Their stories, as adapted by Dave Wilmott.
John started playing senior football with Southwick FC when 14/15 years old, playing in four leagues over the weekend. School League on a Saturday morning, Southwick in the afternoon then on Sunday it was Hangleton followed by Quayside Youth Club. At 16, he moved away for a few years, playing locally in Portsmouth and then a season in the Southern League.
On return to Shoreham, John played for Midway before Alf Ford and Brian Wells invited him to play for Lancing where he stayed for about 11 years and remembers changing under the old main stand and running to get in the showers quickly after the game before the water went cold! He experienced winning promotion, the Div. 2 league cup and the Brighton Charity Cup a couple of times, (often meeting Whitehawk in the final). He played Bognor several times in the Sussex Senior cup, losing narrowly on a couple of occasions. During one season at Lancing, John had the privilege of playing with Ian Gould, then the England cricket team wicket keeper.
One of John’s most memorable moments came in a Div. 1 league game at Hastings, then in third place. Lancing were second from bottom and only a win would prevent relegation. The club arranged travel by coach. The game was a thriller. At 2-2 with about 15 minutes to go Lancing were awarded a free kick; some will say it was 25 yards out, but John (displaying characteristic modesty) reckoned it was 35 yards – at least! He took the free kick and the ball cleared the wall before flying into the far top corner of the net, leaving the Hastings and Sussex County goalkeeper helpless. Cue the celebrations. John ran around the pitch, hands aloft to the dugout where the management, subs and then all the players bundled on top of him. It remains one of his greatest feelings in football. The coach trip home was filled with nonstop singing and celebrations.
John left Lancing after a disagreement with the manager who, when fit, kept playing himself instead of John. Players and supporters were sympathetic because they knew he was playing well at the time but he didn’t see a future at the club and stopped playing County football at 42, subsequently returning to Lancing as assistant to Andy Gander, with the reserves. The following season they ran the first team for a couple of years, before moving on to Wick FC.
John returned to Lancing, yet again, in 2015/2016 when Ash Bailey took over from Richard Whittington who stood down in early September. Lancing had a good season that year, finishing 3rd in the league and winning the Peter Bentley Cup. The following season, 2016-2017, again early September, Ash decided to stand down, and John was asked to continue managing the team until a manager could be appointed. There were several applicants for the vacant position but he was absolutely thrilled to bits when the players made it clear to the committee that they wanted him to become the manager. It was one of his proudest moments in football when he was appointed the fulltime manager of Lancing first team. Malcolm Saunders, who was already at the club, stayed on to assist him then in February of that season, Nigel Geary joined us and became part of the management team. When Ash left, a couple of players did as well but John considered that he was very fortunate to have a core group of talented, loyal players. It was a small squad of first team players, with a very young group in the reserves, soon to become the under 21’s league, as support. Despite the demands, John thoroughly enjoyed his role. Lancing lost a couple of players to other clubs purely for financial reasons but John understood their decisions when they were being offered attractive amounts of money.
John says his philosophy as a manager was that everyone was there to enjoy themselves, management as well as players, and he encouraged the lads to express themselves and simply play their football. John had a calm approach and regarded himself as very approachable whilst recognising it was not possible to keep all the players happy all the time. He felt that that was the hardest part of management, having to disappoint players who had been looking forward all week to a game of football, giving up their time for no reward, only to find themselves occupying a place on the bench. John was extremely proud and honoured, which was a credit to his player, when other managers, committees and parents of young players looking for a club openly expressed the view, that they thought Lancing were the best footballing team in the league, (please also see below some comments made by some Lancing supporters). John has high regard for Lancing’s loyal supporters and, particularly enjoyed the atmosphere created by the nonstop singing and encouragement from the Lancing Ultras (a group of teenage supporters). John says the players loved having the Ultras around and appreciated the effort and lengths they went to, to get to some of the away games.
John recalls some great wins by Lancing, especially the away RUR 3rd round cup game on 31/10/2017 against Haywards Heath. Lancing lead twice, Lew Finney getting two, one from the penalty spot. Heath equalised in the 89th minute. Neither side could find the net in extra time and Lancing went through 4-3 on penalties, with keeper Tyler D’Cruz netting the winner. The celebrations on the pitch, with the Ultras, were great to see, but then the joyous singing and jumping around in the changing room was something very special and emotional. In John’s two seasons as unpaid manager, Lancing finished mid table, which many thought was an acceptable position, considering that players gave their all without any financial reward.
