“My Tribute to my friend Ken Spence”

Yesterday the 24th January 2022, we all gathered at Bushbury Crematorium with Ken’s wife Jean and their girls ,Gayle and Lynne and not forgetting Jayne, who the family lost just a few years ago. Plus all their large family and friends. There was one thing uppermost in our minds. That was to celebrate Ken’s very full life. Then to give Ken a ‘good send off’. We certainly did that! It was a sad but insightful occasion.
I had agreed to a request by the family, to play a small part in building the picture, of our great friend and sports mate. This was my tribute to my good friend whom we will all miss.

The Tribute
“This is a sad occasion but it shouldn’t be!
Ken was a funster, a great man, who liked to laugh!
Those of us who knew Ken will have known him in many guises. I got to know Ken from the 60’s, when I first signed for the Royal London Football team he was running. I soon became a fixture at Ken & Jeans home- Sometimes an unwanted guest. Always turning up when they least wanted me there…and troublesome at times…But that is another story.

My part of this celebration is a kind of a role in prodding you about Kens lifetime love of football.
If it wasn’t for football maybe our paths would never have crossed. Just maybe Jean and the Girls would have had a quieter life. But life didn’t work in that way. Ken was like so many of us, football gets a grip. Then after that it takes over your life.

Ken became these teenage boys Guardian, Custodian, Manager and a lot more.
We were the extra responsibility, that attached ourselves to Ken and Jeans loving family. Because Ken did everything for all of us as a bunch of young lads. We all played for Ken first of all at The Royal London FC.
latterly Springfield WMC Some of us played with Ken before we made our debut in the Wolverhampton Sunday league
It was Ken that applied to get Royal London a place in the Wolverhampton Sunday League. Ken got approvals from all of us to apply to join the Wolverhampton Sunday League after a few games together. But we didn’t quite make it. However the Sunday League offered us a place in a newly formed ‘Friendly League’.

We took it!
(The Royal London FC our team were invited into the Wolverhampton Sunday Leagues new division 7 .
Those early days as Royal London were great days for us as youngsters many of the players came from Ashmore Park. Players like Robert Bradley, Dave Wiley, Steve Skitt, another like Peter Blanton, Maurice Mincher, Ronnie Dunn and Alan Dunn were from the Orchard Road and Wednesfield area as were Stuart Richmond, Frank Hill, Brian Hill and even young Robert Hill, Bernard Lane ‘Bash’Bowen, all who played for us. Ken was proud of his young team. They could play a bit (Well some of them could)
Ken always told the tale about Peter Blanton who got a trial with the Wolves when he was playing for us. Ken was proud of that. But he was also chuffed that when waiting in the dressing room at Molineux. In came Jimmy Armfield then Manager at Leeds, but he was THE England Captain and Full back for many years. Ken was forever telling me that he was a gentleman, a really nice person.

He was delighted that Peter was also there with him. He went on about that for years! Ken met them all, he was a big Wolves man. He met many of his heroes, Stan Cullis at a Sunday League dinner, Sammy Chung, Jack Taylor the World Cup referee was a long-time pal. Danny Hegan was also a big buddy, and at the time quite a football star. (see me later about Danny Hegan stories.)

Ken even managed to get Jimmy Mullen one of his heroes to referee a Charity Game. At half time Jimmy Gave up refereeing and played!

That Royal London Football Club morphed into Springfield WMC Football Club as Ken and Jean took up the Stewardship of the Club. Ken told me that he hated having to persuade us all to give the Royal London FC name up.

There were some good footballers that played for Ken. Yes, they came to play for Ken as much as to play for the team.
Ken was very much a ‘man’s man’. He loved a joke, he played terrible practical jokes on people. He was a good organiser, a very brave (Nuts) Goalkeeper, when we were forced to have to look for a player, through injury holidays etc. He was a former Soldier, and he often told me about the scrapes he got into in the Army!

Ken was always quick to make friends and he had such a wide range of people he had become friends with.
I first met Ken in Ashmore Park. I lived in Millbank Street, Ken and Jean lived on Kitchen Lane with their three young girls, Gayle Jayne and Lynne. I think that I was introduced to Ken in those days by Steven Skitt and who was already playing for the newly formed Royal London team.

In those days Ken worked for Taylors of Stoke on Trent, a kind of travelling salesman, before that I think he was a Milkman, then he became a Postman, he run the Stars Newsagents on Ashmore Park for a short time. He was one of the original guys who worked for Wolverhampton Wanderers supporting the Club with sales of the clubs’ various commercial deals with the supporters. I used to take the mickey out of him in that Gold and Black van he used to drive about in. You could see it everywhere!

Ken and Jean became very well known as the Stewards of a number of Social and Working Men’s Clubs here in the city. Ken and Jean ran the Jones Road WMC, Springfield WMC, Chillington WMC and the Heath Town WMC.
When we applied to join the Wolverhampton Sunday league – No one would have thought that a few short years later Ken would be elected as the Secretary of one of the biggest Leagues in the Midlands .

Others in Amateur Football also recognised Kens abilities, his love of football, and the talents he possessed in organisation. He became the Secretary of the Wolverhampton Sunday League. He was a good organiser and most people liked his character, and his ‘hail fellow well met, attitude to life’.

I have a very clear image in my mind of a great bloke, who loved his family, and who loved life, as long as there was an element of football in it! Wolverhampton and Wednesfield will miss this man, as will the football family who knew him, met him, and became lifetime friends with him.

Dearest Ken. You made a massive contribution in keeping young people out of trouble, you and Jean and the girls gave the biggest and most massive gift anyone can make to another. That is the gift of your own personal time. All of us here are here to honour you and your life.

Rest in Peace Ken”

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more