If you’re a regular reader of Junk Archive, you can’t fail to have noticed that there have been no contributions from the blog’s creator Jim Heath recently and very sadly I have to write now that Jim lost his battle with cancer early on Saturday morning.
This is so difficult to write as I have lost all enthusiasm for the site with the loss of my friend and how do you write a tribute to a mate anyway?
I met Jim over twenty years ago through London Wolves when he first regaled me with stories of ‘infiltrating’ opponents’ grounds and ‘ambushes’ in back alleys in the 1970s, when he would be decked out in a decorated butchers coat. Jim was never a hooligan but loved telling the tales and I always found them entertaining.
This was a feature of Jim’s character – he was always entertaining. A conversation with Jim could take any tangent as he could talk about bands, TV, films or politics with equal relish and enthusiasm and he had some great stories about his own adventures along the way. I noticed that Jim used to ask lots of questions and would actually listen to your answers before asking more – the art of a true conversationalist, and Jim could spark up a conversation with anyone.
This was an approach that could reap dividends when searching for tickets, Jim was the master of finding the spares for sale, and also in meeting new friends. I was lucky enough to be with Jim in Portugal for the 2004 Euros and as we sweltered in the Coimbra sun waiting for England v Switzerland, I couldn’t believe his nerve as he approached two scantily clad fans to ask if they were the Maxim girls. Their total indifference didn’t matter as Jim turned to us with a huge grin and his famous laugh, another story lodged for his legendary status. That trip saw a huge collection of photos with all manner of fans from all over Europe but also including police, Wolves celebrities and Pierluigi Collina the Italian ref, who Jim collared at another game.
Two years later in Germany for the World Cup, it was Jim who discovered the wonderful Dusseldorf as our base, and when we four travellers met him there he had already made an impact in the two hours he was ahead. ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ greeted us as he took us to our hotel and for most mornings as well, as the staff came to know this friendly England fan with the strange guffaw. In Altenburg we were the only diners in a restaurant as we watched one game on a big screen. The very mature landlady was delighted by our visit and stood by to shake hands as we filed out. The first three of us did so, but Jim lent over for a quick peck on the cheek – ‘Know your market lads’ he joked, with again the grin and laugh to follow!
At home, TV games and tournaments had meant that Jim & Christine’s flat in Maida Vale had been the site of many a get-together before their move back to Telford. As part of his role as host, Jim inevitably brought out his scrapbooks or other mementos, which I had pored over, sucking in obscure Wolves reports and pictures from 25 years earlier, or photos of bands before they were famous taken at Jim’s parents’ venue. Although the move, brought an end to these events our mutual interest in memories and memorabilia would surface regularly – and in our telephone conversations, sometimes catching up over hours, between discussing all sorts of rubbish, we would often talk about setting up somewhere to get down our ramblings and recollections about badges to programmes and everything in between. These chats eventually got more serious moving from the idea of books to online and we came up with a few plans for a blog, thus Junk Archive was born – one of several names Jim had come up with.
I had always enjoyed Jim’s writings – I knew of his ‘Guttersnipe’ fanzine background and his ‘A Load of Bull’ articles always had an easily identifiable style, which were always my first choice ALOB read. I had not been as regular in my contributions and I never saw myself in the same league as Jim so I was extremely flattered that he would let me share the Junk Archive platform. We would talk about what direction we were taking, the inspiration we could use and who would write the articles for items in the news.
Jim was always incredibly supportive, generously praising my postings and encouraging me to keep writing, so I was immensely proud when he asked me to help him finish his book by putting together a couple of chapters. As always Jim was fulsome in his praise and generous in his dedication in the book itself.
I am so glad that Jim was able to get his book published. The whole circus surrounding the release, with TV appearances, an article in the programme and best of all the signing with 70s Wolves stars at the ground was a joy to see as Jim became a minor celebrity in Wolves colours. In fact when I last met Jim, at the final home game of last season, he was encouraged to sign a copy for a fan I spotted in the queue, squirming at the attention as a group of us friends watched like groupies.
It’s memories like these that I’ll keep with me – Jim’s enthusiasm in chasing the team bus at Arsenal with his banner, much to his son, Jack’s embarrassment – doubled in the ground as he insisted on pulling the flag out again as the players emerged. Jumping out from the bushes at Stanley Park, shouting ‘Who Are Ya’ and masquerading as a Scouse scally as we made our way to Everton. At Charlton, showing off his Heath 50 Wolves shirt, totally full of beans after his 50th birthday and at Spurs sitting with him in the home end trying to keep quiet as Wolves got an FA cup equaliser.
It was always a pleasure to be in his company – I feel so privileged to have known Jim for all these years and Wolves games will never be the same again for me. It goes without saying that to lose someone with such a zest for life is a cruel blow and my thoughts go out to Christine, Jack and Nicholl for their considerable loss.
Finally, returning to Junk Archive, this will be the last posting – the blog was always a joint collaboration between us and without Jim’s input it would just seem empty, so I won’t be continuing. Thank you all for reading over the last couple of years and for those who have made contributions. Please feel free to leave your own tributes in the comments below.
Rest in peace mate – the world’s a poorer place without you!