Wendling FC's Reg honoured for 50 years of devotion
Chris HillThe founder of a village football team near Dereham has been rewarded for half a century of singular devotion to his beloved club.Chris Hill
The founder of a village football team near Dereham has been rewarded for half a century of singular devotion to his beloved club.
Budding footballer Reg Parker established Wendling FC in 1956 and was duly appointed club secretary - a role he has held continuously ever since.
And while the 81-year-old's playing days might be over, he has remained a pivotal figure throughout the history of his team, which began with a bunch of keen teenagers who had never played football before.
Mr Parker said he was thrilled to receive his 50-year service medal from Roger Howlett, Norfolk's representative on the Football Association, during an annual training seminar at Aldiss Park in Dereham.
And in an age where sporting loyalties are bought and sold every week, the quintessential 'one-club man' said he could not hang up his boots until he knew Wendling FC was in safe hands.
'Every year I keep saying it will have to be my last year,' he said. 'There is a young lad there now who is doing much of the work and has eased the burden a bit. I shan't be here forever, so if they want the club to keep going, they will have to find someone to take over.'
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Wendling play in the Crown Fire Central and South Norfolk League, but the club's origins were much less formal.
Mr Parker said: 'They were all village boys when we started, about 14 or 15 years old. None of us had played football before in our lives. We went six years before we even won a match and 10 years before we won our first trophy. Nowadays it is difficult to find a team from within your own village because they have all moved into the towns.'
Mr Parker played until he was 42 and keeps a scrapbook of photos and press cuttings documenting the early seasons of the club. He later become a linesman for a few years before settling into his administrative role, which included putting up nets and marking out the pitch each Saturday.
'When we started, we used to mark out the pitch with sawdust,' he said. 'You can imagine what a problem that would have been if it was windy.'
Mr Parker said the sporting highlight of his time at Wendling was winning the Dereham and District League in the mid-1970s.
'That was the only time we have won the league,' he said. 'The high spots were not just winning trophies, but winning the sporting award, which we won last year for the Crown Fire League. The players were thrilled to get that.'
Another lifelong servant of the game was also honoured alongside Mr Parker on Monday.
Hector Chambers began his playing career with Felthorpe FC in 1947 before progressing on to senior positions, including his current role as president and chairman of the Central and South Norfolk League. He represented the Norfolk County FA from 1981 to 2008.