Shine- Ron of the Rovers

Ron Fisher spent his life as a trainer and physiotherapist for football teams in Leeds. Now 89, Ron looks back at his long career in football and considers the impact he’s had on the lives of thousands of young people over the years.

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I was born on the Bank, where Quarry Hill Flats was. It was a run-down place. We left there and went to live on the Gipton Estate. I went to Mount St Mary’s school in town. We were  Catholic. My grandmother said we should go to a Catholic school. My Dad was a heathen – he didn’t bother. But my Mum was religious. She was Italian. They’re a religious people. She was from Cervaro; it was bombed in the war. They really had a big go there. There was a mountain and they couldn’t get to it. They killed loads of troops trying to get to it. In the war I was a young boy. It was a bit of a hard time, getting food and one thing and another.

​She was small
though, the Queen.
Then she came over,
she stood there.
We were so lucky to see her.
She was lovely.

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You used to leave school at 14. I did, anyway. After school I went to work with a friend of my mother’s. He got me a job veneering furniture. I played football as a kid. I used to play with Henry Barran Youth Centre in Gipton. They had teams. The lads I used to go around with, they all used to play football and they asked me to join the team. But I didn’t turn out to be a cracking footballer. I wasn’t that good. After that I used to play on the field with the lads on a Sunday. At that time, I played rugby. It was a lad that I met at work, he said, “Come and play rugby with me.”

 

I packed in football and packed in rugby. I loved ballroom dancing. We used to go dancing at the Astoria. And the 101. Above the meat market, in town, used to be the 101. I started dancing at 15, we used to have to flannel our way in – we were too young. A while later, I met my wife-to-be, Maureen, dancing at the Astoria. She didn’t live round that way, but all her friends used to meet there and go dancing on a Friday night. It was 1952, I was coming up to 18, and I got conscripted into the army.

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I got posted to Egypt first. I was in the Royal Ordnance Corps. They found out I could sign-write, so they put me in the workshops and got me painting signs for the back of vans and wagons. I used to go round in a little 1500-weight. I once went out to put a sign on a wagon – and they put me in jail! They said, “You’ve crossed our parade ground!” It was a sin, apparently. I said, “It’s just b****y sand!” They quarantined me. I was soon out – the company I was with sorted it out. From there I got into the Boxing team. My first fight, I got knocked out in the first round! Lovely! So, I packed that in. Then they put me in charge of the swimming pool. I played football with the Battalion team. One regiment would play another regiment.

 

I then got posted to Cyprus. I still write to the Cypriot people I met there. We used to go out on holiday and meet them, me and our lass. We started going every year. We got invited to weddings. Their weddings are terrific; they invite all the villages around. They took over a cow field, put tables and chairs in. When I got demobbed, I went back for a holiday. This was the 50s. I met the son of the lady I knew in Cyprus. I found out that her father used to run a football team. They got me on to football again! I used to train the football team on the beach. Our lass, she said, “You must be conkers! You’ve come here on holiday, you’re out every day, showing them football!” I kept going back, year after year.

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Ron (left) in 2001 receiving a medal for 50 years of service to football

My wife’s father was a good footballer. He’d show me all his medals. He actually gave me one of his medals. It was solid gold.
 
“Do you play football?” he said.
 
“Well, I do. But I just kick a ball around, really.”
 
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You come down to Market District Boys’ Club with me and teach the kids how to play football.”
 
“But I’ve got no qualifications.”

“Well, we’ll send you to get some.”

 
So, they did, and I qualified as an F.A. Coach. It was a proper course. The day I got my badge, I thought it was lovely. The kids were all ages, from 12 to 18. They were a good team, they’d won a few matches. I took over the under-18s team. My 15 years with Market District saw the teams win many trophies. We ended up well – we won the league, we won the cup. We had a great side. My wife’s brother – he was a good footballer. He played for me. We won all sorts. I wasn’t paid; it was all for love.
 
I was attending an FA Coaches meeting one night and was introduced to Les Cocker. He was the Leeds United and England physio. He asked me to attend his Treatment of Injuries Course at Leeds. This I did – it gave me another string to my bow.

