In 1967, two years before I was born, Graham started his journey with Ossett Town as a 16 year old “tough tackling full back” – his own description of himself which he often referenced when talking about the modern game and particularly when he referred to the Fair Play award which he always referred to as the “Namby Pamby” award.
I doubt even Graham knew back in those early days that he would end up devoting his whole adult life to the football club that he had joined as a youngster – so much so that it became his life and his memory will be associated with the club for much longer than the 48 years he devoted to the club – which, to be honest, is an incredible achievement I doubt will be ever be repeated, and certainly not by me!
I have done a mere 13 years with the club and couldn’t possibly imagine doing another 35 years which would take me to the grand old age of 81, assuming my body could even last that long, which I seriously doubt it will!
Graham played for Ossett Town for 15 years, at times alongside the likes of Len White and Jim Kerry, former professionals with Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.
Injury ended his playing days in 1982 when he became the Club’s first Commercial Manager, obtaining Town’s first ever commercial advertising.
In 1985 Graham became Chairman, taking over from his friend and mentor John Carter, one of Ossett Town’s founding fathers. During Graham’s role as Chairman, many improvements were made to the Ingfield site, with him usually being the driving force. Floodlights were installed, the Pitch Perimeter wall and Prospect Road Stand were erected, followed by the Clubhouse and Function room that we have today.
He was also in charge when Town hosted Manchester United in a friendly in 1989, when the Club’s ground attendance record of 2,600 was set. This was followed ten years later by a prestigious FA Trophy game against Doncaster Rovers played to a full house.
Graham additionally took on the position of Groundsman during the 90’s working on the pitch until a couple of years ago, and for many years could usually be found behind the Clubhouse bar, during the week and on match days, a role he continued right up until he was taken ill at the beginning of 2015.
Graham was always a forthright character who called a spade a spade, as many of us found out on many occasions!
Graham finally retired as Chairman in 2013 after 28 years in the role, and was immediately elected as Club Honorary Life President.
During Graham’s stewardship the Club won promotion from the North East Counties League to the Northern Premier League in 1998/99.
They missed promotion to the NPL Premier Division in 2001/2002 due to ground grading restrictions – a depressing state of affairs for the Chairman and everyone else at the club at that time.
However, things changed in 2003/04 when Ossett Town were promoted to the Premier Division, much to Graham’s delight. The Club retained that status ‘till 2010/11 when they were relegated back to Division 1 North, the only relegation suffered during Graham’s time as Chairman.
John Carter had died in 1994, and I shall quote now from an article that Graham wrote for the Town Crier magazine, published just after his retirement in 2013 – when he said: “My predecessor and Club founder John Carter tasked me with continuing his work, which is to try to provide the best level of senior football in Ossett and District – that is what has motivated me to carry on for 28 years”.
Graham never wavered from those ideals, in fact he was still worrying about the Club whilst he was ill.
As I am sure everyone who knew Graham would agree, he wasn’t perfect, and wasn’t always right, (who is?) but he lived and breathed Ossett Town FC, and was an extemely good judge of character, usually to the Club’s advantage.
Indeed, just about everyone I know always had a great deal of respect for the tireless work he did on behalf of the Club.
To conclude, I should just like to remind you of one of Graham’s favourite sayings. Often when asked a question, he would shrug his shoulders and say “I don’t know. It was nowt to do with me”.
Graham Willis, our ex Commercial Manager and major contributor to this blog, used to jokingly tell him we would put that on his headstone, so finally we should like to say to Ossett Town’s former Player, Commercial Manager, Bar Manager, Groundsman. Chairman, Life President and general factotum, RIP Graham, it was nowt to do with you lad!
On behalf of everyone at Ossett Town AFC
Mr Graham Firth July 1951 – June 2015
Ossett Town FC former Player, Bar Manager, Groundsman,
Commercial Manager, Chairman and Honorary Life President.
RIP Graham, it was nowt to do with you!
From everyone at Ossett Town AFC