Little Common Football Club player-manager Russell Eldridge was ‘absolutely overwhelmed’ by the turnout at Ken Cherry’s funeral.
Eldridge estimated between 150 and 200 mourners packed into Eastbourne Crematorium on Tuesday to pay their respects to the club founder and chairman, and many of them also attended a gathering at Highwoods Golf Club afterwards.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance at the crematorium and at the golf club afterwards,” said Eldridge. “I think that just shows the impact he had and how well thought of he was.
“As we pulled in (at the crematorium) and saw how far back everyone was standing and the fact that the line was a couple deep, it really kind of hit me. I think that was probably one of the hardest things.”
As well as many past and present Common players, including Cambridge United defender Leon Legge, the local football community as a whole was well represented.
Tracy Aston from Bexhill United and Hastings United director Dave Nessling were among those in attendance, along with representatives of the Macron East Sussex Football League and Sussex County FA.
Some even came from further afield such as the Oakwood FC manager and John Suter, now at Midhurst & Easebourne but who managed Eldridge at Horsham YMCA and the Sussex representative side.
With the morning rain and cloud having given way to pleasant sunshine, Eldridge, and brothers Daniel and Chris, helped carry Ken’s coffin along with several other people from the football club. The coffin was adorned with a Little Common scarf and a pair of football boots.
The service featured excellent personal tributes to Ken from Russell and Daniel Eldridge, poems, a eulogy from celebrant Alison Laing, and music from Nat King Cole (Unforgettable), Doris Day (Dream a Little Dream) and lastly Gerry and the Pacemakers (You’ll Never Walk Alone).
Floral tributes included a couple of beautifully-made football shirts in Common’s claret and blue colours, one of which even carried the name of first team sponsors Priceless Tools.
“It was a lovely service,” continued Russell Eldridge. “Everything about it - the readings, poems and music - was absolutely spot on. It was very, very tough, but it was a good send-off and he (Ken) would definitely have been proud.”
The flowers are now on the concreted area outside the entrance to the clubhouse at Little Common Recreation Ground and will remain on display during the match at home to Langney Wanderers tomorrow (Saturday), assuming it beats the weather.
A book of condolence will also be open at the club until the end of the season for opposing teams, managers, officials, visitors to the club etc to sign.
Eldridge added that one memory which seemed to stand out for many in attendance, particularly former players, was travelling to away games in the back of Ken’s old Volkswagen van.
He and the family wished to thank everyone who attended and those who sent him messages apologising for not being able to be there, but who were no doubt thinking of Ken at the time of the service.
On the field, Common are yet to contest a Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One game in 2016 because of the weather, although they have played three cup matches.
“We’re determined to get back out there, get back into league action and try to put some points on the board,” added Eldridge.
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