Monday 09th August 2004

Obituary: Jack Southcombe 1914-2004

One of the Erith & Belvedere Football Club's all-time greats, Jack Southcombe, the centre-forward of their 1938 Amateur Cup final side, died on 4 July in South Molton, Devon.

Jack joined the Deres at the start of the 1937-38 season, but missed his first match, being delayed traveling from Plymouth to Ashford via Paddington. 

On moving to the district he scored a hat-trick on his debut and 20 goals in his first 15 games.  In all he scored 35 goals that season, a new club record that stood as a peacetime record until 1962-63 - Colin Johnson remains the only player to have beaten his tally. 

The following season, sidelined by injury from October to January, he nevertheless scored another 19, including five in an 11-1 rout of Ashford. 

Restricted by wartime work commitments, he played only two more games for the Deres, ending with a scoring record of 54 in 55 appearances.

But he will chiefly be remembered for his contribution to the Deres' Amateur Cup run of 1937-38.  They reached the Final after playing through the qualifying rounds, a run involving 13 matches, and Jack plundered no fewer than 18 goals in that run - including a hat-trick against Bexley and four against Cray Wanderers in the qualifying rounds, a second-replay hat-trick against Leytonstone in the third round, and two vital goals against Romford in the semi-final.

In the first half of the Final at the Den on 23 April 1938, in front of a crowd of 33,346, he hit the crossbar with one ferocious drive and another drew the save of the match from Bromley goalkeeper Bartaby. 

As most of you will know, Bromley won the game 1-0.

But Jack's reputation had been made: when the all-time Deres XI was picked in 1997, Jack lost out to Colin Johnson for the centre-forward berth but made the subs' bench!

Jack Southcombe was born on 27 March 1914, and like many of his generation was an all-round sportsman. 

He topped the batting averages for Queen's College, Taunton, two seasons running, and played against Harold Gimblett, later a free-scoring batsman for Somerset and England. 

He was a useful rugby player, able to kick conversions with either foot, but it was at football that he excelled. 

He made his debut for Plymouth Argyle reserves, then top of the Southern League central division, on 21 April 1934, scoring twice in a 6-0 win against Llanelli, and also won seven county caps for Devon. 

Unhappy that Argyle offered its amateur players neither an insurance scheme nor a summer retainer, his mother wanted him to have secure work: so he moved to Kent when Erith and Belvedere offered him a place in the team and a job at Vickers.

Jack continued at Vickers during the war and married Dorothy, a London-based nurse, in 1942: they were together until her death in 1992. 

The family returned to South Molton in 1952 as the London smog was affecting the health of their four-year-old son David, and Jack played for Filleigh cricket club until his 50s, while working for the family firm of Hannaford and Southcombe as an auctioneer until his retirement. 

Late in life Jack suffered from arthritis and needed a hip replacement, and always said he could remember the very tackle that began his problems with his hip.

But his sporting career assured him local celebrity status: a large contingent had travelled from Devon to The Den that day in 1938, and it was not unknown for letters addressed simply to "Jack Southcombe, South Molton" to find their way to him.