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A tribute to Alec by League Chairman and great friend Johnnie Walker
By now most of you, especially older members, will be aware of the sad passing away of our dear friend, Treasurer, & former Chairman Alec Pretlove.
Alec meant so much more to this league than mere titles, he was a real part of the furniture so to speak and he played from the time that the league was formed, then went on to manage teams, and eventually became Treasurer and Chairman of the league.
I am privileged to have known Alec almost all those bygone years, and he and I have served as league officers together for a great number of those times. I well remember Alec taking the rolls of Chairman & Treasurer and doing an amazing job of running both offices at the same time even though some difficult times cropped up from time to time. But in spite of occasional times whenever problems arose, he along with Jack Walpole steadied the ship and kept the league viable and strong through those stormy periods.
As I say, Alec was always involved with this league from the very start but I first met him when my team, Coach and Horses FC played his team in a friendly fixture at our ground in Shepperton as we were both in different Leagues. Our private ground was situated behind a pub and the reason teams didn’t mind coming all that way for a game is because the pub always entertained the two teams after every game, and this being in the days when a few liberties were taken regarding booze and driving, and Alec’s team were no exception.
After the game when we were all eventually turfed out of the pub, their driver didn’t know the way home so he said he would follow us. So we set off and we had got about half a mile down the road when we heard a massive bang behind us and to our amusement Alec’s lorry had driven into some geezer’s garden wall and damaged it beyond recognition into a pile of bricks. Alec never forgot that time and always twisted the story by blaming our driver by stating that he pulled up too quick.
That was our first meeting and when I eventually returned to play in the Hackney & Leyton League we formed a real friendship as we had common ground remembering our previous encounter.
Alec was already on the Management Committee when my team, MG Sports, joined the League again and Alec soon was to be elected unanimously as Chairman. He and Jack persuaded me to also become a member of the committee and eventually Alec asked me to become Vice Chairman.
Alec to his great credit also agreed to take the office as the Hon. Treasurer, this was a position of trust and it couldn’t have gone to a more honest man. Alec was as true and straight as any person could possibly be and earned the trust and respect of all our teams. He was hardly ever challenged regarding his figures and on the rare occasion when he was he would take the time to provide the claimant with a calm and considered explanation that invariably stopped the accusers in their tracks.
I don’t know how he managed it but as well as being the Chairman & the Treasurer, he also managed a very successful football team, namely Hoxton FC, who won many of the Leagues Senior Trophies over a number of years. He was so proud of his team’s achievements, and rightly so especially as one of his sons David was an important and very talented member of the team.
As always, Hoxton, like other highly successful teams before them, became older and eventually retired from the league and Alec also was beginning to find the work load was taking up too much of his time and this led him to resign his position as League Chairman. I was then elected to take over as the Chairman, a position I hardly wanted at the time because I was aware that Alec would be a very hard act to follow as he was so popular with everyone.
Even so, Alec again found the time to do a lot more tasks to aid the smooth running of the league, and believe me there was a lot of extra work to do when to our dismay we were lumbered with the disruption caused by Coe and his Olympics. Lord Coe and his cronies commandeered our East Marsh pitches ahead of schedule and this split the management Committee up because someone had to be on the South Marsh and also someone had to remain on the East Marsh to organise the games there in spite of there being no facilities at all, Alec proved his dedication to the league by volunteering to organise all the games on the South Marsh whilst Ted and me stayed on the East. Between us and mainly due to Alec, we overcame many difficulties during the Occupation of OUR Marshes.
When the new facilities were put in place on the South marsh we were allotted a table in the foyer of this new building and so we were once again all together which at least gave Alec welcome company and of course some aid on Sunday mornings. I was so glad that we as great mates were all together again.
The only thing that bothered Alec was the noise that the teams made whenever they hung around in the foyer and next to our table while he was trying to take permit money and he would often shout “shut up” to them, but they couldn’t hear him above the din they were making, but he coped and never threw his toys out of the pram. He was always the true gent in all situations and the Players, Secretaries and Managers, would always greet him with a warm hand shake.
