'Every goal, save and whoop will be for you' – Tributes paid after Letchworth Garden City Eagles co-founder Vince Paige dies
PUBLISHED: 14:16 05 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:21 08 February 2017
A stalwart of the North Herts sporting community who co-founded Letchworth Garden City Eagles FC has tragically died following a heart attack – and hundreds of tributes have been paid to the man who was dubbed ‘Mr Eagles’.
Vince Paige, a social worker who co-founded the club to benefit children in 1979 and served as chairman and latterly life president, suddenly died on Friday.
At the request of his family, the Eagles’ footballing schedule has gone ahead as planned, and respects are being paid in the form of a minute’s silence and applause before each match.
A statement posted on the club’s website yesterday reads: “Letchworth Garden City Eagles YFC regret to announce the sudden death of their life president and co-founder Vince Paige.
“Funeral arrangements will be announced later, following a post-mortem.
“Our love and sympathy go to his family, particularly daughter Clare, son Chris and son-in-law Ian.
“How do you replace the irreplaceable? He will be sadly missed by his many friends in the football world.”
In a separate message posted on social media, a club spokesman wrote: “What he built gave others the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.”
The number of people whose lives were touched by Vince was made clear by the hundreds of tributes posted on the team’s Facebook page.
Those paying their respects included Darren Coulter, who wrote: “Can anybody count how many lives he has affected? I don’t know if anyone could. Very, very sad. What a man.”
Bobby Bains took a similar line, posting: “Sad to hear of the passing of Vince, a true gentleman who did so much to promote youth football for Letchworth and has brought so much joy to so many children over the years.
“Though he will be truly missed, I know Vince’s legacy and spirit with live on through Letchworth Garden City Eagles.”
Michael Draper added: “Rest well Vincent Paige, you were a true humanitarian.
“I think when a beautiful soul moves over then we feel it harder, and my thoughts are with your family at this time.
“In a couple of hours the under-8s will be kicking off their game, and telling them about the pre-game tribute may not be easy – but every joyous run, kick, goal, save and whoop will be for you.”
In response to the tributes, Vince’s daughter Clare posted: “It is a huge comfort to know how lucky we were to have such a special person as our dad, grandad, and father-in-law and to realise how many people’s lives he has touched and made such a difference to. We all appreciate the tributes and messages.”
The longevity of Vince’s work with the Eagles and Letchworth youth football in general is evidenced by the fact that some of today’s coaches and parents themselves played for him as children.
Indeed, he was often called ‘Mr Garden City Eagles’.
Vince’s inspiration to start the Eagles dated back to 1973, when he took over as warden of Briar Patch Children’s Home on the south-western edge of the town.
Vince started a football team for the children in his charge that eventually became the Westbury Eagles.
The name was changed to Garden City Eagles in 1979, when under-12 and under-14 teams began competing in league competition with Vince as chairman. Shortly thereafter the word Letchworth was added, and the club’s ground off Baldock Road was acquired.
Vince held virtually every role at the club over the years, and also did much other work with children and young people as an NSPCC social worker and as a volunteer at Brandles Special School in Baldock.
He stepped down as chairman and became life president following the loss of his wife Chrissie, handing the reins over to current chairman Tony Eden – but he subsequently returned with responsibility for grounds maintenance, then became the club’s first child welfare officer.
Tony said: “He never seemed put off by the bureaucracy of the job, was totally dedicated and passionate about his role. For him the welfare of children was above all other considerations.”
He added: “If anyone deserved a honour it was Vince, but typically he always refused to be nominated because the only recognition he wanted was to see the children prosper into adulthood.
“Letchworth Garden City Eagles was Vince’s spiritual home. He loved being there pottering about, taking out the dogs – and I for one shall never forget and always cherish his memory.
“He may have left us in body, but his presence will always be with us at the club.”