A quiet man and Pompey fan to be mourned by football

Ken Malley
Ken Malley

Ken Malley was too unwell to attend the recent board meeting of the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust.

Doctor’s orders had rendered him unable to get behind the wheel to navigate the well-worn six-and-a-half-hour round trip from his Devon home.

Regardless, the chairman was there. Of course he was.

Trust secretary Mark Farwell had stepped in, offering to drive to Newton Abbot to collect him for the May 25 meeting.

Malley’s illness wouldn’t let him chair the occasion. Instead, vice-chairman Tom Dearie took over the duties during the next three-and-a-half hours at Snows BMW.

At its conclusion, he travelled to the house of his daughter, Susan, in Gosport to stay the night before making his way home the following day.

As one of the driving forces behind the conception of the Trust, the 70-year-old’s commitment to a cause he believed in so passionately remained absolute.

The Trust’s chairman had been ill for many months, with doctors struggling to pinpoint the precise cause.

Then on Thursday last week he suffered a stroke, which resulted in his death on Thursday afternoon in the North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple.

In the process, Pompey lost a giant of a man, immensely respected by all who came across him, irrespective of their footballing allegiances.

Softly spoken and measured in his delivery, there was nothing knee-jerk about Malley.

Instead, he was rational, reasonable, reliable and generated an air of calmness in an environment where hot-heads often jostle for dominance.

Most of all, he cared for supporters.

Malley was no political animal seeking fame, power and adulation. It was never about what football could do for him – it was what he could do for football.

He had long been heavily involved in The Football Supporters’ Federation and recently served as an executive director, playing a key role in assisting fans on a number of issues.

In particular, he would travel with England followers to away matches, providing help with travel and accommodation arrangements in addition to overseeing their well-being.

Malley had yesterday morning been booked to fly out to Slovenia with friend and fellow Pompey fan Pam Wilkins on FSF business ahead of tomorrow’s Three Lions’ fixture.

In addition, sadly, he would have been unaware that the safe standing concept he vigorously campaigned for secured a notable victory in the past week.

Celtic have been granted permission to introduce 2,600 of the rail seats for the 2016-17 season.

Yet it was the Blues who remained his primary objective and he treasured his elevation to Trust chairman in December 2014.

Stepping up from his position as vice-chairman, it was the culmination of a journey which began in early 2010, as seeds were planted to grow a Trust which would ultimately save Pompey from going out of existence.

The steering group contained the likes of Jo Collins, Colin Farmery, Barry Dewing, Jake Payne and Tony Goodall, to name but a few. And, of course, Malley.

Gatherings usually took place once a week in the Good Companion and lasted up to two hours, with Malley enthusiastically travelling from Devon to be present.

Eventually, he would proudly replace Ashley Brown as chairman when the Trust’s board opted for a figurehead who didn’t also sit on the club board.

He carried with him plans to revamp the set-up and boost membership, in particular attempting to appeal to a younger audience. It prompted the creation of a youth committee, with Olly Birch chosen as the inaugural head.

However, since the first few months of 2015, Malley had been hampered by illness – not that it prevented him attending the Trust members’ open meeting on April 21 for what was anticipated to be an explosive affair following the departure of Mick Williams.

The build-up had also seen treasurer Steve Tovey quit amid questions asked over money given to Micah Hall to help with an anticipated court case.

Malley, flanked by Brown and Dearie, took his rightful place sat at the front table, facing an audience intent on delivering burning questions.

Such was his condition, that night he was forced to let Brown largely take over the handling of what was, on occasions, a difficult meeting for the Trust.

Instead, Malley cut an unusually subdued figure on what would prove to be his final public appearance on Trust matters.

In the build-up, close friends asked him not to attend in favour of focusing on his health and striving for recuperation.

Not a chance. For Malley, it was an occasion for Trust solidarity, despite his on-going personal predicament.

The accompanying arrows of criticism fired in the direction of the man at the helm were always going to sting.

For somebody possessing high principles and integrity, the pain lingered. Yet his work continued.

When Dearie decided to visit Malley in hospital on Monday, he was approached by John Westwood who asked if he could accompany him.

Sure enough, Westwood closed his Petersfield book shop for the day to take the 290-mile round trip.

It was a gruelling journey Malley had also grown tired of, prompting the recent decision to move to Gosport with his wife, Maureen.

Sadly, that was never completed as he was taken away from us all.

Yet Ken Malley’s soul didn’t ever leave his true home – Fratton Park.

And it never will.