Crediton Football Club: Footballer In the Crowd – Geoff Lee

By Crediton Courier Newspaper   |   Editorial   |
Saturday 1st August 2020 6:04 am
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Crediton United in the early 1970’s, back row, left to right: Ian Grinney, Melv Steer, Chris Gillard, Geoff Lee, Jimmy Pearn, Jimmy Stewart, Don Teague and Pete Walton; front row, from left, John Gillard, Tony Elston, John Twitchin, Pete Martin and Terry Petherick. ()

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(Match day programme article from 1980’s)

GEOFF Lee’s football career as a goalkeeper was probably greatly influenced by his elder brother Graham who was a regular “between the sticks” for the Crediton United First team in the early 1960’s.

Both had played in the same Crediton Colts team in the 1959-60 season with Geoff understudy for Graham.

At one stage Geoff played in the Reserves team whilst Graham was the First Team goalkeeper.

His elder brother eventually married and moved to Newton Abbot to live and work so Geoff was able to take over the First team keeper’s gloves.

Like most youngsters back in those days there was little or no coaching or training available to youngsters and as the sports teacher at Hayward’s School, Jack Hayes, was an ardent rugby man no school tuition in the game of football was ever available.

Youngsters had to learn by watching others and mainly learning the skills of the game in seemingly endless hours playing on the football pitch in Newcombes Meadow.

With teammates and friends Chris and John Gillard, John Hurst, Jimmy Kenshole and others he would spend hours in all weathers kicking a ball about.

Geoff remembers fondly the winter of 1962-63 when they even practised with six inches of snow on the pitch.

In his late teens Geoff spent half a season trying his luck with the Exeter City Colts teams, training at St James’ Park and playing in the “B” Colts team before returning to Crediton United.

He also had a couple of season’s playing for the now defunct Friernhay Football Club at Flowerpots Playing Fields at Exwick.

His best years, however, were probably during Ian Grinney’s management reign between 1969 and 1974.

Ian recalls the time well: “Geoff was a really good goalkeeper but took more than his fair share of knocks.

"Without the protection that goalkeepers are now able to enjoy goalkeeping was a very physically risky position and during his career in goal he suffered numerous injuries not least of which were three broken arms, broken cheek and a broken ankle.

"On one occasion Geoff reacted to a really bad tackle from the opposing centre forward at Starcross.

"Geoff was sent off for the only time in his career. The Club defended the offence at a Disciplinary hearing and I and Ron Joslin, the linesman, had to report to the meeting.

"Our explanations of the incident were so different that the Committee knew we couldn’t have colluded with the evidence and let Geoff off with no fine or punishment.

"I was lucky to have two good goalkeepers during my time as manager - Geoff Lee and Andy Peters.

"I always used to say that ’I had the best singing keepers in the League - Peters and Lee – a popular national singing duo in those days’.

"Geoff’s only bad point was his horrendous snoring. Several times on end of season tours I roomed with him and I knew that if I didn’t get to sleep first I wouldn’t get off as his snoring was so bad.”

Despite his many injuries Geoff continued playing well into his 40s and after finally hanging up his boots took on the position of Reserves team manager and became involved on the Club Committee.

He had also always shown an interest in Club management as a teenager when the Club Committee used to meet in the basement rooms of the Old Oatsheaf Hotel Pub now the Indian Restaurant at the bottom of Searle Street.

There were some real characters on the Club Committee in those days and young players were allowed to attend meetings and get involved.

When the team selection committee were considering the players for the following Saturday’s games however, all players apart from the captains had to leave the meeting.

The young players used to hang around in the High Street until the team sheets were later posted in the Club notice board to see if they had been picked.

In 1979 it was decided to build a Clubhouse at Lords Meadow and Geoff and his building business partner, John Twitchin’s bid for the job was accepted by the Club.

The Clubhouse in the following years was a great success and the Club went from strength-to-strength on and off the field.

Geoff served a term as Club Chairman and was also manager of the Reserves team in the late 1980’s.

In appreciation of his service to the Club, Geoff was made a Life Member about 10 years ago.

In the 1990’s at one stage the Club was running four adult teams on a Saturday and with other teams also playing at Lords Meadow, the Clubhouse was a busy place.

Outside functions were in great demand and the Club was open regularly until late Saturday nights, Sunday lunchtimes and midweek for skittle teams.

Sadly Geoff died in April 2015 – R.I.P Geoffrey!! from all your friends.

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