Keith Peel - Norfolk sport mourns 'a true friend'

DAVID THORPE Norfolk sport lost one of its greatest advocates and ambassadors this week with the sudden death of former EDP sports editor Keith Peel.

DAVID THORPE

Norfolk sport lost one of its greatest advocates and ambassadors this week with the sudden death of former EDP sports editor Keith Peel.

Tributes have been pouring in for a man who, in a career spanning 39 years, won respect not only for his encyclopaedic knowledge, in particular of Norfolk football and cricket, but also for the passion with which he fought to ensure that the coverage and profile of all grassroots sport was never compromised.

Richard King, the Norfolk FA's football administration officer, described him as “a friend to football” while Stephen Skinner, secretary of Norfolk County Cricket Club, said “in the very broadest sense he has always been Mr Norfolk cricket.”


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John Bettridge, chairman and general secretary of cricket's Carter Cup competition, said: “He's going to be dreadfully missed and will be a very hard act to follow.

“The Carter Cup and local cricket in general will be very much poorer for not having him around. But it's not just cricket that will miss him. He also did so much for local football as well.”

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That gratitude will be demonstrated at every Lovewell Blake Anglian Combination football match this weekend when teams observe a minute's silence in his honour before kick-off.

“He was a very special person in local football,” said fixtures secretary Colin Reeve. “He has been a tower of strength for our league for as long as I have been involved, which is over 30 years.”

Stuart Bartram, a former EDP colleague as well as chairman of the Lovewell Blake Norfolk Alliance, said: “Keith was a true friend of Norfolk cricket and of the Alliance in particular.

“This has come as a great shock. More than just a chronicler of the county's cricket scene, Keith was a true fan of the game and he and his wife Ros were very familiar and very welcome visitors to many club grounds. On behalf of all Alliance clubs I would like to say how sad this news is and he will be truly missed.”

Swardeston club captain Peter Thomas added: “Keith has been a true friend of our club since our early days in the 1970s playing village cricket.

“Over the years, as we have continued to develop as a club, Keith remained a constant help in reporting our successes. Many other clubs I know would have also benefited from his support.”

Among many other things, Keith was the man who single-handedly compiled the EDP's mind-bogglingly comprehensive Monday morning reviews of the weekend cricket throughout every summer - turning his attention to the local football scene during the winter.

“His columns were like a bible for all followers of local cricket,” said Mr Bettridge, who revealed that Keith had been a key figure in plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Carter Cup next year, having volunteered to put together a history of the competition.

Throughout my 13 years at the EDP, Keith was always the unquestioned cornerstone of the sports department, and the man who did most to establish and maintain its unrivalled depth of coverage.

Many a forgetful press secretary has had cause to be grateful for Keith's diligence in ensuring they did not miss their place in a weekly round-up. Many other officials will testify to his willingness to squeeze in a late plea for opponents or to help publicise a fund-raising venture.

For Keith did not just love his work, and especially the people and sports it brought him into contact with. He lived it.

His constitution was as legendary as the sometimes cruelly acerbic wit, which could be unsettling for the uninitiated but was one of the most endearing features for those who knew him well and were willing to return with interest.

Until his shock heart attack last year, I had never known him to miss a day through illness. Even then he couldn't wait to get back to work to resume his much-missed usual service and refused to accept any slackening of his workload.

However demanding the task - and Keith seemed to savour the toughest of them, including the weekly minefield of combining countless hockey reports into readable, comprehensive reviews - it was always a passion, more of a crusade than a chore.

Nothing illustrates the point more than his devotion to cricket. When I say he never missed a weekend, the uninitiated may assume some licence. Not so. Even on his summer holidays he still refused to relinquish the gargantuan task of writing and producing Monday's comprehensive spread.

As for what he did on those holidays, you would not be surprised to find they always coincided with Norfolk's annual festival at Lakenham or Horsford. His idea of the perfect break was to sit in a deckchair alongside wife Rosalyn, and enjoy watching cricket without having to write about it afterwards.

Though it might seem so to those who didn't know him, it wasn't a case of all work and no play. To Keith every day's involvement in newspapers writing about sport was play.

Keith at times had little patience for colleagues who might, in his earshot, make the mistake of decrying their lot, especially those privileged to be paid to travel the country watching from the best seats in the house.

He always identified with the true fans, especially those who spent fortunes and devoted every spare hour to following their favourites or, even more, to helping run a club for the benefit of others.

To a large extent that's what he did for EDP sport. And in doing so he played a much bigger part in helping the cause of Norfolk sport.

It's a cliché to mark the passing of a stalwart of local sport by describing him or her as irreplaceable. In his case, though we will do our best to uphold the values he held dear, it is no cliché, it is the truth.

A LIFETIME OF JOURNALISTIC EXPERIENCE

Keith Peel, who was 58, was born in Leicester and lived there until the early 1960s, when his family moved to Yarmouth.

He continued his education at Great Yarmouth Grammar School and joined the company, then known as Eastern Counties Newspapers, in 1967. After spells as a news reporter at our offices in Thetford, King's Lynn and Yarmouth, he joined the sports team in Norwich in 1973. He was appointed assistant sports editor in 1977 and served as sports editor from 1980 to 1993. He is survived by his wife, Rosalyn, father Harold, brothers Brian and Colin - and two children - Keith and Caroline.

t The funeral will take place at St Faiths on Thursday, October 19, at 2.45pm.

t In addition to flowers, it has been requested that donations be made to the balloons4hearts appeal, which is raising money to allow ground-breaking angioplasty heart surgery to be fully implemented in the county. To donate call 01603 435816 or email to enquiries@balloons4hearts.co.uk

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