By far the lowest moment of John’s short managerial career was the 12-0 hammering at Newhaven. It seemed that every time Newhaven kicked the ball forward, it went in the goal! John had selected a decent side, but recognises that freak results happen now and again. Nevertheless, he found this very hard to take. What made it worse was the fact Lancing had already beaten Newhaven away in the league earlier in the season.
After two proud enjoyable seasons, John made what he considered one of the hardest football decisions of his life. He thought, rightly or wrongly, that it might be in the best interests of the Lancing football club that he should stand down. His reasoning for this was that he thought maybe somebody new might have connections, or be able to obtain resources to enable the club to move forward. Money for clubs to survive or improve facilities is a must but paying money to players at this level, except for travel expenses, is something he does not agree with, especially when so many grounds desperately need re furbishing.
John says he has seen many own goals, but one of the best his very own from just near the half way line. He turned and lobbed the ball back to his keeper, Terry Gosling, but the ball caught on the wind and just kept on rising and sailed over his head and into the net. Another memorable incident which sprang to John’s mind was a game at Saltdean. Management realised the team were a man short, but after a few raised voices a little head popped out from the loft hatch in the roof of the changing room and there was the ‘missing’ player, Adam Hunt, with a big grin on his face. More humour recalled by John was after a game at Crawley Down. Andy Gander was standing in the shower area giving the team a debrief when all of a sudden, the showers came on and soaked him. One of the lads said he had accidently lent against the shower tap. Needless to say, Andy was not amused.
Times have changed and so, in John’s opinion, has the way football is being played. Some prefer the faster, hard tackling no prisoners taken games of the past, whilst others prefer the ‘beautiful game’, keeping possession at all costs. John considers himself to be somewhere in the middle. He finds it very frustrating when a team has a corner, a good attacking goal scoring opportunity, only for the corner to go short and the ball end up back with the goalkeeper then to be lost half a minute or so later near the half way line. Possession in football is key but does not always make the game more attractive. A subject in John’s view that many could discuss all night long without ever agreeing.
John regards himself as very fortunate that his son, David, also has football, `in his blood’, and he thinks it’s brilliant that he has been a player for Lancing FC for so many years. He started taking him to Lancing games from about the age of 4 where he would come in to the changing rooms and mix with all the players then stand quietly in the shower area whist Alf was giving the team talk. Fortunately, David was very good at leaving what went on in the changing to it staying in the changing room. He would then go and sit with his grandad in the old stand and watch the game. There have been 4 generations of ‘Sharmans’ at Lancing games for many a year and John has been delighted to see there were still 4 generations at Lancing games until 3yrs ago when, sadly, John’s Dad passed away. John is extremely proud that David has followed in his footsteps by playing a large part of his career at Lancing. David’s son, Lewis, is also a very keen footballer, currently playing for Lancing Rangers. John thinks it would be really special if Lewis was also able to follow in his Dad’s and Grandad’s footsteps by playing for Lancing and, at some point, pass the number of appearances made by both.
Both John and David both began youth football in Brighton, and have in many ways had a remarkably parallel footballing journey in their local playing careers.
There are so many players that John has played with at Lancing and it’s impossible to write about them all but he would like to mention a few that people might remember from many years ago; Dave Menzies – hard as nails, fully committed and never shirked a tackle. John Bailey – feisty aggressive skill full midfield/forward goal scorer. Dave Stevens – tall lean quick centre forward who was a natural goal poacher. Des Guile – a skilful midfielder who took John’s advice that he would be better suited at full back. He took the advice and a little while later played for Worthing at full back. John remembers, with sadness, Mick Green, an electrician in his 20s, who died as a result of an accident on Palace pier.
A few opposition players; Keith Cheal – great goal keeper who was always very annoying because he just did not stop bellowing out instructions to his team mates or verbals to opposition players. Herbie Smith – man mountain wide midfielder who had thighs like tree trunks. John and teammates used to line up in 2’s or 3’s to get a tackle in on him and he always played down the side of the pitch where the most supporters were. Glen Geard; very talented goal scoring midfielder who had a nasty streak especially when making a tackle.
The top teams from the league in John’s playing days at Lancing were usually, Burgess Hill, Whitehawk, Littlehampton and Wick. John thinks it is strange how two of those teams have done really well and play at a much higher standard now and the other two are in the league below Lancing.
Lancing FC is, and has always been, in John’s opinion, a great club with great people and a great place to play football.
Have enjoyed some excellent football played by Lancing F.C. over several seasons. They have a great bunch of lads playing for them and a great management team. The venue at Culver Rd. is superb.
