ALAN Gyte said he was ‘chuffed to bits’ after receiving an FA 50-Year Service Medal.
The 66-year-old, who is known as Ali, has been involved with Lakenheath FC for most of his career, after joining the club as a 15-year-old.
He played his first game on 9th April 1968, and established himself as the club’s first team goalkeeper.
He joined the club committee in the early 1970s, still serving as a member during brief spells at both Brandon and Beck Row, before returning ‘home’ and clocking up over 1,200 games.
When he stopped playing regularly he became the club’s first-team manager for three seasons from 1996-1999.
Although ‘retired’ from playing Ali was still called upon for the odd appearance for both the first team and Reserves, but his last game for the ‘Heath’ was at home against Long Stanton in the 2001-02 season.
After this most Saturdays Ali, who is pictured above receiving his award from Suffolk FA Director Bruce Badcock (left) as Lakenheath FC Chairman Kevin Fincham (right) looks on, would still be found down at the club acting as a linesman.
Ali took on the role of assistant manager, working alongside the club’s last five first-team managers from 2009 to the present day.
The club have this season joined Division One of the Thurlow Nunn League.
He can often be seen running around with signing-on-forms, transfer forms, making numerous phone calls, arranging transport, talking to sponsors, all of which make the manager’s job easier.
Ali has served on the Lakenheath FC committee as a general committee member, fixture secretary, secretary and finally vice-chairman from 2000-2015, tirelessly giving his time to the club.
He said the presentation came as a complete surprise, but club officials had arranged for not only his wife Peta but his son Ian and daughters Lesley-Ann and Katie and granddaughter Gracie to be present. They are pictured above after Ali received his award.
Ali said: “I was in the clubhouse getting changed when secretary Tracey Hannem said could she speak to me outside. All the players knew what was happening as they were watching and I was given a round of applause.
“I am chuffed to bits. I am proud to have been associated with this football club all these years apart from a couple of seasons away – the grass is not always greener – at first Brandon and then Beck Row.
“It means the world to me. I have been lucky and privileged to be associated with the club all this time and with the players I have known, many who have become friends.”