Celebrating Sevenoaks’ Derek Hodge BEM

At the King’s New Year’s Honours list for 2023, Sevenoaks’ Derek Hodge was appointed a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to Association Football, Charity and to the community in Sevenoaks and Kent.

 

In a career spanning 45 years, Derek Hodge has achieved a lot with not only the Sevenoaks and District Football League but also at club level, not forgetting his incredible charity work.

We had the pleasure of talking to Derek Hodge BEM who discussed his incredible work in football for the local community…

 

For local readers who may not be aware, can you explain your background in the sport of football and some of the incredible work you have done to help promote and expand the sport in Sevenoaks?

I first played football for Sevenoaks Post Office FC as a 14-year old. My first appearance being made on 6th February 1954 against Stone Street FC at Greatness Park. My father was employed at Sevenoaks Post Office as an Inspector on the postal side. I played schoolboy football for Kent, had trials with Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United, finally playing for their youth team. My sporting career came to an abrupt end in 1957 when I suffered a serious illness aged 17 when I was due to have an Arsenal trial. It also ended my ambition to become a PE Teacher.

I eventually turned to football administration and did my “apprenticeship” with the Sevenoaks Post Office FC and then the club named changed to Wilderpark in 1971 when I became Secretary.

In 1976, I was elected to the Management Committee of the Sevenoaks and District Football League and the following year I became Secretary. At the time with a young family I thought I would continue for five years but I remained in the position until 2011! I then reverted back to the League Management Committee and eventually becoming Vice Chairman followed by Chairman. I finally retired in 2021 as the Life President.

When I first became Secretary the League was at a low ebb, no money and the membership was around that of 30 clubs. When I retired membership was at a high level with over 50 clubs/teams. The funds were in a healthy state as well.

During my time in office I met, principally at functions, Ron Greenwood the former England Manager, Trevor Brooking of West Ham and England, Sam Allardyce, Bryan Hamilton and others. I formed an indoor Soccer Coaching School for youngsters with the help of sponsorship through Plasmarc. Many of the youngsters went on to play for local village teams. I resurrected Inter League matches with other Leagues, set up an annual Sports Quiz Competition and it became a custom to have an Annual Presentation Evening. One of the highlights amongst others was the Centenary Dinner of the League held in 2006 with just over 200 guests.

 

At the beginning of the year you were awarded a BEM for services to Association Football, Charity and the Community in Sevenoaks and Kent. How did it feel when you were informed and have you made the trip to Buckingham Palace yet?

In the King’s New Year’s Honours list at the beginning of this year I was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Associated Football, Charity in the community of Sevenoaks and Kent. I was amazed to receive such an award but delighted at the same time.

My wife and I attended a tea party at Buckingham Palace amongst other award winners. The actual Investiture took place at Knole House in June. The award being made by Lady Colgrain, Lord Lieutenant of Kent. It was a wonderful occasion and a real honour to have the Investiture at Knole House.

 

What would you say have been your most memorable moments throughout your time working in football locally?

Working in football locally, I have many memorable moments what with my hopes of progressing in football dashed and indeed my athletic career where I had represented Kent and London Schools. I had also been a member of Blackheath Harriers Athletic Club. I feel my life has been fulfilled by being able to put my time back into promoting local football.

 

How important is it to maintain and keep local league football in the area and can you explain how difficult a period it was during COVID-19?

With no football being played during COVID it was of concern whether this would have a serious effect on local football clubs. Maybe, one or two teams folded following resumption of the League programme but generally football eventually returned to normality.

 

Who would you say has been your biggest help and supporter over the course of your work within the Sevenoaks community?

Apart from having a very supportive and continuous Management Committee, without the help of my wife Jackie I could not have achieved so much over the years.

 

What is your current involvement like today with the Sevenoaks & District Football League?

I am obviously still interested in the running affairs of the Sevenoaks and District Football League but my main involvement is at Club level with Wilderpark FC and am now in my 70th year with them.

 

What do you enjoy most about not only living in Sevenoaks but the community of the town as well?

We have thriving sports clubs such as Sevenoaks Rugby Club, Sevenoaks Town FC, Vine Cricket Club, all of whom have Junior sections. There is golf at Knole Park. The arts are covered by Stag Theatre not withstanding very many local clubs and associations too numerous to cover them all.

 

CommunityAd congratulates Derek Hodge on a well-deserved accolade, and thank him for all the hard work he puts in for our community. Find out more about the Sevenoaks & District Football League, which Derek is still involved in, here.

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