Please see below comments, recalled by John, made on social media from supporters of Lancing FC;
Sam Clayman March 8 ,2018
Fantastic team, brilliant staff and a very happy and proud sponsor of Lancing Fc (Evolt Electrical Limited)
Geoff Patmore February 16, 2018·
A lovely club, lovely atmosphere, great games and superb lemon drizzle cake, c’mon you yellows
David Wilmott April 28, 2017·
Have enjoyed some excellent football played by Lancing F.C. over several seasons. They have a great bunch of lads playing for them and a great management team. The venue at Culver Rd. is superb.
David (Dave) Sharman: his footballing life
Dave was always football mad and from an early age shadowed Dad John all around the County ‘watching’ him. This often involved setting up a little match against the opposition’s boys at the side of the pitch. Being in and around the changing room and matchday atmosphere gave him an appetite and desire to be there at every opportunity. He was, however, a ‘late starter’ to any organized football, not joining the local “Fishersgate Flyers” until 10 years of age.
As a high scoring flying, tricky winger, he represented Brighton Schools, alongside a few team mates who went on to play at the top level of Professional football, and Rugby!
From Fishersgate Flyers the next natural step, was to Southwick FC, being their youth feeder team. In 1995, at the age of 16, Dave played for Southwick FC Youth having been transformed from winger to full-back.
A year later, his Senior team (then in Sussex County Div1) involvement began.
After a couple of seasons with Southwick Dave was ‘invited’ to switch across the Adur by the current Lancing manager, Andy Gander, assisted by Dad, John, and Steve Fermer. Here he stayed, surrounded by the old stand, old changing rooms and old tea hut for 4 years (1999-2003) the first of which saw promotion from Div 2 to 1 but unfortunately followed immediately by relegation the following year.
2003/04 season saw the majority of the Lancing players and management team move along the coast to Wick FC where Dave was to play for the next 7 seasons, being employed in almost every position. Wick gained promotion as Runners up in Div 2 before maintaining a steady top 5 position in Div. 1 under Carl Stabler, who was eventually to become Andy Gander’s successor. During Dave’s final season at Wick, the club lifted the Brighton Charity Cup.
Dave regarded his time playing for Andy Gander for 7 seasons as an interesting period, with a stable core of players, who had all become very good friends and who knew how to bounce off and motivate each other. Dave recalls some amazing laughs during this time!
The switch to Carl Stabler, as manager, who had a ‘win at all cost’ mentality, came with big expectations of success, and the signing of big-name players. This took a little time to adjust to the different approaches.
Dave considers that these first 13 years of senior football spoilt him in terms of memories, experiences and friendships. It was a different era, a different way of doing things (not necessarily all for the better!) and a different atmosphere. A real tight knit family feeling at most clubs running from players through management, volunteers and supporters yet some fierce battles and rivalries on the pitch.
In 2010 Dave returned ‘home’ to Lancing under the management of Martin Gander, Andy’s older brother. With a squad full of quality, Lancing immediately gained promotion finishing 2nd in Div2 (only 1 point behind Champions AFC Uckfield) and in that same season managed to set records, progressing to the 4th round of the FA Vase narrowly losing away at Holbrook (Derby).
This was followed the very next season by also finishing 2nd in Div 1, just 3 points behind Champions Three Bridges. During this second spell at Lancing, Dave was honoured by being selected to represent Sussex.
During his time at Lancing Dave recalls some amazing memories, mostly in the form of various cup runs….
In 2011 Lancing travelled to Holbrook in Derby for the last 32 of the FA Vase.
In 2013 playing Bognor away (but no mention of the score!
In 2016 winning the Peter Bentley Cup.
In 2018 in the FA Cup, against the odds Lancing beat higher league Haywards Heath away, followed by Greenwich Borough 7-3 away, both prompting scenes that will be remembered by Dave and everyone for a long time.
Not to mention the numerous glorious away days. Win lose or draw it is usually a great day out.
And, of course, Volare!!
