Ripon football legend ‘The Tank’ dies aged 77

Ripon footballer Derek Kevan and chairman of Ripon City FC Sue Dennison cutting the club's centenary cake in 1998. (S)
Ripon footballer Derek Kevan and chairman of Ripon City FC Sue Dennison cutting the club's centenary cake in 1998. (S)
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Ripon footballing legend Derek Kevan died after a long illness on Friday, January 4, at the age of 77.

The centre-forward striker was famed for his impressive goal-scoring record and robust 6ft frame – earning himself the nickname of ‘The Tank’.

“He was such a gentleman,” said Ripon City Football Club chairman Sue Dennison.

“He was mild-mannered, unassuming and retained his down to earth roots. He was nicknamed The Tank because he had a big, solid presence.”

Mrs Dennison remembers Kevan for his life-long commitment to the city, even as he rose through the footballing ranks to become a top league domestic player at clubs such as West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Manchester City and Crystal Palace.

Born in Ripon on March 6 1935, Kevan attended Ripon Secondary Modern School – now Outwood Academy – before being head-hunted by Bradford Park Avenue. He joined West Brom in 1953 and became the top scorer in the First Division in the 1960-2 season with 33 goals – a postwar record for the club.

The striker made his mark on the international sporting scene, scoring two goals in four games at the 1958 World Cup and stacking up 14 full caps for England throughout his career.

In 1984, Kevan smashed another postwar record for Manchester City with 30 league goals.

Kevan’s sister stayed in Ripon all her life, and Kevan still returned home to visit her regularly and watch matches at Ripon City. In 1998, he was guest of honour at the club’s centenary.

Mrs Dennison – who has been chairman at the club for 20 years – said the players at Ripon City were “astounded that someone local had gone on to have a successful national football career.”

Mrs Dennison said he was known as ‘Big Derek’ when he came to visit the club, where he always “thoroughly enjoyed himself”.

The club held a minute’s silence for Kevan on Saturday, January 5.