’82 Heroes to reunite and pay tribute to one of their own
The players of Worthing FC’s most successful ever team are re-uniting at this weekend’s fixture with Harlow Town to pay tribute to former teammate Steve Piper who died on Boxing Day.
Led by club captain Geoff Raynsford the team reached the 1982-83 FA Cup second round where they eventually lost to Third Division Oxford United having previously progressed past Fleet Town, Crawley Town, Eastleigh, Farnborough Town, Minehead (after a replay) and Dartford to set up the tie.
Raynsford recalls the game as the ‘best of his career by far’: “Leading the team out that day and representing Worthing is something I’ll always remember”. “I think we took something like 11 coach loads, around 1500 supporters and I’ll never forget walking over to them after the game to give them a big clap – it was magical!”.
The 4-0 scoreline seems comprehensive for the team that at the time were flying high at the top of the old third division but it was their superior fitness that told in the end: “I remember it was quite a cold, frosty day and the pitch was a bit of a bog”. “We held them for 60 minutes or so but after that ran out of steam some what and that’s when they scored their four goals”.
The cup run didn’t distract manager Barry Lloyd and his team too much as they managed to secure a second successive promotion by winning the Isthmian League Division One title by seven points.
“I think by the time we went out of the cup we were 20 odd points behind the league leaders but had seven or eight games in hand so catch up and secure the title was just as big of an achievement really”.
Piper (father of former player and more recently assistant manager Matt Piper) who was a key member of the squad that season, died suddenly in late December.
Piper was a big part of Raynsford’s life having met while both playing for Brighton & Hove Albion youth in their teens and remained friends for the best part of half a century, still playing golf twice a week up until shortly before Piper’s death.
“Pipes was a fantastic player but more importantly, a very special person, who always saw the good in people. I never met anyone who had a bad word to say about him”. “We met 48 years ago playing for Brighton youth, then he came to Worthing after a serious knee injury and then later in our careers we both played for Arundel. We were always the best of friends!”
It was at his funeral last month that Raynsford and his former-teammates finally put a re-union in place: “We’d been talking about trying to get everyone together for around 18 months as last year was the 35th anniversary of that season”. “Quite a few of the lads attended Steve’s funeral so we thought we’d combine the re-union with a tribute to Pipes”.
It will be the first time every member of the squad that travelled to Oxford United for that FA Cup tie has all been together since and Raynsford is hoping they see another win for Adam Hinshelwood’s men on Saturday as well as jogging a few memories: “The current team are playing really well at the moment, which has moved them away from the relegation places. Hopefully they’ll be another great crowd there on Saturday and we can join in on cheering the team to another win”.
“I don’t know how many of the current supporters will have been around back then but hopefully we can jog one or two memories”. “We’re going to be in the clubhouse before and after the game for anyone that wants to come and chat!”
A collection will also be taking place around the ground for St. Barnabas House in Steve Piper’s honour.