Dulwich Hamlet lost one of its oldest supporters last week when the Camberwell-born fan passed away aged 88, Kirsty Purnell writes…
John Stephens was a loyal supporter of the Champion Hill side since 1937 and witnessed a range of iconic moments and matches in the club’s history.
Most notably, Mr Stephens, who grew up opposite the old cinema in Camberwell, saw the boys in pink and blue score their last ever FA Amateur Cup win in 1937.
He was also in the terraces to see the Nigerian football team take to the field barefoot in 1949 and was also one of the 27,000 to attend the Hamlet’s biggest post-War attended match.
“The most amazing thing was trying to get him to talk about the old memories. The great memories of the great players from the 1940s and the 1950s,” said Mishi Morath, Community Liaison Representative on the Dulwich Hamlet Football Committee. “It was always wonderful to hear the anecdotes from someone who’d actually seem them playing,” he said.
After relocating to Andover in 1967, Mr Stephens took a brief hiatus from Champion Hill, but began returning to watch matches in the 1990s.
He continued to travel in for the occasional match with his son Cliff until earlier this year, when his failing health made it too difficult.
The devout fan, who had Parkinson’s and dementia in his later years, will be dressed in his pink and blue scarf during the funeral service next week.
“He was a typical Dulwich fan from the old days. When you move from south London, football is where your heart is, you can’t change that,” said Mishi.
“He was a quiet and caring person,” said son Cliff, who is the third generation of Hamlet supporters in the family. “He had quite a dry sense of humour.”
The family are encouraging well-wishers to make a donation to Dementia UK.
The funeral service will be held in Andover on Monday, July 3.