I was only 17 when John first came into my life.
He was the Ireland manager and I was making my way as a footballer in England.
And what the viewing public got from John over the years was similar to what I — and many other players — got from John as a manager: Essentially a brilliant way of explaining the game and what he wanted from you.
As an analyst, he was similarly unmatched in conveying the essence of how football works to the general public.
I watch a lot of punditry on television and, even as a footballer who played a lot of games over the course of a long career, I can still find it hard to understand what some of them are trying to tell me.
But, with John, it’s never been anything other than easy to follow, crystal clear and almost always correct.
I reckon he’s as good as it gets at this job. As he was on the pitch and in the dug-out, so he is on the television:
a real pro, a man who thinks long and hard about what he’s going to say and then says it with clarity and authority.
So, yes, a sad night is in store for us tomorrow but I know that John will just want to go out the way he came in, with no fuss. As ever, he’ll just want his performance on air to do the talking.
But while we’ll feel his absence in the studio, I’m confident this won’t be the last time the football public will get the benefit of his wisdom. He loves having an opinion, John, and I’m sure he’ll not be short of outlets for those opinions to continue to be heard.
As for myself, I’ve been asked how I’ll be able to handle Eamon from here on in and I suspect that, no doubt, there’ll be times when I wish I had John still there to back me up.
I have a feeling I’m venturing into the unknown!