John Cornforth, a Welsh international, played for Exeter City towards the end of his well-travelled career. He was then briefly manager at a turbulent time in the club’s history.
John first played for Sunderland for whom he was an apprentice before signing a full contract in October 1985. After thirty-odd games for Sunderland, John made a total of league 263 starts for his various clubs over his career scoring 36 goals in the process. At one point he commanded a transfer fee of £350,000 when transferring from Swansea City to Birmingham City in March 1996. All told, prior to joining Exeter from Scunthorpe United in February 2000, John had played for Sunderland, Doncaster Rovers, Shrewsbury Town, Lincoln City, Swansea City, Birmingham City, Wycombe Wanderers, Peterborough United and Cardiff City. He was eligible to play for Wales due to his paternal grandmother hailing from Llantrisant, and gained two caps against Bulgaria and Georgia in 1995.
John’s Grecians debut came in a 1-0 defeat at Torquay United in February 2000 and he played through until making his final appearance at Cheltenham in March 2001. From early in his time at St James’ Park John had helped with coaching and, when Noel Blake was dismissed in September 2001, John took over as manager. However in, October 2002, John was somewhat controversially dispensed with by the club owners at the start of a season that was to end in relegation from the Football League.
John left the club but remained in the area coaching Crediton United and, then, in September 2004, managing Newport County by whom he was sacked in September 2005 after a poor start to the club’s Conference South season. Next, back home in Devon, John was appointed caretaker-manager at Torquay United - where things had started to resemble earlier events at Exeter City - in January 2006 followed by taking the job on a ‘permanent basis’ in February 2006 only to be replaced by Ian Atkins in April 2006.
John, by then driving milk tankers, helped out Crediton United for a while - both with team affairs and fundraising - and was also with Witheridge either side of coaching in South Korea, Kuwait and the Philippines. He then moved back to the North East in 2012 taking a role with Cancer Research and, working in football on a part-time basis, was to have coaching and management positions at Horden Colliery Welfare, Blyth Spartans and Durham City,