Published: 00:00, 15 May 2018
| Updated: 09:08, 15 May 2018
Few people took David South seriously when he said he would retire as chairman when Holcombe Hockey Club got into Europe.
Forty years ago the idea of playing European hockey would have seemed absurd.
The club didn’t have their own ground, let alone a team capable of playing top-level hockey.
But Mr South, then 28, was ambitious.
This season, for the first time, both their men and women’s senior sides are playing European hockey.
Mr South, honoured for services to sport in the Queen's New Years Honours list of 2012, said: “It was a silly statement and nobody ever thought it would happen.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey.
“Forty years is long enough and it needs a younger man. My job here is done and it’s time to hand it over.”
Mr South won’t be walking away completely, however.
He said: “I will still be involved with the club, still as the main sponsor with the men’s and ladies’ first XIs and will still be involved in recruitment.”
He has handed the reins over to Jon Rye, something he has been gradually doing over the last few years, working together as co-chairmen.
“He is definitely the right man for the job,” said the 68-year-old. “He has respect from the whole club and he has been doing a grand job.
“In reality, Jon has been running things day to day and my main involvement has been at the top end. We’ve already established the model going forward.”
When Mr South first took over, the club had three men’s teams. It now it has 12, along with six ladies' teams, with both men and women’s senior sides playing in the Premier Division.
Before taking over as chairman has had been a player, first appearing for the club as a 16-year-old.
In David’s first twenty years as chairman, the men’s section had doubled in size, the club opened its doors to female players, and had found a site on which to build a home ground for the foreseeable future.
After significant financial investment from Mr South, and once again members pulling together to undertake the build, the clubhouse at Holcombe Park officially opened in 1998.
Mr South oversaw two mergers, with Templars, in 1999, and then with Rochester & Gillingham a year later.
Business sponsorship from Faithdean, his own company, along with his own private investment has enabled both 1st XIs to consider themselves among the leading teams in the country.
The ladies' team reached the Premier Division in September 2015 while the men’s XI won the Premier title at the first attempt without losing a game.
New sole chairman Mr Rye has praised the role his predecessor has played, saying: “David’s passion for and investment into our sport has raised the standard of our club and has brought much-needed money into the game as a whole.
“In David’s own words from an interview in 2014, he said: 'We are an unfashionable club. We wanted to take it on a journey’ and David has certainly done that.
“David has put his heart and soul into Holcombe Hockey Club and our sport and for that many players and members will be eternally grateful.
“His legacy will continue in the way that we are established at Holcombe Park as a community hockey club; with aspirations to continue to play at a high level and young people who have grown up through the club surrounded and inspired by national and international players.”
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