My affinity with the Borough of Greenwich goes back a long way – I was born in Plumstead in the late 50’s and I went to school at Conway Primary in Gallosson Road (where I later became a school governor) and then at Shooters Hill Grammar School in Red Lion Lane, Woolwich. I have very fond memories of my early childhood and I was extremely fortunate to live in a road that had Plumstead Common at one end of it and Winn Common just a few minutes walk away.
My early memories of Plumstead are of a quiet, almost country town with small shops owned by people who knew the names of all their customers. It was dominated by Beasley’s Brewery which occupied most of the main part of the town and indeed several of my relatives used to work there, including an old uncle – I say uncle, he and his wife were great friends of my grandparents and we all referred to them as Uncle and Aunt – who became the night watchman and I remember popping in to see him from time to time with my Dad. I still remember the evocative sight of the magnificent dray horses leaving through the main gates in Lakedale Road. Sadly, all that’s left to mark the fact that Beasley’s Brewery was in Plumstead is the road named after it – Brewery Road. The other large employer in the town was the United Dairies depot, a place that I got to know very well as my first ever job was as a ‘milk boy’, helping yet another of my uncles (a proper one this time!) on his weekend milk-round.
At that time, the main shopping area for the people of Plumstead was Woolwich, with its colourful market and shops such as Garratt’s and Cuffs in Powis Street, the places where all the school uniforms for Plumstead schoolchildren were bought and which surely must have been the models for the iconic 70’s sitcom ’Are you being served?’. The Royal Arsenal, with its imposing, huge wall was always a place of mystery to the locals.
On leaving school I went into banking with Midland Bank Ltd and my first ever branch was Wellington Street, Woolwich. I remember that my manager, Norman Geary used to come to work in a bowler hat and he always carried a rolled umbrella, the quintessential ‘Captain Mainwaring-type’ bank manager.
Although I enjoyed playing rugby for five years at Shooters Hill, my over-riding passion was football – both playing it on Sunday mornings and of course, watching my team, Charlton Athletic at The Valley. My heroes included the likes of Eddie Firmani, Keith Peacock, Charlie Wright and the incomparable Derek Hales. If someone had told me at the time that I would become friends with all of these icons of the Club and in the case of Hales and Peacock actually play with them for the Charlton Athletic Veterans Team, I would never have believed them.
As a supporter of Charlton, I was at The Valley that fateful day with my Dad, when the club clumsily and insensitively informed us of its intention to move the club to Selhurst Park – it seemed like the end of the world. Ironically, just a couple of years later I found myself heading to Selhurst Park on a daily basis as the Club’s new Commercial Manager, a position I held for three years before moving to The Football League. After 9 years at The League and one season at Swindon Town, I returned to Charlton Athletic in 2000 to support Chief Executive Peter Varney. It was an amazing time for the Club as we won promotion to the Premier League and stayed there for some seven years. Sadly, two relegations in three seasons saw me leave at the end of the 2008/09 season to embark on a new career as a freelance marketing consultant.
Greenwich is still playing a big part in my life as, in my role as an Ambassador of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT), I work closely with my colleagues at the Trust on a number of projects and I am honoured to be the Chairman of the Charlton Athletic ‘Back at The Valley’ 30th Anniversary Committee, which has been set up to organise a number of commemorative events to celebrate the iconic return to The Valley in 1992 and also the launch of community work at Charlton the same year.
As a Plumstead boy, one of the most rewarding aspects of my work has been as a founding Trustee of Greenwich Starting Blocks Trust, which was originally established in 2007 to identify and financially support talented young Greenwich-based athletes to help them to achieve their sporting dreams of representing Team GB in London 2012, when Greenwich was an Olympic Host Borough.
Growing up playing football on Winn Common, using ‘jumpers for goalposts’, the Olympics was something that happened in far off lands such as Tokyo and which we watched on grainy black and white televisions. We would never have believed back then that the Olympics would one day be staged in Greenwich and Woolwich.
Since our launch in 2007 we have seen Greenwich Starting Blocks-backed athletes such as Gemma Gibbons, Zoe Smith, Tosin Oke, Susie Rodgers and Daryll Nieta, winning Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and World Championship medals. My fellow Trustees and I are all extremely proud that such a small charity has been able to assist and support so many young Greenwich-based athletes to achieve their sporting dreams.
Sadly, the last two years have been difficult for Greenwich Starting Blocks as the lockdown period prevented us from staging our annual fundraising Dinner, which in essence was our main source of income. This plus a change of direction at Greenwich Council in terms of charitable priorities and the retirement of some trustees, has meant that we are now in discussion with Greenwich Leisure Limited as to the best way the resources of Greenwich Starting Blocks can be best utilised to continue to support talented young Greenwich athletes.
It’s just occurred to me – ‘From a milk-round to the Olympics – via Charlton Athletic ’ – now that’s what I call a title of a book!