I loved him like a brother and we had so much in common, for instance he was a fanatical Arsenal supporter just like me, but it was the Arsenal that were the only thing we ever argued about, he wouldn’t have a word said against them, whilst I was a fierce critic and often moaned if they got beat, Alec had his own idea about who was a great player and i had mine and we often carried our difference of opinions over to our Tuesday night meetings at our Headquarters in the Mildmay Club.
Actually Alec still owes me a ‘tenner’ from a bet we had over a certain player who he said would play for England one day, and me being an argumentive little git said never. I used to remind him of it every now and again but he used to always reply “there’s still time” My reply was that the geezer in question must be about seventy by now with a free bus pass.
Alec never missed any of our meetings on Tuesday nights, even all through the summer break he would be there because we would be just as busy as during the season and reliable Alec as Treasurer would be up to his neck balancing the books for presentation at our AGM to be held in every August.
One thing that was apparent about Alec was that he was a true gentleman and he never wanted or had the will to be nasty to anyone, if he ever sat on a discipline case he would always keep quiet rather than severely punish or criticise the offender, and whenever we discussed a case whilst the obviously guilty bit of work left the room, It was always Alec who hardly ever bad mouthed any player even if their guilt was proved beyond question. He really was that good natured. And they knew it.
I never gave it a thought that the management Committee were getting old. Things were going well, we had survived the difficult times and kept our five divisions going, we even increased our club membership. But It couldn’t last forever could it? Both Alec and me were in our eighties and I began to notice that Alec was getting a bit harassed by all the pressure he was under because of the chaos that existed every Sunday as he found it harder to get clubs to settle the debts they owed on pitch permits. I know he was still enjoying being at the Marshes on Sunday mornings and that he would miss the banter if he retired from the committee and of cause we would surely miss him, especially me, it would seem like losing my right arm. But Alec knew he was making a few mistakes and gently hinted now and again that it would possibly be his last season.
I was alarmed at this news, I just couldn’t imagine life without Alec, not because he was a exceptional Treasurer, but just like Jack Walpole , our former General Secretary, he was Hackney & Leyton through to his bones. I selfishly talked him into staying on and he reluctantly agreed in spite of his problems and we as a committee breathed sighs of relief.
And so a brave Alec carried on as best he could but his tragic illness became more noticeable and sadly he was also aware of it and decided to retire. That was a sad time for all of us and not only did we miss him on Sunday mornings, he was unable to join us on our Tuesday night meetings. However his son David, his soul mate and best friend, occasionally brought him to the Marshes on a few Sundays which softened the blow of not seeing him at all, and it was a real pleasure to sit outside Angelo’s cafe with Ted and Alan, eating sausage and chips and recalling our fond memories of our past experiences.
I last saw Alec at one of our Cup Finals in April 2018 When David brought him over to the pitch, he seemed cheerful enough but the illness had obviously worsened but his son David was doing a fine job of looking after him. As I say, sadly that is the last time I saw him and I myself became il and have been hospitalised for several months. It was when I was attending the hospital and house bound that I was given the news that my dear friend had passed away, and although he had been ill for some time it still came as a shock and filled me with grief.
Strangely I was unable to pay my final respects at Alec’s funeral because I was unable to travel from Chichester where I was recovering from having an operation. but I like everyone, will remember Alec forever, and just to remind us of him, the league will arrange to have a memorial bench, just like Jack’s, placed on the Marshes hopefully near the Changing rooms, and this should always remind us that Alec was a true ‘diamond geezer’ and the bench will be a small token of our thanks for all his hard work and dedication towards the Hackney and Leyton Football League.
Goodbye dear friend and God bless you.
Alec's Memorial Bench
If any club or individual would like to contribute to Alec Pretlove’s Memorial bench, then please place a donation in the box supplied on the table at the Hackney Marshes Centre or approach any league official.
Please don’t feel obliged, it’s just because Alec deserves to be remembered as he served the league with great honour since it was formation.