Winter’s experienced every high & low football can offer

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OVER the last half a century, Eastbourne United have experienced highs and lows, the sweet smell of success often tempered by tortuous years that at times have seen the club struggle to survive.

Attendances at the Oval have ranged from 3,000 to 30, depending on whether United were enjoying good days or suffering bad ones. Nobody is more fickle than the average football supporter.

One man, however, has stuck with United through thick and thin, doing every job imaginable behind the scenes and - what must be unique in local football - holding every admin position at both parent and supporters club level.

But after 43 years’ involvement, Barry Winter has decided to call it a day, relinquishing his place on the committee as well as the club presidency.

“I didn’t enjoy it last season and if you don’t enjoy it you shouldn’t be doing it,” Winter admitted to Herald Sport this week.

He will continue to support the team but instead of arriving at the ground on matchdays at 9am and remaining until 6.30 pm, he will get there in time for kick-off and leave at his leisure after the final whistle.

His sterling service over the years has been recognised not only by the club, but by the Sussex County and Eastbourne FAs, each having made special presentations.

Winter supported United as a youngster and played for the reserves under Bill Wheatley, but it wasn’t until 1970 that he became involved with the club as a match-day announcer.

Little did he realise that this was to be the start of a 43-year adventure during which time he was to hold every position available - chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer of both parent and supporters club. He has even managed the under-18 team, finally accepting the club presidency.

But at the age of 63 Winter has made the decision to quit, becoming increasingly concerned as the bulk of the work behind the scenes is shouldered by the few without new volunteers coming through. Too many people, he believes, shy away from committee responsibility.

However, although he did not enjoy his final season, Barry can look back on an abundance of memories. As a youngster he watched with admiration as his favourite United manager Gordon Jago guided the team to the glory days of the sixties.

But later, as the ‘Boon Babes’ went a long way towards restoring those former glories Winter was to reach the height of his administrative career, becoming chairman of the parent club, succeeding Keith Tocher.

The late Gerry Boon, also highly rated by Winter, once joked to Herald Sport, “If I need anything, I just sit the chairman on my lap and tell him.”

But sadly Winter’s time at the helm was cut short due to work commitments, although his work behind the scenes continued in full swing.

His most memorable moments came in the late seventies when United reached the last eight of the FA Vase and the following season defeated Hastings United in the FA Cup before a crowd of more then 3,000 at the Oval

Also watching Brian Dennis guide his talented side to the League and RUR Cup double in the 2008-09 season.

In the late eighties, with the support of Herald Sport, he spearheaded a campaign to get United out of the Isthmian League and into the Sussex County League, the main arguments being a reduction in travelling and better gates with the involvement of local clubs.

He felt at the time, though, United were ‘stitched up’ by the County League when the club found it had to go straight into division two.

There have, of course, been the lows with United more than once strapped for cash and on the verge of extinction. “With all the arguments we were having with the council, it was often sheer bloodymindedness that made us carry on,” admitted Barry.

But with all the improvements that have at last taken place at the Oval, he will be leaving the corridors of power with the knowledge that the club is in a healthier state than for some time.

And he feels a major factor in the gradual improvement over tha last decade was the merger with Shinewater which resulted in the experienced Les Aisbitt, Brian Dowling and John Pinyon climbing aboard the Oval ship.

In recent years, Winter has been a staunch member of United Veterans team, scoring from the penalty spot against an all-star celebrity team a few years ago. The matches have raised thousands of pounds for local charities.

He will, however, continue his sporting action with the Royal Sovereign Bowls Club and intends to watch as many United home teams as possible. “People will still see me at the Oval whether they want to or not!”

The truth is that Barry’s voluntary work for Eastbourne United Association will be sadly missed along with that of his wife Marianne who is also giving up her duties at the teabar after 20 years’ service over two seperate stints.