Despite early concerns about waterlogged pitches, excessive winds for gazebos and catering concerns, the Kennedy family and Ramblers brotherhood stepped up to the mark to put on a fabulous day in honour of Nick.
With a central open marquee and several gazebos in front of the Club House, there was adequate space for the very many Kennedy family, friends, guests and Ramblers to assemble and mingle in the dry.
Prior to kick-off there was a very moving ceremony with tributes to Nick by Heather Kennedy, Charles Shepherd, Tony Warren and an impromptu one by Referee, Jim Thompson. Heather presented the Captain of the Super Vets, Mark Yates, with the magnificent Kennedy Cup which is to be utilised as a Turnout Cup for the Super Veterans in the future. In particular, Heather made a most heartfelt and warm speech about Nick and his love for the Ramblers and her and her family’s gratitude to the organisers of the day and to the Ramblers and Nick’s family and friends who turned out in support on the day.
Tony Warren presented a bouquet of flowers to Heather from the Ramblers and finally there was the warmest of minute’s applause recognising Nick’s significant contribution to the Club he played for and served for over four decades in various roles – Fixture Secretary, Club Chairman, Veteran’s Captain and, finally, President in 2012.
Following a pre-match photograph of both sides, the match kicked off with the first referee, John Collier, who specifically wanted to referee ten minutes in honour of Nick despite being even more lame than most of the players! After substituting himself, Jim Thompson came on to take up the whistle and the game began in earnest. It was 2:2 at half time following an initial goal by Jim Byrne for the Ramblers cancelled out by Will Thomas for the Allstars and then Angus Whyte for the Ramblers and Eddie Jones for the Allstars. Inevitably, with many of the Allstars not having played for many, many years there were numerous injuries with double hamstring injuries to Darren Moorhouse and Will Thomas and unfortunately what looks like a serious knee injury to Tudor Williams. We wish him well. So bad were the injuries that the Allstars squad ran out of substitutes and two spectators, Roger Pointon and Peter Bibby, had to come to the rescue! Despite this, there were some notable performances from Andrew Tyrer, Nick Okell, John Ogden, Andrew Molloy and Peter Kennedy for the Allstars who managed to hit the frame of Chris Kingsford’s goal on no less than four occasions.
For the Ramblers, there were some great performances from the man of the match, Chris Kingsford, defying his considerable years and waistline and also Robin Kendal, Tony Warren, Jim Byrne and Angus Whyte.
Following an amusing, if very un-Rambler like spat with Andrew Higson, David Arthur, on his last game for the Club, scored the winner with a header to end the match 3:2. Still time for further drama, the most athletic of goal line clearances by Tony Warren from a Roger Pointon header in the last minute prevented an equaliser.
Football was without question the winner, the players thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite the injuries and on the final whistle there was the heartiest of three cheers from both Captains & sets of players.
Following the match, the players and spectators retreated back to the “tented village” for beers and wines generously sponsored by the Kennedy family together with a BBQ. Much fun was had by all concerned. It really was a classic Ramblers afternoon when everyone got together to contribute to a fantastic day which was enjoyed by one and all.
The final word from Heather Kennedy in an e mail received this morning:
“I wanted to thank those who turned up to play and spectate on what started off as a foul morning, but which brightened up pretty quickly. The day was hugely enjoyable and Peter, Tim and I were truly touched by your generosity and turnout.
Nick was a lovely man and a great friend. I really do think a strength of the Ramblers is the support and friendships it fosters. He would have been astounded.”
I think that says it all. The Skippers have agreed an intention for this to become an annual fixture.
C. R. L. Shepherd