5 Minutes with: John Weeden

Few quests for world glory have been fuelled by tea bags, but a box of PG Tips helped play its part in securing the England Disabled team World Champs silver in Italy recently as part of a fundraising campaign by team manager John Weeden.

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London tackle shop Oakwood Angling donates the annual proceeds from their tea and coffee box on the counter to John and that came to £300 this time around, which when combined with donations from mates, local businesses and anglers up and down the country, saw John secure a massive £13,500. 

This selfless process begins again as the team receives nothing from the Angling Trust. Nor do they have a sponsor. But the recent success has left John proud of the team’s achievements and now even more determined to send his lads off to Slovenia next year.

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Q) What was your reason for managing the Disabled team and how did you get involved?

JOHN WEEDEN: I first went out in 2003 as a helper with the then manager Dave Vincent. When he retired, Joe Roberts took over and I carried on but took a more active role, helping mix the groundbaits and so on.

Joe took over the Veterans and fished for them so the position became vacant in 2010-11. The team were asked who they wanted to be in charge and to a man they said me! I wanted to do it, of course I did. It’s a lot of time and effort and costs me money, but I love the lads and love every bit about the team.

Q) How many anglers do you have to pick from, and are there levels of disability as per the Paralympics?

JW: The pool is small – this year I had nine lads to pick from – but a few more are interested for 2020 which I’d like to think our recent success has helped achieve. That said, the anglers I pick from are very good so there’s no lack of talent. 

In terms of disability levels, yes there are, and it’s done by the world match governing body FIPS on a points basis. You have to have a team of anglers whose disability points add up to 11 or more, no less. An angler who is relatively able-bodied would score one or two points while someone with one arm like Alan Chadbone would score six points. With this restriction in place it does influence team selection as I may have four lads who all score two points but one of them has to make way.

Q) Disabled anglers are allowed helpers in the World Champs. What can and can’t they do?

JW: Most anglers at this year’s World Champs had a helper and their level of influence is under scrutiny by FIPS all week, but no one ever tries it on. 

Depending on the level of disability of the angler, helpers can land fish, unhook them, put the bait on, make balls of groundbait and so on – basically what the angler can’t physically do. 

Their tactical nous is also important and that’s why I was delighted to have Alex Clements with us this year as his knowledge is out of this world. There’s also Tony Troth, Rick Martinelli and Colin Wedgebrow who come along and they’re all experienced anglers. Without them, the job would be nigh on impossible.

Q) You spent over £13,500 this year to go to Italy – how is that all broken down?

JW: It sounds a lot doesn’t it? Accommodation and van hire plus tolls and fuel to get to Italy amounted to £6,800 alone and then there’s flights at £2,300, food for the week at £1,000, bait at just shy of a grand, van hire in Italy, the cost of a recce trip to the venue and even something as small as gifts for the captains of opposition teams, which is a World Champs tradition. 

We spent the lot, but it meant not one of our lads had to put their hands in their pockets to pay out. I’m also strict on cataloguing everything so there’s 100 per cent transparency on where the money goes.

Q) Are you amazed at the generosity of people regarding funding?

JW: I am overwhelmed really. I’ve had money come from New Zealand, Spain, Malaysia and local businesses. Anglers have given me their section winnings on matches, we’ve had charity matches with a big raffle, local businesses pitching in and a big handsome donation from retired businessman Pete Laughton. 

My mate runs a local sign firm TG Lynes and he put in a grand and has promised the same for 2020. Even the tea box in Oakwood Angling contributed £300 so it all helps.

Q) What’s the one donation that made you smile more than most this year?

JW: My ex-wife Jill gave me £20 and wished us well, which is odd because fishing is the reason we got divorced. I remember I was going fishing with Graham Dack and the evening before she said: “If you go fishing I won’t be here when you come back”. She wasn’t either, and at our divorce hearing she said: “If I was a mermaid I’d have had more chance of seeing him”. God bless her though for donating. It still makes me laugh.

Q) Does it anger you that the Angling Trust receives millions of pounds yet gives teams like yours nothing to help?

JW: Yes it does. We ask for very little yet they can’t even pay for our entry into the World Champs. That’s not too much to ask is it? Usually the team have to fund themselves and that can be up to £2,000 a man, but this year they didn’t have to pay anything and that was great. 

These guys are disabled – they don’t work and don’t really have the money but they give everything they have to fish for their country. To have no backing from your governing body is disappointing to say the least so it’s down to us to raise the money again and we’re on our way with a few early donations. 

Q) If we cold host the Disabled World Champs in this country, where would you like to see it held?

JW: I’d love it to be here but it will never happen for two main reasons. One, we don’t have the venue and two, there’s not the money to do it. A disabled venue needs to have vehicle access to behind the pegs, and flat banks that are suitable for wheelchairs and 100 per cent safe. 

We could make a river like that but it would cost a lot. If the Angling Trust can’t pay anything to help us in the first place, why would they blow it doing something like venue development?