It is said that no individual is bigger than a football club, but surely Frank King came very close to landing that accolade. Not that the Hornets’ long-serving stalwart would have been happy with that notion, his modesty was as strong as his deep-rooted affection for his hometown club, but the many messages from well-wishers following his untimely death this week serves to highlight the impact Frank had on everyone who knew him, in particular those associated with Horsham Football Club.
“A Horsham great! An absolutely wonderful gentle man” – Eddie French (former Hornets captain)
A Horsham man through and through, Frank was a fresh-faced teenager back in 1945 when he began selling matchday programmes to the Queen Street faithful, but from those small seeds grew a lifelong involvement with the club that saw him hold down virtually every conceivable role and almost single-handedly rescued Horsham Football Club from extinction in the 1980s.
Frank was one of a small handful of people to have been present at Horsham’s three historic FA Cup ties, against Notts County (1947), Swindon Town (1966) and Swansea City (2007), and celebrated the club’s six league titles, five Sussex Senior Cup wins, two Sussex Floodlight Cup successes, and over a dozen more cup triumphs during more than seven decades of support. Yet it wasn’t all about glory and, when the club found itself in the doldrums and facing financial ruin during the late 1970s, Frank stepped in with a show of selfless dedication and personal sacrifice that saved the club from going out of business.
“He never once said a bad word about the players or results” – Dom Di Paola (Hornets’ manager)
He was a talented table tennis player in his time but football and cricket were Frank’s two big sporting passions, the two often overlapping in the late summer when he had to decide on whether to watch his beloved Hornets or take a trip down to the County Ground, Hove, in support of Sussex County Cricket Club. At both venues he was never short of someone to talk to, having developed strong bonds with players and fellow fans alike. To this day, former Horsham players recall with great fondness the many occasions on which Frank would drive them to away matches, often getting lost or breaking down en route.
It’s likely that we all have our own memories of Frank, and of his faithful canine companion Sophie, who would cause much amusement at every home game when chasing the linesman up and down the sidelines. Current secretary Jeff Barrett, who has known Frank for forty-five years, said “he had that rare quality of being liked and loved by all whose paths he crossed.”
“Always had time to talk to everyone. He will be remembered for a long time” – Matt Haynes (Hornets’ supporter)
Frank’s health had been failing recently yet it was hoped that he could have seen Horsham FC settle into their new home. Sadly it was not to be as he passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday, but we take great comfort in the fact that he was able to enjoy our play-off final win against Ashford United that sees the club back in the Premier Division. Of that, he was extremely proud.
“RIP to Mr Horsham FC” – Mark Chaplin (former Horsham player)
“Frank was more than just one of the longest serving officials of the football club” added Hornets chairman Kevin Borrett, “he was in many ways the epitome of the club itself. His warm, enthusiastic and infectious personality marked Horsham Football Club as ‘the friendly club’. Frank’s passing is desperately sad news and our condolences go out to his wife Pauline, Julie and the rest of the family. Farewell, Mr President!”