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My Life in Rugby: John Liley – former Leicester, Moseley, Worcester and Doncaster full-back 

John LileyHindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back I should never had left Leicester for Moseley in the late Nineties.

I’d had nine great years at the Tigers and it was a hard pill to swallow when Bob Dwyer said he didn’t see me having a future in the first team under him. My contract had two years left to run but, like most players, I just wanted to play at the highest level possible.

Worcester were interested but were in what was effectively the third division at the time and only had one financial backer in Cecil Duckworth.

Moseley’s offer looked more attractive; they were a league higher and had designs on getting back to the top. Lots of top players were being brought in and the offer of ten financial backers rather than one appeared to offer greater financial security. How wrong was I!

By January, nine of the ten backers had pulled out and my team-mates and I were left looking for employment. It was all very sad.

Thankfully, Les Cusworth and Cecil gave me a second opportunity to go to Worcester where I had an enjoyable season and a half winning promotion before seeing out my time winning further league promotions as player-coach at Doncaster, another ambitious club looking to move up the leagues.

It was through Les – and our mutual connections with Wakefield – that I’d ended up at Leicester in the first place. I’d been recommended to him by Wakefield-based player agent Martin Shuttleworth as a potential replacement at full-back for the soon-to -be retired Dusty Hare even though I’d only played one full season at College Grove.

I didn’t know how things would work out as Dusty’s heir but I need not have worried. There were so many big names at the club but no-one was perceived as being bigger or better than anyone else and I was just encouraged to play my own game.

As a modest Wakefield lad that suited me just fine and I fitted in very easily.  Leicester became a massive part of my life and we celebrated our successes together, as one. We only won one league title during my time there, in 1995, but we could have had another a year later had I not missed a late penalty attempt on the final day of the season against Quins.

A few years earlier we’d beaten them to win the 1993 Pilkington Cup. I remember Martin Johnson missed the team bus en route to Twickenham, but he made up for it by scoring one of our two tries!

Niall Malone, a good friend, was preferred at full-back for the ’97 Cup win against Sale, but I did play in the Heineken Cup final the same year. We’d made it through to play Brive at Cardiff Arms Park after beating Harlequins and Toulouse in the knockout stages.

The ‘ABC’ Club in the front row made their 100th appearance in the Quins match; what a trio Garforth, Cockerill and Rowntree were! All different personalities but great lads who worked so well together. People came to Leicester because they wanted to be a part of something, not for what they could get out of it.

It was great to be on the same pitch as my brother Rob in the final after he’d joined from Sale. Sadly, neither of us were to be European Cup winners. From our pre-match preparation to the performance on the day things didn’t go right for us. Dwyer was a good coach with good principles but I think he failed to comprehend how successful we’d been by doing things in a straightforward manner.

Bob ruffled quite a few feathers, especially with the number of long-serving players he got rid of, and perhaps he tried to change things too quickly. Six months after being told I was surplus to requirements he’d been shown the door, too. If only I’d waited!

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