MODEL professionals in an amateur game. That is how Worthing United Football Club’s Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt have been described after their tragic deaths in the Shoreham Airshow crash on Saturday afternoon.
Matt and Jacob, both 23, were not only team-mates but were best friends off the pitch. They were travelling together for United’s home match in the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division with Loxwood when they died after a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed into a busy stretch of the A27.
Mavericks manager Nigel Geary described Matt and Jacob as “two of the nicest guys you could meet” and admitted that the last thing the team was thinking about is playing a game of football.
He said: “I find it hard to look at our pitch and not look at Matt in goal and see Jacob scoring. It will be even harder looking at the pitch from the other side when I’m in the dug-out.
“I’ve already been in the changing room a couple of times and I find it hard to look where they sat.
“The squad are in bits, they don’t know what to do and they’re all coping with it in their own ways. The last thing anyone wants to do right now is even think about playing football.”
Nigel also managed goalkeeper Matt and midfielder Jacob on a Sunday for AFC Shoreham.
He said: “I’m very lucky to have spent a lot of time with both of them, for Worthing United and AFC Shoreham. It’s been Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday for almost two years.
“It’s a pleasure to have known two such amazing lads.
“Matt, Grimbles as he is known, is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
“He’d never have a bad word to say and it hit home what his mum said that, in 23 years, he never lost his temper.
“It went against the grain... as goalkeepers go, it’s the complete opposite of what you want a goalkeeper to be but he was still a great goalie. He had a really good future ahead and I know other clubs had already started talking about him.
“We met Jacob through Matt. He brought him to the club when I took over at the beginning of last season.
“Jacob hadn’t played for two years due to university but before that was at Eastbourne Town. He was a very talented midfielder, silky on the ball, could keep the ball for fun and was tenacious. He’d play against people twice his size and would give as good as he’d get.
“As people, their personalities matched. They were best friends and they clicked together, they travelled together and they were both quiet and reserved and wouldn’t say anything bad about anyone.
“They were model professionals in an amateur game.
“We’ve had thousands of messages of support from the whole football community and they’ve all been much appreciated.”
United vice-chairman Mark Sanderson admits the last few days have been a real struggle for the club and said: “I’ve had the unenviable task of dealing with the national press and it started off on Sunday morning when every news team around the country descended on our lowly little football ground.
“They were all suddenly very interested in us and it’s been quite difficult to deal with.
“As Nigel said, Matt and Jacob were model professionals in an amateur world.
“I’ve had Paul Barber, chief executive of Brighton & Hove Albion, supporting me throughout all of this, with Paul Camillin, so a huge thank-you to them. Without them, I’m not sure how I’d have coped.
“We’ve also got counselling which will be made available to anyone at the club who needs it.”
The club are unsure when they will next play. Mark said: “The SCFL have been extremely understanding, which we’re very grateful for. We need to see what the players want to do first and then talk to the league to see how long they give us before they expect us to play again.
“The players might want to get out there and start playing, for Grimbles and Jacob. They might turn around and say they don’t want to play for a while or even think about football, or a mixture of both.
“That’s an unknown at the moment, we’re almost taking it hour by hour. We’re just trying to close ranks, keep everybody together and just be there for each other.”
United chairman Steve Taylor added: “It’s very hard for all of us here, so we can only imagine what it’s like for the families.
“We’re not used to this as a football club and we’re dealing with it the best we can. Hopefully, the togetherness of the squad and also the football community, who have been fantastic, with their support and condolences, will get us through this.”
Worthing United thank everyone for their support, especially the SCFL and Brighton & Hove Albion, along with Nigel Baker – the referee for Saturday’s game – and opponents Loxwood, for how they handled the situation.
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