A FOOTBALL club can never have enough volunteers.
Especially a non-league one engaged in a constant struggle with the impossible economics of fielding a competitive crowd-pleasing team within a budget that pays more than lip service to the notion that books really should be balanced.
Compared to many clubs we are well served with volunteers at Lewes and there has been a notable surge since we embraced the ethos of a community club.
Loz Farmer is one such newcomer. My first conversation with him came when he offered window space in his central Lewes home to display match posters advertising the home games of the Rooks. An offer gratefully accepted – indeed it’s an initiative being taken up by more and more fans both in the outlying estates around the town and in father flung pubs and restaurants in East Sussex.
On match days Loz sports the bright bib of a steward, one of a band of volunteers who augment the work of the professional stewards we must employ to comply with the league regulations.
Recruited by volunteer Safety Officer Lee Cobb, Loz’s patch is the “beat” in front of the Terry Parris Terrace at the Ham Lane end.
Loz gets to see the match but keeps a wary eye out for over-excited kids and the occasional over-excited adult.
Now, some volunteers like to specialise in their own chosen area. What would the Golden Goal be without Ethel? And Brian “Badgeman” Ashton has made the provision of Lewes FC commemorative enamel and metalware regalia a real labour of love.
Loz though is that rare breed of volunteer. He’s happy helping in any way he can. Which is why on First Team match days – before taking up his stewarding duties – you’ll likely as not find him flogging you a raffle ticket.
Indeed, he has quickly developed into a top salesman, knocking out tickets at a rate that rivals even that of my wife Barbara, a real raffle “pro” who has had years to build up an expansive clientele of regulars.
When he can make it Loz also comes along to Under 18s and Lewes Ladies games. Again, he always steps forward to help. When the Ladies played Cambridge in their final home game of the season the other week he partnered Norman Duncan in raising £86 for the Supporters Club via a raffle and also weighed in pulling pints behind the bar on what was a very busy afternoon of celebration.
All of the aforementioned raised Loz’s profile with me to the point that I thought he make a splendid example to highlight in this column. After all, Dripping Yarns is all about the people past and present who have helped make the Mighty Rooks… well, Mighty.
However, I wasn’t surprised when modest Loz first displayed a reticence to be the subject of a feature. “I’m an under the radar guy” he explained.
Which was an ironic statement given that Loz’s great height, fulsome beard and striking demeanour puts him very much at front of vision when it comes to being noticed in a crowd.
He has the look of a World War II partisan and I can easily imagine him as a fierce patriot taking on hordes of Nazi invaders from atop the palisades of some dramatic Balkans fastness.
Chat with him though and there is no sense of aggression; what comes across is a keen intelligence, warm sense of humour and an evident desire to make a difference in his adopted community
What also drew me to Loz at this time was the fact that last Monday Lewes played Hastings United in a match that both teams were desperate to win: Lewes to sustain their play-off hopes and Hastings to stave off the spectre of relegation. I knew that Loz and his partner Jeannie had moved to Lewes early last summer from Hastings. Did he have divided loyalties?
“Not at all. I used to go to games at Hastings but I never became anything like as involved as I am here at Lewes.
“Indeed even Jeannie is happy to come down and help out at the turnstiles when needed. We moved to Lewes because the town has so many advantages ranging from excellent transport links to great pubs and masses of cultural activities. Lewes does Bonfire properly too and we’ve become very much involved with the Commercial Square society. The fact that there’s also a thriving football club has come as a very pleasant bonus.”
Loz originally hails from Leicester and he always looks out for the city’s football results. Indeed, his first date with Jeannie was at the Leicester v Tranmere Worthington Cup Final in 2000. He also told me: “Though I’ve never met them I actually went to the same school in Leicester as Gary Lineker and Emile Heskey. All three of us had the same sports teacher but we attended in different years.”
In the pouring rain that meant it really was the “Dripping Pan” last Monday it was certainly not the best place to be walking about in the open air.
But Loz dutifully manned his station. Sensibly he wore a wide-brimmed leather hat that made him look even taller (think the steward that looks like Mick Fleetwood and you’ve got him! – Sports Ed). I stayed under shelter. But if I had worn a hat I would have doffed it to Loz – a fan in a thousand.