Dave has now played at Lancing for a total of 15 years, over two spells. When the league season commenced on 5th September 2020, Dave found himself perched on the brink of reaching the incredible milestone of 400 senior appearances for Lancing FC. Preparations for the season began with a friendly at Culver Road, in which Dave played, helping his team to a 6-1 win. The opening league game was against Lingfield at Culver Road and Dave was in the team who earned a well- deserved 6-1victory. The next two games saw Dave warming the substitutes bench without an appearance. Not in the team or on the bench for the away game against Crawley Down Gatwick. A substitute appearance against Peacehaven, followed by five games when Dave had four non-playing substitute roles and one absence. But Dave was rewarded for his patience with starts against East Preston, Build Base vase games against Worthing Utd and the final game before lockdown, Greenford Utd (sitting out the Sussex Senior Cup 6-1 win at Oakwood). Dave and all his fans will hope that COVID will not put an end to his journey. I am reliably informed that Dave is within touching distance of 400 game on 397. The pandemic has, yet again, caused the termination of league fixtures. But at the time of writing this, the Vase is scheduled to go ahead on April 17th, with a 4th round home game against Flackwell Heath. There is the possibility of other competitive fixtures but nothing concrete has emerged yet. Dave will be the first to acknowledge that football teams are not selected on the basis of sentiment but on merit. There is strong competition for places but his last performances will mean that he will certainly be in with a chance of selection for the next match and success in the Vase may provide the opportunity to get closer to the 400.
I have deliberately refrained from making any comment about age because Dave’s age has been no impediment to his ability to perform at a high level. He has clearly looked after himself
Looking back the past couple of seasons Dave feels that he and his Lancing team mates, have missed out on what would have been some more great memories… a potential league win and promotion. However, at times like this, his view is that we have all learnt that there is sometimes more to life than football – although it may be a struggle to really believe that.
Throughout Dave’s many years playing, there have been too many names for him to mention individually but he has had the pleasure of meeting lots of amazing people. Managers, Assistants, Coaches, Physios, Chairmen, volunteers, supporters (The Ultras!), team jokers, real winners, role models, club legends, local celebs, true gents and lifelong friends.
He has seen young careers starting out and long ones coming to an end.
He acknowledges that he learnt so much from a variety of people, starting with Dad John – an all-round great example and hard act to follow! His hope is that he has also been able to pass something on to others along the way.
Whilst the SCFL has not been active, because of Covid regulations, Dave, plus another 29 of the Lancing team, management, coaches and physio have been far from inactive. As an incentive to maintaining fitness, Matt Evans organised a charity run to raise money for Lancing and Sompting Food Bank. Lancing FC have a proud record of assisting the community, for example, supporting the Sussex to Africa project, which has seen some Lancing kit being used by children in Nigeria.
Support for the Fairtrade Foundation and Bala Sport, fundraising for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), donation to MIND and support for PAYPR, who offer tailored support services and advice to young people.
Two teams of 15 were formed. Team Md (Matt Daniel) and team Shar (Dave Sharman) The first team to run 500km during the month of February would be the winner. Also included were Mike Williamson, taking a year out and club legend Alex Bygrave, still in rehab after a serious injury a couple of seasons ago. It was a close-run thing, with some fine individual performances but team Md just pipped team Shar, 500.70kms to 495.93. A target of £300 was the aim but this was exceeded with £420 being raised. A highly praiseworthy achievement.
Dave’s son Lewis is now 12 and also currently plays for a local Lancing team. He often comes to Culver Road to watch with his friends, who are Lancing supporters. He and his friends are all keen to play for Lancing FC First team as soon as they can!
Dave is involved with coaching his son’s u-12 squad and he can see how the young kids look up to the Senior squad and have ambitions to be involved in it. Keen to play at the Culver Road facilities and to represent their home town. Therefore, although Lancing FC players are not professional, nor is it a professional club, Dave considers that we should continue to act as one and continue to be the role models the local young players want and need.
Dave would love to continue playing long enough to enable he and Lewis to play together, as he and Dad John did.
Just to round off, I would like to thank John and David for providing the background to what I hope will be an interesting read. It is mostly their words, with some editing by me. I hope they do not mind that I have had to take the liberty of omitting some detail, in the interests of space, but if you want to read more, you can always ask them to send you the full, unedited versions. Be prepared to burn the midnight oil!! Only Joking!
I have had the pleasure of watching Dave over several seasons and I am a great admirer of his calm and disciplined play. He has been a superb servant to Lancing FC and I sincerely hope we can give him a great cheer when (not if !!!) he reaches the 400 milestone.
I have no recollection of seeing John play during my playing days at Three Bridges in the Sussex County League. He is of a younger generation than me so we would not have faced each other, but I do have a Three Bridges FC programme from a game played between Lancing and Bridges on 11/1/1986 at Jubilee playing field. John captained Lancing. Also, in the Lancing team was someone who has become a familiar friendly person, in the capacity of being my postman. One Shaun Berrett (one of our 100 Club Members). I regret to say that I do not remember anything about the game but feel sure John would have had a stormer!!
Match reporter and committee member