It is with great sadness we announce that our groundsman, Brian Harwood, has passed away at the age of 73.
Brian, or as he was otherwise affectionately known, Woody or Hardboard, passed away yesterday doing what he loved, tending to the pitch here at our headquarters in Culver Road, Lancing.
A well-known figure on the county league circuit, in his playing days Brian turned out for East Preston Football Club in the West Sussex Football League before injury brought that period of his life to a close. However, he went on to have a long-standing involvement with the club, becoming Chairman and later the Director of Football. He also had a short stint as manager of Laurie Claydon’s Northbrook Football Club in the 1980s.
During his time with East Preston, he was instrumental, through his contacts, in converting the then clubhouse into a sports and social club, putting the club in a healthier financial position. He oversaw some very happy and successful times for the West Sussex side on the pitch, which of course he had a hand in maintaining too, eventually stepping aside with them playing in the Southern Combination Football League, as they still do today.
Brian joined the ground’s maintenance team at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Goldstone Ground in 1986 and stayed there for many years, coupling that role with also being the kitman. He would complete various jobs during his time with the Seagulls including fitting out the old club shop in Queens Road in the city.
He would later become Stadium Manager until the ground was sold in 1997. His time with Brighton was one he spoke fondly of and was the source of many tales of days gone by - especially the trip to face his beloved Manchester United at Old Trafford in January 1993.
Prior to joining us here at the Sussex County FA, Brian worked for South Coast Nursing Homes in a maintenance role, and in night-time security.
His love of grounds maintenance, saw him join us as a contractor back in January 2005, taking over pitch maintenance responsibilities from Len Ralph. Brian’s experience and knowledge was invaluable and well respected. The surface he managed to maintain despite sometimes in excess of 100 games a season, and a few harsh winter months, was testament to the dedication he had for his craft.
Not content with just being our groundsman, Brian also served as one of our council members between 2006 and 2012, although never one for meetings about a meeting, he helped serve the grassroots game through disciplinary panels and hearings and took a keen interest in our Representative Squads, travelling away to face fellow County FAs.
Remembering Brian, our Chief Executive, Ken Benham, said: “You could always count on Brian to raise people’s spirits, be that through a joke, one-liner, or opportunistic quip.
“Beneath that battled-hardened exterior ‘and moaning’ there was a kind, warm and generous man who had time for everyone, and was a friend to many throughout the Sussex football community.
“He was one of the old school, but willing to embrace change, as he did when we transformed the surface here at Culver Road from grass to a 3G pitch.
“His passion and love for groundsmanship was steadfast, when our pitch was grass, he would spend untold hours across the off season, renovating and nurturing the surface to ensure that come August, season upon season, it was the envy of many across the county.
“His companionship, comedic nature and staunch support of Manchester United, will be greatly missed by me and all of the team.”
All of us here at Sussex County FA send our heartfelt condolences to Brian’s family and friends at this sad time. We would also like to place on record our sincere thanks to all of the emergency services that were in attendance.
Sussex County FA
T: 01903 753547