Southwick football stalwart dies at 97

Geoff Philby, former secretary at Southwick Football Club and match secretary at Southwick Cricket Club
Geoff Philby, former secretary at Southwick Football Club and match secretary at Southwick Cricket Club

FOOTBALL stalwart Geoff Philby, a life vice-president of the Sussex County Football League, has died at the age of 97.

Mr Philby had a long association with Southwick Football Club and was also match secretary at Southwick Cricket Club for a number of years.

Remembered as a true gentleman who was always smartly dressed, Mr Philby died last Sunday at a care home in Sittingbourne, Kent, two weeks short of his 98th birthday.

He was born to Alf and Laura Philby, in the cottage by Houghton Bridge, Amberley, in 1917. His father was the foreman at Peppers chalk pits, now Amberley Museum, and his first job was to take the horses up from the pit to get them shod.

In his younger days, Mr Philby played football for Amberley, as part of a team that had nine Philbys in the line-up. Over the years, he also played cricket for Southwick, Amberley and Partridge Green.

Mr Philby went on to work at Southwater Brickworks, then moved to Southwick. He started work at H. Baker in Portslade in 1956 and was company secretary there until he retired more than 20 years later.

His son Ian, who was 15 at the time, started playing for Southwick FC, which began Mr Philby’s own association with the club. He stayed true to Southwick, even after Ian had moved on to Shoreham FC then Lancing FC.

Ian, of Norfolk Gardens, Littlehampton, said: “My endearing memory was Lancing playing Southwick in a cup match in the early 1970s and we beat them.

“They were top of Division One and we were very low down. We beat them 1-0 and I scored the goal, and he tried to get me sent off. That is how he was, he was Southwick through and through, even if his son was playing for someone else.”

Mr Philby regularly reported on games for the Shoreham Herald and former colleagues remember him for his comprehensive, handwritten match reports.

He was secretary at Southwick Football Club from 1964 to the 1980s and on the ground committee of the Sussex County Football League, from the time when ground grading first started.

He and his wife Betty, who he married in 1939, travelled around a lot, spending a number of years living in Littlehampton.

Ian said: “They were never apart, even during the war, as he was stationed in Scotland and she went with him.”

When Mr Philby was 89, he and Betty emigrated to France, and lived there with Ian and his wife for four years. Mr Philby was advised to return to England on health grounds, so they moved to Kent to be near their daughter, Anne, and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary there last year.

Ian said: “They absolutely loved him in France. He always had an England flag on his bike, and another one on his cap.”