Alan Sheldrake: Top south Norfolk footballer

Footballer Alan Sheldrake, who has died aged 80, played almost 1,400 games in Norfolk in a career spanning five decades.

He made his first appearance for Diss Town Football Club as a 14-year-old in a match against an Italian prisoners-of-war XI in 1944.

And he went on to play for the Tangerines for the next 23 years at centre half, wearing the number four shirt.

After successful trials with Arsenal and also Tottenham Hotspur FC, which offered him a maximum �10 weekly wage, he decided to stay in his native Norfolk. It seemed a better prospect for a newly married man, so he moved to Syleham, with his wife Myrtle.

He joined his father-in-law, who ran the long-established Aldridge family thrashing business, which began in the 1860s in south Norfolk.

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Born in Diss, Alan George Sheldrake, who was known as Spud, played first team football until 1967 at Roydon Road, which was then the club's home ground. He was renowned for his skill as a play maker and also for heading the ball. However, decades of playing with a very heavy, leather football, according to his medical advisers almost certainly accelerated the onset of Alzheimer's, which marred the last years of his life.

He made a total of 1,392 appearances, later playing reserve and Sunday games for Diss. He did also play for other teams including Harleston and then latterly for Norwich City Supporters FC. An accident, when a heavy weight damaged his foot, put paid to his 40-year football career at the age of 54. He had always been a keen boxer, often as a sparring partner at Norwich, but also enjoyed table tennis and snooker.

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While football was a large part of his life, he also worked on the land later for Broadland farmer Willy Alston, of Billockby, near Acle, who also had a farm at Hellesdon. And his final years were spent working for builders, WF Pointer, until he retired. He had been a steward at Carrow Road for many years.

Diss Town FC held a minute's silence and players wore a black armband in his memory at the first home game following his death on November 5.

He leaves a widow, Myrtle, and daughters Sally and Trudy and a granddaughter Samantha. His older brother, Dennis, who lives at Roydon, also survives him.

A funeral service will be held at All Saints' Church, Poringland, on Wednesday, November 17 at 11am.

Michael Pollitt

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