Death of ex-Rebels boss and chairman Lelliott

JIM LELLIOTT, one of the team managers during Worthing Football Club's most turbulent post-war period, has died.

His funeral will be at Worthing Crematorium on Tuesday (June 5) at 1.40pm, followed by a celebration of his life at the Golden Lion, The Strand, Goring.

This is not an obitury (see the Herald for this, and tributes) but a recounting, for Worthing FC fans, of the period when Lelliott ill-fatedly took the helm at Woodside Road and experienced his most prominent spell in local football.

JIM LELLIOTT, one senses, would not be satisfied until he'd tried his hand at managing his town club. He had taken the Youth team to the 1982 Isthmian Youth Cup Final and won it, with his son, Paul, rarely, heading the equaliser and Russell Barnard getting the winner in a 2-1 victory from 1-0 down to Barking at Epsom.

Barnard was the son of Dennis, who was Jim's trainer with the Youth team and a business partner later in Barney's Pet Shop opposite West Worthing Station.

That youth success fired Lelliott and gave him confidence. Morty Hollis, club president, previously chairman, said: "He had the eye for a young player, that's why he and Barry Lloyd hit it off. But Jim was probably the best youth team manager we'd had until the current pair in charge came along."

Lloyd added: "Jim enjoyed his football enormously. He went out and got young players and brought them down to Woodside."

Later, with Worthing's fortunes sliding downhill, Lelliott got what he saw as his chance to try to turn things around.

Son Paul had been one of Lloyd's set of permanent 4-4-2 playing cards, out on the wide-right of midfield. He scored the equaliser in Rebels' famous FA Cup first round home victory over Darford, later that same year of 1982.

But by the time his father took over as manager Paul Lelliott had left the area for London and subsequently joined Chalfont St Peter and Wembley. The moment arrived when Worthing felt they were unable to attract any significant new manager from outside and Lelliott was burning to have a go himself

He took charge for the four months after Barry Youell quit in October 1990. His team, in Division 1, apart mainly from senior players Jim Heggarty, Phil Somers and Mark Dunk, was dependent on talented youngsters and senior players pulled out of parks football or the County League.

These were the increasingly embarrassing emergency years after the departure of Barry Lloyd to Brighton & Hove Albion in May 1986. Just four years and four months after Lloyd went, Lelliott became the 10th subsequent managerial appointment at Woodside and there were still three more to come before the following year, 1991, was out. Of these 13 managers - Keith Rowley was given the job twice in 16 months - five were sacked, Rowley twice.

Not counted are the temporary management duo of Eric Whittington and Butch Reeves, Youell's assistants, immediately after Youell resigned. Nor caretaker Brendan Quirke after John Murray resigned in October 1991.

Gerry Armstrong's arrival in November 1991 began to stop the rot, by which time, Rebels had, after four seasons in Division 1, arrived down in Division 2.

Lelliott, who had become general manager on Youell's departure, then started to run the team with John Mayer as chairman, the two already being in business in the local care home industry. Lelliott believed passionately in youth but was unable to turn Worthing's losing tide because of ever-thinning playing resources owing to a lack of finances, deepening club debt following the spending of the Premier Division days, and player suspensions.

Two games into Lelliott's tenure, Rebels hit the bottom of the table. Although they had not actually played a league game under Lelliott because they were first involved in an FA Cup tie with Dorking, of which they lost the replay after drawing 1-1 away.

Lelliott's fourth game was his only victory in his 18 games in charge. They beat Crawley Town in the now defunct Sussex Floodlight Cup, 2-1 at Woodside with goals by John Bailey and Mark Searle. The rest was a run of 14 mostly heavy defeats that culminated with a 9-0 defeat at Dulwich Hamlet that made it a miserable Christmas for Rebels fans, and a 9-1 loss at Hitchin Town in mid-January 1991.

Unfortunately, Lelliott's sides did not procure a single league point in his 12 starts. In the Sussex Senior Cup, Rebels went out 4-1 at home to the worst possible opponents, rivals Southwick, who under Alan Pook had emerged in Division 1 from the County League via the Combined Counties, were fifth in the table and would almost undeniably have gone on to reach the Premier Divison had they not been due to fail the ground grading.

Lelliott admitted defeat, stepped down and resumed as general manager while appointing Joe Boon to run the team instead. He and Mayer duly sacked Boon in May when Rebels were relegated from Division 1 after finishing bottom and conceding a then Isthmian League record 157 goals in 42 matches.

Lelliott remained a firm committee member and was chairman for a short while. An ideas man with a volatile temperament who liked to stick his neck out, but his heart was ingrained by Woodside Road. He had come out of playing parks football in the Worthing League for the early incarnation of Worthing United, a club based at George Bardey's burger bar in South Farm Road, south of the Orme Road junction.

In recent years, Jim Lelliott delighted in his son Paul's own son, James. Only recently, the 12-year-old was signed on by Portsmouth.

Paul said: "Dad was a father and best mate rolled into one. He was larger than life with his ups and downs. He always loved being fit and as a father, you take them for granted, but his health got worse in the last few months. He was on the waiting list for a heart valve by-pass operation. People are genuinely shocked to hear he's died. It was in his sleep. They said he wouldn't have known anything about it.

Morty Hollis admitted: "It is a shock. He was never a particular friend of mine but the last time I saw him he was running along the sea front, which he seemed to do every week. He would always stop and talk with me."

Paul Lelliott continued: "Whenever he did anything he tried to do so to the highest standards. Some of his business ideas worked, some didn't. He started Longacre in High Salvington with matron Mima Rabson, after advertising for one. They also founded a domiciliary nursing care agency. The home is highly regarded.That's why there's a waiting list.

"Managing the Worthing Youth team was a highlight of his life and when he heard the current team had won the Isthmian League Youth Cup, he was really pleased. He had a great passion for the game and just loved watching and talking about the game. Like Barry Lloyd, he wanted to give kids a chance. Through the famine and the feast at Worthing Football Club, he saw the solution of long-term continuity in youth.

"When Worthing had their chance to go into the Conference (after being Ryman League runners-up a second time in a two years, 1984 and 1985], he thought they should have taken what proved their only opportunity, even though he doubted whether they could survive financially."

See the Herald for obitury and tributes.