A quartet of valued Essex grassroots football volunteers have been presented with FA 50-Year Awards recently to commemorate their selfless efforts in the game.
To be eligible for The FA’s ‘Order of Merit’ Award, a nominated individual must have completed 50 years as a football volunteer, inclusive of their playing career but excluding any football played at school. Stalwarts Terry King, Norman French, Dave Ambrose and Mick Willmore received their awards from the Essex County FA's Alec Berry and Roger Crane.
Terry (pictured above) has dedicated over 50 years of service to two Essex-based non-league football clubs. He volunteered in 1966 by taking the role of Assistant Secretary at his local club, Rainham Town, who were members of the Athenian Football League, becoming Secretary the following year.
During his 29 years of service he’d undertaken many other roles, including Treasurer, Match Secretary, Press Officer, and Programme Editor and Kit Man. The club decided not to continue in season 1993/94 and disbanded. However, Terry’s reputation was well-known locally and, when Rainham folded, he was approached by Aveley.
He joined the club’s committee and has since held the positions of Match Secretary, Programme Editor, Kit Man and Press Officer. Terry has played a huge part in the club’s recent success and epitomises what is a local volunteer. He has dedicated over 50 years in football administration and, without people such as Terry, both of these great clubs would not survive.
50 years ago at the age of 31, having played for clubs such as Melbourne Sports (alongside Jimmy Greaves), Navestock and Park Royal, Norman (second picture) noticed talented young players on the green outside his house. He decided to form the boys into a league team, Byron Red Star, a combination of the name of his road (Byron Avenue) and his dad’s team (Plaistow Red Star).
Norman started as Manager, Treasurer, Secretary and Chairman but, as the club grew, he’d spend more time doing what he loved the most: training the youngest players as Manager. Thousands of boys have played in Byron’s teams, some to appear at professional level, including Clive Allen and Paul McKenzie. Red Star were also once a feeder club for Bobby Robson at Ipswich Town.
In 2012, Norman was rewarded for his outstanding contribution to grassroots football by the BBC Unsung Heroes Programme, carrying the Olympic Torch through Romford. He continued to manage and coach until around five years ago when ill health forced him to step down. He stayed on as Club Secretary until two years ago. He is now Club President and still plays an active role.
In 1965, Dave (third picture) took-up his first administrative role when he was elected to the Committee of Kelvedon & Feering United FC, becoming Social & Fundraising Secretary. In 1967/68, he was the main driving force in establishing Kelvedon Labour FC, joining the Colchester Sports Council Sunday League which would become the Colchester & District Sunday League it is today.
Dave was elected as Secretary the following season. As with a lot of football clubs, there were name changes for sponsorship and other reasons, so the club became Easterford, then Kelvedon Social (Sunday), Social Club Kelvedon and, more recently, Kelvedon Victoria, which is their name today.
He was at the helm of the club for 40 years and, at the end of season 2017/18, he handed it over to the next generation. Dave has been instrumental in ensuring many Sunday footballers have been given the opportunity to enjoy the game. His commitment and professionalism are visibly evident in a sport that he clearly loves.
Mick enjoyed a playing career of over 800 games and 300 goals for Thorpe Social, Thorpe Rangers (Sunday), Clacton Monarchs, Holland Royals (Sunday), Harlequins (Sunday) and Weeley Athletic. He’d helped to form Thorpe Rangers as a start to his administrative duties with many clubs, covering roles between grassroots and Step Five football on both Saturdays and Sundays.
In 1995, Mick moved into administration roles with competitions and is still involved to this day with the Essex & Suffolk Border League. Every year they enter the FA Inter-League Cup and, most years, reach the latter stages. He helps to organise the games they play.
In 2009, Mick was elected as an Essex County FA Council Member, undertaking roles on their behalf. He has successfully organised County Cup competitions for various age groups, always supporting many of the annual County Cup Finals until retiring from Council in June 2018.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities within grassroots Essex football, browse the 'Volunteers' menu above, follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and search for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.