Annual charity match shows love for popular Wolves fan Ray
Friends who have played football at the same spot for nearly 40 years have dedicated an annual match to the memory of the man who started it all.
Ray Jones, from Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, died six weeks ago, aged 59, after a year-long battle with cancer.
But the much-loved Wolves fan will have a lasting legacy in the city, after his pals dedicated an annual charity match in his honour.
The first game took place last week on a pitch at St Peter’s Collegiate School, near Wolves Compton Park training ground.
It was the same site where in 1979, Ray organised the first of what would be thousands of regular kick-abouts with mates.
Ray’s brother, Martin Jones, 52, explained: “Back then Ray was an apprentice and he got a few of the lads who he worked with together to have a game on a Friday down by St Edmund’s School.
“It became a regular thing, and it wasn’t long before they were playing matches there three times a week.
“Coming up to 40 years later and it is still going strong.”
Martin says he started playing himself in the 1980s, and while over the years players have come and gone, the match has been a constant in some of their lives.
“It’s just a bit of fun, but it has kept us all together over the years,” he said.
“Ray would make sure there was always a game on, and it served as a weekly meeting place for everyone.
“There are some who are in their sixties and they are still playing, and sons and nephews have got involved to continue the tradition.”
As the years have rolled by the thrice weekly game has become a Friday only event, and five years ago the group was forced to move their match to the nearby sports centre after their old pitch became part of St Peter’s Collegiate School.
After Ray’s death, his pals decided to dedicate an annual charity game in his honour – and the school was only too happy to let them use the pitch where it all started.
“They were extremely generous to let us use it and we have decided to make it an annual event," Martin added.
"It is a nice way to keep Ray's memory alive and raise some money for a good cause at the same time."
At the match and at Bilston-born Ray's funeral, the pals raised more than £2,000 for Compton Care, whose staff looked after Ray in his final weeks.
Together with his brothers Martin and Clive, Ray ran RMC Mechanical Services, a heating repairs contractor for Wolverhampton Council.
Martin added: "Because of his work Ray was very well known around the city.
"He was always laughing and joking, and we always used to use the phrase 'Everybody Loves Raymond', because, well, everyone who met him loved him."
Compton Care spokeswoman Charlotte Lilley, said: “We are so grateful to the family and friends of Ray Jones for raising this fantastic amount of money in memory of Ray and in aid of Compton Care.
“Because of extraordinary people like Martin, his family and his friends, we will be able to continue to care for patients living with complex and incurable conditions as well as their relatives, friends and carers, across Wolverhampton, the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire.
“Holding this event annually not only ensures that local people living with incurable conditions are supported to live the best life possible but it is also a lovely way to honour Ray’s memory.”
The cash is enough to fund the equivalent of nine visits by a Compton community nurse to support a patient staying in the comfort of their own home.
Ray Jones is survived by his wife, Diane, his son David and three grandchildren.