KEITH Whatling said it came as a ‘complete surprise’ after receiving The FA 50-Year Service Award.
The 72-year-old was presented with the award prior to kick-off as his club Framlingham Town hosted Ipswich Town Under-18s in the CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup on Tuesday night.
He was presented with his award by Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal and Lee O’Neill, Ipswich Town’s General Manager of Football Operations.
Keith (centre) is pictured above with (left to right), Richard Neal, Lee O’Neill, wife Fiona Whatling and Framlingham Town stalwart Syd Vice.
Keith said: “I was on the car park when I was told Syd wanted to speak to me, so I made my way to the clubhouse.
“I never gave it a thought that I was going to receive this award, so it came as a complete surprise.”
Keith, who was born in Worlingworth, has been actively involved continuously in football in Suffolk for almost 57 years, in particular at Framlingham Town.
He first played football in season 1962-63 at the age of 15, turning out for his local village team Worlingworth.
When he was 16, he was signed by Ipswich Town in 1963, playing for their Youth team in the Mercia Youth League and for the club’s reserve team as well.
In 1965 he transferred to Exeter City, where he played in the same side as future Luton Town and Tottenham Hotspur Manager David Pleat and Dermot Curtis, who went on to play 17 times as a centre forward for the Republic of Ireland.
While at Exeter City Keith suffered a serious knee injury, and subsequently returned home to transfer to Chelmsford City.
In 1969, Keith withdrew from professional football, and joined Framlingham Town. From 1969 through to 2007, he played for the first, second and third teams of the club until he was 45 years old.
Keith, who worked as a general builder, said: “My one regret is that when I finished playing aged 45 there was no veterans’ league at the time as I would have enjoyed playing in that.”
He joined the committee at Framlingham Town in 1970 and has worked in a voluntary capacity for the club in both the Youth and Senior sections.
He is now a Life Member and Vice President of the club, where his wife, Fiona, is the long-serving secretary. Keith is also a life member and trustee of Framlingham Sports Club.
Keith is a very hard-working and dedicated member of both clubs, and over the past 50 years he has become a very much-respected figure in Suffolk football.