one of the toilets or come out second best in a fight with a Wigan supporter. We checked all the toilets in the stand, of which there were many. He wasn’t there. We looked back in the stand but it was empty. We knew that John didn’t have the cheek to talk his way into the boardroom. Besides, his dress code wouldn’t have been suitable in such surroundings and he wasn’t wearing a tie!
We then joined the others outside the ground and he still hadn’t turned up. There was a bridge over a river which we had to walk over. Even though it was dark by now, I shone the torch from my phone to see if he’d fallen in. It seemed to be the only place he could be and he didn’t strike me as a very strong swimmer. Besides, he’s have never let go of his walking stick. I was being dramatic. If he had fallen in, surely one of the 6,628 supporters attending the match would have noticed. The fact that he was nowhere to be seen made us think he might have actually started walking towards the station without us. However, John struggles to find his way from the bar at Boreham Wood FC to the turnstile. The only places he could ever find were the Football Club and the three cafés in Borehamwood where he’d eat his meals every day. I gave him a lift home from a Boreham Wood away game once and he struggled to direct me to when he lived! There was no way John would find his way back to the station alone. You couldn’t imagine him using Google Maps. If it wasn’t for us having Andy Vaughan (a Wigan supporter) with us, we’d have struggled. Half an hour after the start of the panic and the frantic search for John, we left the area around the DW Stadium. The place was now empty. All supporters had long since disappeared and players’ cars were leaving the large car park. It was now really cold as we walked the mile or so towards the station. Some of the guys went into a pub for a few drinks while the rest of us walked to the station to see if John was actually there.
Loretta’s words were still ringing in my ear. I was tempted to call her. I wasn’t looking forward to starting the conversation with the words “Guess what.” However, when we got back to the station, John was sitting there on a bench, enquiring where we had been and seemingly annoyed that we took so long to get back to the station. Collectively we failed to get the words out quick enough to berate him. John was getting pelters from all directions. He had followed a couple of Wigan supporters he’d befriended back to the station without letting anyone know. With John being the type of character he was, we couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Within minutes we would be able to have a bloody good laugh at what happened. Looking back, John was still in reasonable health at the time and was pretty self-sufficient. The fact that we were so far from home in a strange town with a train to catch was the biggest concern.
John hated bridges. Our regular trips over the Dartford Crossing on the minibus were met with dread by John. He demanded complete silence from everyone during those torturous few minutes and would tell everyone to “shut up” if we so much as coughed. Barry Moss often used to wind him up by saying something reassuring like “we’re going to fall in and be eaten by sharks” or “Don’t worry, John. It’s only a 200 foot drop.” While this caused much laughter from many of the supporters on the minibus, John was obviously terrified and would answer back and there’d be full scale argument between the two. On one occasion as we were about to cross. I heard him mutter under his breath while shaking with fear “Come on, John. Pull yourself together. It’s only a bridge.”
I once went on holiday with the family to Turkey at the end of August. I therefore had to make do with listening to the Boreham Wood v Halifax Town match live on BBC Three Counties radio. The usual excellent production was marred by John in the background. I could hear him shouting things like “Come on Wood. Sort it out” and “bloody get yourself together” and other words I can’t repeat here. The kids and I found it hilarious. It was more entertaining than the match itself. However we noticed in the second half that there were no more of John’s dulcet tones. It had stopped altogether. Apparently Boreham Wood Chairman Danny Hunter who was also on holiday and listening to the same commentary called someone at the Club at half time to respectfully suggest that John tone down his rhetoric!
When my son Harry used to play football on the astro turf on a Sunday afternoon at the Football Club, John was inevitably there. (The day ended in a Y after all). For a few consecutive weeks he would watch Harry play. John introduced himself to the other parents as “Johnny the Dog” and would spend the next 30 minutes or so charming everyone but would bark instructions to the kids as if he were watching a Boreham Wood home game. I had to say very politely “Be positive John. They’re only 7 years old”
It was always quite amusing when we go to Woking away. Before the game, we usually frequent Woking Snooker Club which is adjacent to the ground where the owner, a chap called Bob Mason is the spitting image of John. If anything he is a slightly older and more doddery looking version. John never used to like the comparison but it was obvious for all to see.
John was recognised by the Club in 2017 when he was awarded “Clubman of the Year” at the end of season Presentation Night. I remember how pleased he was to get the award and how much he deserved it. John experienced so many good times as a supporter including a number of promotions, beating Blackpool in the FA Cup, Sutton away (to secure our trip to Wembley) and the day out at Wembley itself. He was regular at the end of season Presentation Night long before many supporters started coming and scrubbed up extremely well in his suit. Following promotion to the National League, John thoroughly enjoyed travelling with other supporters to watch Boreham Wood up and down the country until ill health made it impossible.
I will always remember John as a character of considerable warmth and charm. From the time I started watching Boreham Wood in 2008, he was very friendly and always had time for my kids Sara and Harry which I’ll never forget. They thought highly of him too and are saddened by his passing. John was excellent company travelling to away games. Apart from that “blip” at Wigan, he never gave us any cause for concern and definitely added to the camaraderie on the minibus. Boreham Wood FC is more of a family then a Football Club and John was an integral part of that family. He was very well thought of by the Chairman, the Manager, staff, players and other supporters. He will be sorely missed.
As well as John Weston, we also mourn the sad passing of other Boreham Wood supporters Colin Wise, Dan Hudson and Cyril Rebak who have also sadly died in the last couple of weeks. Our thoughts are with their families.