40 year on - when Brackley Town FC Saints lost one of their own

A former Brackley Town Football Club player has penned a tribute to Andy Thompson marking the 40th anniversary of when he died after being struck by lightning during a football match.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 11:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 12:29 pm
Former Brackley Town FC Saints player Ronnie Johnson holds with the match programme for Saturday 26th September 1981

Former Saints player for the Branckley Town FC - Ronnie Johnson - has written a tribute to Andy Thompson marking the anniversary of the game on September 26, 1981.

"Every Saturday 1000’s of footballers grab their kitbag and make their way to grounds around the country to play in our national game and the sport they love.

"The morning of Saturday 26th 1981 was no different, a normal day as the Brackley Town FC mini-bus headed to the Forest of Dean for the Hellenic league game at Lydney Town.

Sign up to our daily Banbury Guardian Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"On board was Ronnie Johnson, with his good buddy Richard Jarvis along with Andy Thompson and the rest of the of the Saints team, management and officials.

"But Andy did not make the return trip and 40 years on Ronnie Johnson recalls that fateful day at Lydney in which the Saints lost one of their own.

"The game commenced with a downpour of rain and after about 30 minutes there was a rumble of thunder in the distance which appeared to be miles away. But suddenly, without warning, a bolt of lightning struck the field of play and it felt like you had been hit around the head with a blunt instrument.

"My legs buckled as I held my head wondering what had actually happened and as I looked across the pitch players were either laid out or staggering around in a state of shock.

"The majority of those struck down clambered to their feet and walked uneasily back to the dressing room in the adjoining cricket club, in bewilderment, suffering from headaches and nausea.

"It soon became apparent that Andy Thompson, playing at left back had taken the full force of the strike.

"Lydney chairman, John Mills, gave Andy the kiss of life and massaged his heart for a long period until he could feel a weak pulse, a gallant effort that gave Andy a chance of recovery.

"An ambulance transferred Andy to the Gloucester Royal Hospital where he remained in a coma for over a week until he lost his battle for life the following Sunday.

"The news of Andy’s death left the players and officials of Brackley Town grief stricken. The funeral took place at St Peter’s Church Brackley, the following Friday, with a number of Brackley players acting as pall bearers and club members forming a guard of honour.

"The club launched 'The Andy Thompson Memorial Fund' to provide for his widow, Margaret. We raised thousands of pounds in Andy’s memory and when his wife said she would like to donate the money back to the club, it was agreed that we would build the 'Andy Thompson Memorial Stand' which is still in place today.

"To commemorate the opening of the stand, a match was played against Oxford United and their manager Jim Smith assisted with the official opening ceremony.

"Even as of today the sound of thunder and lightning brings the memory of that dreadful day back to me. In May 2021 the story of nine year old, Jordan Banks, out football training in Blackpool killed by lightning left me in tears, another tragic event whilst enjoying the sport he loved.

"My overriding memory for the Saints is when a team of good friends went to play the game they loved and one of them, a lovely lad, Andy Thompson, did not come home to his wife."

First Team manager Ray Styles, on hearing the news of Andy’s death, said: “He was the most popular bloke you could ever meet and 40 years on I echo that sentiment and only hope that his memory is never forgotten."