Staines Town FC has been deeply saddened by the loss yesterday of Graham Gould at the age of 65, who will forever be remembered as the man responsible for arguably the best playing surface in non-League football.
Graham Anthony Gould was born on 7th December 1951 in Oldenburg, West Germany, son of a military family, but was raised in Stanwell. He married Margaret some 48 years ago, and moved to Staines not long after, raising two daughters, Julie and Tina. All four family members have been associated with the Club, Julie and Tina selling programmes and other merchandise when youngsters, Margaret and Julie as prime movers in the former darts team, and Margaret has been in charge of washing the kits for the past 22 years. Together, Graham and Margaret stewarded the bar at Wheatsheaf Lane for a period in the mid 1980s, and were active in organising socials, raffles and other activities at the Club.
Graham began supporting Staines Town in the 1970s, and in 1984 began his first spell as a Committee member. Three years later he took on the role of Vice-Chairman, a position in which he served for three years. In 1991 he was elected as a Vice-President, remaining in that capacity until these were abolished in 1999.
However, it was also in 1991 that he took over the job as head Groundsman, and he worked tirelessly in that capacity even after first becoming unwell a year ago. He managed to maintain a playable surface even in the dark days before Wheatsheaf Park was redeveloped, and without his expertise and dedication it is doubtful that Staines Town would have been able to complete its fixtures in many a wet season. Once the club returned to its home in 2003, he took great pride in maintaining the pitch to an extremely high standard, and was rewarded not only by the successes of our own teams on it, but by seeing Staines selected to host numerous prestigious fixtures. These included several Under 17 internationals, cup finals for the Middlesex FA, Isthmian League, and Combined Counties League, Semi-Finals of the FA Sunday Cup and FA Women’s Cup, a number of home matches for Brentford FC Reserves, and even a full international match between the women’s sides of Iceland and Denmark. Chelsea FC were so impressed with it in one of their Women’s Cup appearances, that they entered into an arrangement first to bring their successful FA Youth Cup team to Staines, and then – in a five year arrangement that ironically ended today ahead of their move to Kingsmeadow – their Ladies team, who secured the Super League title on it and went on to make their Champions’ League début at the ground. In 2009, Graham was voted runner-up in the FA Groundsman of the Year (Isthmian) Award, and he went on to gain a 3rd place commendation before laying his hands on a coveted winner’s trophy – at Football Conference level – in 2015, effectively the highest accolade for a groundsman outside the Football League and Premier League. He was frequently praised for his work – indeed one referee earlier this season commented that apart from Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, he felt Wheatsheaf Park was the best surface on which he had ever refereed. A smile was never far from Graham’s face, and as a keen Spurs fan, this brought out a wry one!
Apart from his work on the ground, Graham was also elected to the club’s new Steering Group (Committee) in 2005, and granted a Life Membership in 2014. Graham’s work has also frequently been recognised within Staines Town. He holds a record of winning the “Jack Hanson” Clubman of the Year Award (now renamed in memory of Alan Boon) four times outright (1985, 1987, 1991, 2006), as well as sharing in it on two further occasions when it went to a team of people who had toiled to achieve ground gradings. He won the Cliff Lane Award in 2011 (jointly, with his fellow ground staff with Jesse Richards, John Hanson, Pete Moss, & Andy Jones), and again as an individual in 2013, and in 2017 he was the recipient of the Stewards’ Trophy. With all that work on the pitch, it was only fitting that Graham would have the opportunity to play on it, and this came about during the course of his 12 games at left back for Staines Town’s Veterans’ XI between 1985 and 1988.
Away from the football pitch, Graham was employed as a drayman for most of his working life, making deliveries for CocaCola, Courage, Dibs, and others. He enjoyed the horses, socialising, and being outdoors, and many will not know that for many years he kept an aviary at his home in Worple Avenue. He was devoted to his daughters and their own children – Julie’s daughter Maisey, and Tina’s sons Billy, Jimmy, Mikey and Louis, and daughter Cheyanna-Rose.
Graham became ill last summer, but maintained a positive outlook throughout, and was attending matches up to the end of the 2017/17 season, and looking forward to resuming his work on the pitch after a short enforced break. However, he sadly took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago, and passed away peacefully at home on 28th May 2017, within a couple of hours of Wheatsheaf Park’s final match of the season.
Staines Town Football Club extends its deepest sympathies to Margaret and all of Graham’s family members, and the very many friends of this thoroughly likeable man.
Picture: Graham Gould (left) is re-presented with his FA Groundsman of the Year (Isthmian runner-up) trophy in September 2009 by Staines Town Chairman Alan Boon; he had initially received the award from Mark Lawrenson at Windsor Racecourse a week earlier.
[pics Steve McCarthy]