One of the most renowned regional sports journalists of the second half of the 20th century has died a day after his 71st birthday.
Tributes have been paid to Ken Widdows – fondly dubbed the “man for two seasons” on account of his love of both cricket and football.
Ken, who previously overcame oral cancer, suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away at University Hospitals Coventry on Wednesday.
Former colleague Paul Webb, who was in the same form at senior school, told HoldtheFrontPage how Ken found the opening into his colourful 48-year career in journalism.
Ex-Hinckley Times editor Paul recalls the day that the deputy head of Nuneaton’s King Edward VI Grammar School, ‘Bruno’ Branston, announced to a class of fifth formers that two trainee reporters’ jobs were going begging at the Tribune.
“Myself and Ken were the only two pupils to put their hands up and show any interest in the job,” said Paul
“And as a result of that announcement we ended up starting work on the same day – August 1, 1960 – at the old Trib under the editorship of Albert Jebbett.”
The two school pals would end up bumping into one another over the next half century at two other newspapers for which they both worked.
Ken started on his home-town newspaper as a cub news reporter but also enjoyed his sports writing. After a brief spell on the Llanelli Leader in South Wales covering the legendary Scarlets rugger team, he returned to Nuneaton as sports editor of the Evening Tribune before moving to the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
He began there as a news sub on the understanding he’d get the first available sports vacancy. Ken got his chance, covered the fortunes of Nuneaton Borough and progressed in time to sports editor of the Coventry daily.
After more than 20 years at Coventry, he joined the Leicester Mercury in 1991 in a sports writer/subbing role as part of the team which launched the popular all-sports edition, ‘The Sporting Green’.
He retired in 2008, by which time he’d reported on Leicester Tigers’ first Heineken Cup triumph, when they defeated Stade Francais in a dramatic final at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
Ken was traditionally ‘old school’ in his values and the way he went about his business. Until the day he left the industry, he always maintained that the best stories were usually found “over a pint, in the pub”.
A tribute in the Leicester Mercury to its sports writer/sub said: “Ken showed the same enthusiasm for a good tale whether it came from elite-level sport at the county’s major clubs, or a cricket match on a local park.
“It was that trait which enabled him to relate to anyone he met, whatever level of sport they were involved in.”
The writing and playing of sport was something that came easily to Ken, a lifelong Manchester United supporter.
He was offered the chance to sign for Nuneaton Borough FC but stuck to journalism and masterminding the coverage of the football club in their heyday. When he wasn’t reporting on cricket, he was a medium fast bowler for Nuneaton’s all-conquering Griff CC side or captaining the Coventry Evening Telegraph’s cricket team.
Paul added: “Ken was an inspired writer who was equally adept at covering football or cricket. He was definitely a man for two seasons.”
Sport even played a hand in ‘picking’ Ken’s partner of the last 27 years.
He met Beryl while he was on a cricketing cruise, supported by a number of famous cricketing stars of the 1980s, which made various stops across the Mediterranean. Ken also leaves two daughters, Heidi and Tracy.
His funeral is at Canley Crematorium in Coventry on Wednesday 1 October at 11.15am.