May 5, 2013 will be the 45th anniversary of the first Tony Cohen Memorial Trophy final - the conclusion of MJSL’s second oldest tournament is a highlight of the football calendar.
Tony Cohen passed away after a battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, then Hogdkin’s Disease, on October 20, 1966. He was 31 years old. Popular and well liked for his easy-going personality, his death came as a great shock to the community.
MJSL Honorary Life Vice President Tony Sheldon remembers him fondly. "He always had a smile on his face, he didn’t have a bad bone in his body. I can’t even remember him committing a foul."
Indeed, Cohen was highly regarded for his football ability. He was a classy inside forward who thrived in the old number 10 position. "I used to think ‘Oh dear, he’s playing!’ He was a cracking player with great ball skills," laughed Sheldon, who played in goal for Prestwich Casuals.
Cohen’s team was Waterpark, based in Broughton Park. Waterpark was the north’s biggest social club in the 1960’s, and their football team was equally prominent.
Barry Bloom, chairman between 1965 and 1968 said “We were the top team in those days. We won trophy after trophy.” Cohen also sat on the Waterpark committee with Bloom.
Cohen’s older brother, Leslie, approached Sheldon, then MJSL chairman, a year after his untimely passing. He said: "The family decided to do something to commemorate Tony’s life."
Waterpark’s close connection with Cohen created an overwhelming desire amongst the players to win the inaugural tournament in 1968. Excitingly, the final would be contested between North Manchester and Tony Cohen’s own Waterpark 2nd team.
There followed a difficult team selection process. The management attempted to fill the team with 1st team players, causing a real stir amongst the 2nd team.
After negotiating a U-turn on this decision, Waterpark’s 2nd string went on to secure an emotional 3-1 win for Tony, with goals from Jeff Englander, Tony Berens and Geoff Jacobs.
After the game, Leslie Cohen and his young son, Howard, presented the players with their winners’ medals.
Both Howard and his sister Beverley had enjoyed a fantastic relationship with their uncle Tony. "Tony would have made a great father," Leslie added, "it's such a shame he never had the chance to have his own children.”
Leslie and Howard have since attended every final match to present the medals. They plan to make a 45th presentation in May.
Written by Rob Clyne