From watching his beloved Rotherham United as a boy while standing on a brick to get a better vantage point in the old Millmoor Lane end to sweeping the terraces as an apprentice and later playing for the first team and becoming assistant manager, John Breckin’s love affair with his home-town club has been all-consuming and is still going strong in his 66th year.
His association was duly recognised when he was recently named as an honorary life president of the club.
It was an accolade which was richly deserved and will have brought a smile to Millers supporters from Dinnington to Dalton, Maltby to Manvers.
For Breckin, who first penned schoolboy forms for the club at 13 under his idol Jack Mansell before signing as an apprentice as a 15-year-old in 1968 – when Tommy Docherty was manager – there was a swell of justifiable pride at the news amid thoughts for those who could not share in perhaps his proudest moment in his long Millers carrer.
Breckin told The Yorkshire Post: “The first thing I thought about was my mum and dad and how proud they would be as they were both Rotherham fans along with my brother.
“If I could just bring my mum and dad back for a few hours just to say: ‘you’ll never guess what I am doing, mum...’ From that snotty-nosed kid in Masbrough, going to the ground where my mum had knitted me a scarf and a hat...
“If I can win the lottery, I’d like to be alongside (chairman) Tony Stewart and pump some money in. But apart from that...”
Brought up on Clough Road ‘near the old Butchers Arms’, a young Breckin can recall seeing the floodlights at the club’s former Millmoor home being built.
He would go on to see his name in lights during sterling service with the Millers throughout the Seventies and early Eighties.
A fixture on the teamsheet as a reliable left-back, Breckin made 467 appearances and earned recognition from his peers in a PFA Team of the Year on three occasions in 1974-75, 1978-79 and 1980-81 – and secured two promotions along the way.
On those early days and beyond, he recalled: “We would clean boots first thing on Monday morning and there would be 14 of us and then we would sweep the terraces on a windy day and when it was bloody windy, it was windy. You would sweep it and then it would blow back.
“We then did all the jobs at Millmoor on a Friday morning such as cleaning the toilets out and helping Albert Wilson on the ground.
“I cleaned Dave Bentley’s boots as we all rallied around to get the best ones. I also did Quinny’s (John Quinn) and as I got a bit older as head boy – which I was in the second year – I had the best ones and you used to get a ten-bob note at the end of the month.
“It was a lot of money when you were an apprentice.
“At 20, it just took off for me, we won promotion (in 1974-75) and I got in the PFA side and from then on, I had a great 10 years playing.”
It was Breckin’s second promotion with the Millers, to the second tier in 1980-81, when he was an ever-present under the late Ian Porterfield which remains an abiding memory and one that he and countless others of a Rotherham persuasion will forever treasure.
Breckin said: “It was special – Ian’s first year in management. He was a good, up-and-coming coach and the dressing room just came together. It was a magical time.
“We had local lads, big Stan (Paul Stancliffe), me, Ray Mountford and Mark Rhodes and Micky Gooding was also in that squad. We played our first game against Bradford in the League Cup and lost at Millmoor and then on the Sunday, Ian signed (Tony) Towner, Mooro (Ronnie Moore), (John) Seasman and Jimmy Mullen.
“It was unbelievable how we gelled and it was a fantastic, dream year.”
Breckin would ultimately form a successful managerial double act with Moore during some halcyon days at the club in the late Nineties and early Noughties which evoked memories of those golden times when both were team-mates.
Breckin, who ran the players’ bar with Moore at Millmoor ‘back in the day’, recalls: “When he asked me to be his assistant (in 1997), we’d been to a club do one night and Mick Hennigan had left. He said to me late that night: ‘I am not looking anywhere else for an assistant.’
“We hardly had a player when Ronnie came, but we begged, stole and borrowed. Ronnie’s favourite quote was: ‘Get on this train with me now because this train isn’t stopping.’ And it didn’t.
“Ken (Booth) helped us on a budget and some of the players we signed were just unbelievable. Back-to-back promotions was just wonderful. We used to call them ‘The Dirty Dozen’ behind the lads’ backs – they didn’t know that.
“Me and Ronnie could be in a room together 10 or 20 yards apart and we’d look at each other and knew what was going off. We had an unbelievable connection.
“We still have now, even though we don’t see much of each other – although we live quite close. But when we get together at a party or at the club...”
He may have left the Millers with Moore in 2005, but ‘Breck’ would be drawn back to his true footballing love in future years – first returning as assistant to Mark Robins and later becoming a club consultant under the Millers present-day incumbent in Paul Warne.
“Rotherham is like a magnet,” admitted the 66-year-old, now a match-day host in the hospitality suites. “Warney got the job and he just asked me to sit in the dug-out at the side of him.
“It was a bad time, but wow, he has done a good job..
“The club is in a great position with Warney and Richie (Barker) is a fantastic coach. Warney stuck it out and I always said he could do it. He’s a bright, clever lad.
“The club has kept its values and gone to Wembley three times now and we have punched above our weight with the big boys and hopefully we can get back there and do it again.”
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.