Sussex football stalwart Dennis is remembered

The Bosham players take part in a minute's silence for Dennis Probee before their match with a Sussex XI   Picture by Chris Hatton
The Bosham players take part in a minute's silence for Dennis Probee before their match with a Sussex XI Picture by Chris Hatton

AS LOCAL football mourns the death of the legendary Dennis Probee, the effort shown in hastily arranging a match in his memory gives you great faith in the people who run and play the game.

The 89-year-old, who devoted his life to football in Sussex and beyond, died last Friday after a short illness, devastating many players, coaches and clubs who’d known him and benefited from his vast football expertise.

Just four nights later one of ‘his’ clubs - Bosham - found themselves unable to play their final West Sussex League game after their opponents pulled out.

Within hours Bosham boss Andy Probee - Dennis’ grandson - had arranged a friendly which was played for Dennis Probee Memorial Cup. Credit goes to Andy for rallying around and using his little black book of football contacts to get the game on at short-notice.

Fittingly, the men from Walton Lane defeated a Sussex XI 4-3 on penalties after the score was tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes.

Players from clubs including Burgess Hill Town, Pagham, Chichester City, Sidlesham, and Boxgrove gave up their time at short notice and supporters came along to make the evening a success in paying homage to a man who did so much for football.

A true gent, wonderful coach and even a footballing visionary, Dennis formed Portsmouth Royal Navy Football Club in 1962 with the intention of bridging the gap between the United Services midweek league and the full navy rep side.

Dennis was also a manager and highly-respected coach at his beloved Bognor and regarded by many as pivotal in the club’s success in the 1980s as mentor to long-serving manager Jack Pearce and latterly Darin Killpartrick - not to mention the many players who donned the green-and-white jersey over the years. Dennis later took up the post of vice-president at Nyewood Lane.

His input into youth football also cannot be underestimated - nurturing players such as Simon Rodger, who went on to have a professional career at Crystal Palace and Brighton.

Sussex FA recognised his services to youth football by naming their under-18 county up after him.

Meanwhile, after Bosham saw their league game postponed, they now await confirmation they will be handed the points, which would mean - after weeks of waiting - they had won the West Sussex premier-division title - which itself would be a fitting send-off for Dennis.

Bognor coach Darin Killpartrick will have Dennis in his thoughts at Sunday’s Sussex Senior Cup final between the Rocks and Peacehaven.

The Rocks coach described Dennis as ‘my mentor, my friend, a true gentleman’.

He said: “His knowledge of the game was outstanding, giving attention to detail in everything he described.

“Most Saturdays he would come and see me pre-match and ask what I’d like analysed that day. Come 5.15 he would produce the most detailed and accurate stats created on a small, precisely-cut piece of brown card that fitted exactly into his inside blazer pocket.

“It would not be uncommon for him to leave the club well after 7pm. He would often personally email me with different scenarios he had witnessed during a game and often advise me of how he would combat the problems with detailed diagrams.

“I’ve kept all these emails and always reference them when needed.

“He wasn’t always just about giving advice - one of his best traits was his magnificent skill of listening to people. Absolutely nothing was a problem to him.

“He believed in intelligent movement and quality of passing in all areas of the pitch so how Bognor play is a true legacy left by Dennis, passing his ways down as he grew older. I’m honoured to have been educated by him and Jack.”