HEARTWARMING tributes have flooded in for dedicated ex-Lyme Regis player and club volunteer Ken Hitchcock, who last week passed away aged 80.

Lyme life-member Hitchcock played for the Seasiders as a goalkeeper and was heavily involved behind the scenes, right up until his death.

Such was Hitchcock’s involvement at Lyme Regis, chairman Howard Larcombe feels the former committee member is irreplaceable.

He told the Bridport News: “He was a real integral part of the club. He did an awful lot of work behind the scenes that people never saw.

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“All the non-glamorous work, Ken was there doing it. He watched the first team home and away for I don’t know how many years, and also the reserves.

“He never missed a game, so a very keen supporter as well as a helper. Of course, he was a player as well. He’s lived his whole life at the club.

“He’s going to leave a massive hole behind, shoes we literally cannot fill. We’ve got so much work to do now to try and cover what he actually did.

“He was a lovely chap, had time for everybody, happy to have a pint in the clubhouse and have a chat. Everybody got on with him, so it’s a sad day for the football club.”

Larcombe added: “It’s critical for clubs like ours to have someone like that.

“Without people like him, clubs just don’t function. Take that to one side, he was just a popular guy. Everybody loved him.

“He was a standalone helper, he would open and close up the club for non-football related groups that go there, such as Cancer Research and ukulele groups.

“He would make sure everything’s all right and he also did the car parking on the pitch for no fee. He refused to take any money for doing that.

“The work he put in really got us out of a hole financially.”

Hitchcock, a former Lyme Regis council employee for 30 years before becoming a councillor himself, was fondly known by his nickname of ‘Cooey’, believed to derive from the Small Faces’ hit song ‘Itchycoo Park’.

Hitchcock’s three sons, Matthew, Gerard and Andrew all played for Lyme Regis, with Andrew and Gerard also turning out for Bridport.

His daughter Catherine also played for the club before moving to Liverpool.

However, two amusing tales from Ken’s playing days stick in the mind of Larcombe.

He said: “He was renowned for a couple of incidents. He was sat on the crossbar when a goal went in, not doing anything.

“And famously at our old Sidmouth Road ground it got very fog bound.

“On one occasion he was in goal, caught the ball, stuffed it up his jumper, ran the length of the pitch, dropped it out, kicked it in the goal and the ref gave a goal because he couldn’t see any different!”

Meanwhile, Ken’s offspring also shared their memories of the club legend.

They said: “Saturday afternoons were for supporting Lyme Regis.

“Cooey took his boys to watch the matches at the Fort where we really saw his passion for his team. He could be quite a vocal supporter – he and Ken Caddy didn’t need to encourage each other too much.

“Any referee they felt had sleighted Lyme would be made to know it in sometimes colourful, direct and unambiguous terms.

“As his boys got older and started to play football for Lyme’s youth teams more often than not, Cooey took on the role of team manager, moving between the age groups we played in.

“Always there for us, always supporting us. Always dragging poor Catherine along to watch football.

“When we all graduated to playing for Lyme men’s teams he was really proud to see us playing for the club.

“When Andrew moved on to play for Bridport he used to try and watch him often, but only when Lyme weren’t playing.

“When Gerard broke onto the scene as a fast young whippet of a centre forward who scored lots of goals for Lyme he was truly delighted.

“Dad took on various roles to support the football club over the years. It was his passion. He served on the committee, he helped run the twinning trips with Creully, he looked after the bar, he ran the parking on the pitch to raise funds, and on and on.

“He loved exercising that passion and was very proud to be receive the recognition of life-membership.

“People say you should never meet your hero because you’ll end up disappointed. Well, Cooey really was our hero. He was a loving husband, father, grandad, brother-in-law, uncle, friend, and so many more things to us and you.

“When you have a hero like Cooey you are never disappointed.

“We know we have to let him go – but he’ll live on in every fibre of us. We’ll think of him every day, we’ll feel blessed by him every day, and we’ll always continue to make him proud.”