TRIBUTES have been paid to former Oldham teacher and accomplished sportsman John Grant who has died suddenly aged 66.
John, who had returned to live in his native Scotland, collapsed and died of a heart attack while out on a ride with a Dundee cycling club.
During 13 years in Oldham, John, who was a junior Scotland international middle-distance runner, left an indelible mark in the town.
He took up a post as a sports teacher at Royton and Crompton School and later became head of PE at Radclyffe School as he and wife Alison lived in Oldham between 1978-91.
John, who had homes in Royton and Shaw during his time in the town, was involved with Oldham and Royton Harriers.
But it was as a respected basketball coach that John would become an influential figure, winning an array of silverware in both England and later Scotland.
It began when he coached the Oldham schools’ U15 boys’ team and soon North of England and England at the same age category.
John helped launch Oldham Celtics’ junior programme of which he was head coach and he also became an assistant coach to the men’s team in the National League.
When Celtics were admitted to the National League, John and Don Errock took over the running of their amateur club which was based at Breeze Hill School.
After moving back to Scotland, John, who had played football for Oldham Teachers, coached Scotland U16 schoolboys and the junior men’s international team.
John took up a position at Arbroath High School, which had no basketball programme, but he made them one of the country’s leading teams.
He also formed the Arbroath Musketeers and coached their cadet, junior and U23 teams to great successes.
In the six years since he retired from teaching, John worked part time with student exchange company Foreign Links Around the Globe (FLAG) which arranged for children aged between 16 and 18 to spend a year at school in America, including some of his basketball players.
John also coached at top basketball camps in the United States and Europe along with his friend Laszlo Nemeth, the former England senior men’s coach.
Pat O’Donnell, who co-founded Oldham Celtics, said: “My memory of John was of a kind, fun loving friend, teacher and coach who gave so much to children and adults alike.
“I will treasure the memories and his legacy is huge.”
Jon Alston, a former pupil at Royton and Crompton School, described John as being a father-like figure.
He said: “I was training at Oldham and Royton Harriers aged 10 when I was a pupil at High Barn.
“John got to hear I was going to his school and said ‘come training with me’ and I thought ‘wow’ as he had been an international middle-distance runner.
“He helped me become Oldham schools’ cross country and 800m champion and also introduced me to basketball.”
Jon, Mark Skeete and Adrian Liquorice, all pupils of John, went on to play for Oldham Celtics in the National League and BBL.
He continued: “I was mortified when John left to become head of PE at Radclyffe School, but he insisted we kept in touch.
“When we left Royton and Crompton, the three of us would go down to Radclyffe at 7am two or three days a week when John would work with us in the old domed sports hall before he began lessons.
“John was someone who affected me not only as an athlete but as a person and for a period of between 10 and 15 years he was like a second father to me.
“I kept in contact with John and still find it surreal I will never see him again.”
Alison added she had been “overwhelmed” by the messages she has received, and which have provided comfort.
“They have come from all over the world from people who as kids told me John was their mentor, coach and second father and they were devastated to hear the news. The messages have given me a lot of strength,” she said.
- John’s funeral is on Tuesday, April 6 (1.30pm) and can be viewed on the Obitus website. Log in using the username rubi2345 and password 042513 and it can be seen for a further 28 days.