Shine Ron of the Rovers

Ron and Maureen on their wedding day

Market District played hell when I left. I said, “Sorry, I’ve got a job with Leeds F.A.” The F.A. had offered me a job as a physio. I went all over with them. All over the country. I went with loads of teams. The under-18s won the All-England Cup.

I was doing a favour for people. There was nowhere people could get treatments, so I helped out. My house used to be like St James’ Hospital. Maureen used to go berserk. “They’re in and out of my bathroom!” she’d say. The house got crowded with players. But she put up with it. They’d knock on my door and say, “Can you help me with this injury or that.” And, of course, I would.
 
I went to Dortmund. They used to take us in these pubs and clubs – all with Oompah bands. We used to sleep in a big dormitory in a college. Leeds and Dortmund are twin cities. In Leeds, we’ve got a statue of the man with the barrel in Dortmund Square. All they’ve got from us is an old lamp-post and a measly phone box! Their ground, though, it’s fantastic.
 
And I went to Holland too. We were playing a Dutch team. I ended up standing next to this chap. I knew it was someone, but I didn’t know who. I kept looking at him, trying to work it out. The match finished, and he came over. “What’s up, pal?” he said. “What are you looking at?”
 
I said, “I’m looking at you! I know you but I can’t place you.”
 
It was Ruud Gullit! After that, we got on pretty well. He asked me all about the teams I worked with.
 
I was taken on with East End Park as physio and coach. They were in the Yorkshire League. I stayed with them for a while. Then I joined the Sunday League. I packed the Saturday football in. I started at the Fforde Grene pubin Harehills, they had a few good players.

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Ron Fisher in 2021, with one of his many trophies.

My local club, up here in Colton and Whitkirk, they asked me to join the open age team. A lot of the players I knew were playing there; it was like coming home. And it was close by. I only had to go over a couple of fields and I was there. I was there for about 8 years.
 
After I finished at the FA, I used to be an upholsterer as a trade. I worked for Bridgecraft, the top shop in Leeds. I ended up manager of the upholstery section. I used to go to college part-time, teaching ladies at  evening classes. The College of Art took me on as a tutor. I am artistic – I can paint, I can sketch, I can draw. I love art. Then they took me on full-time at the college. I was doing training at night time with the football teams. When I left the evening classes, all the ladies were very sad. I said, “I never see my wife, I have to think of her.”
 
In 2001 we got an invitation, a letter from the Queen. It was for services to football. I got a bronze medallion from the Football Association for 50 years’ service.
 
We walked around Buckingham Palace. Cucumber sandwiches. We were at the Garden Party and saw the Queen, shaking hands with everyone.
 
“She hasn’t shaken hands with me,” I said.

“Shut up,” said our lass.

 
“Ooh isn’t she little!” I said.
 
“Shut up!”
 
Big mouth, me. She was small though, the Queen. Then she came over, she stood there. We were so lucky to see her. She was lovely.
 
Maureen died in 2020. She was brought up with football in the family. Her Dad, her brother – he played for Leeds City Boys. He still comes with me to a match, takes me in the car. She was in hospital for quite a while.
 
When she died, I really felt it. She was great. The one thing about her, she loved football.
 
I was up at the cemetery yesterday. To remember her. The gravediggers have got used to me. “Are you back here again?” I have chats with them. I found out that some of them play football. Once I started talking football, they opened up a bit. We talk about football every time I go up. I miss Maureen and I miss football. Honestly, I do. It’s now my third year out of football completely. I go up and watch. Up to Whitkirk Wanderers, which is up near Temple Newsam. They say, “Hello, Ron, are you coming back?” We have reunions nowadays. I meet all the old players. There’s not so many left these days. A lot have passed away.
 
It wasn’t just the football I loved, it was everything. I was getting the players back to fitness. If any of the old boys see me, they say hello. Yesterday I met 3 of the lads who used to play at East End Park. I sat with them. “Them were the days!” It’s a great memory. I loved it. I took pleasure in seeing someone who was injured getting back on their feet. I’ve loved it.

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