WOTTON Rovers legend, Derek ‘Smiler’ Ealey, sadly passed away last month.

Club president Martyn Excell captured his memories of Derek in this wonderful tribute, which was included in Saturday’s match programme, and he has kindly given us permission to include it here:

WE WERE very sad to hear about the recent passing of a well know Wotton character, Derek ‘Smiler’ Ealey, writes Martyn Excell.

Smiler was an absolute legend and his departure has come far too soon.

Smiler started his football career playing at Cromhall, where he played with my late father-in-law, Bryn Cook (another football legend).

Smiler went on to play at Charfield and then he came to Wotton Rovers. My first game for Wotton at the age of 17 was at Leonard Stanley and Smiler was in the team. I well remember the game with Smiler shouting “Clear the ball my babby!”

He was a great player to have on your side but not quite so nice to play against. You might say that he was ‘hard but fair’.

He tackled hard but always went for the ball. I recall a presentation game played at the end of the season between Wotton Rovers and a District XI.

Towards the end of the game Roger Smith, playing for the District, thought he had the better of Smiler but didn’t reckon on his stout defending as he collided chest to chest with Derek and ended up flying in the air and then crumpling in a heap on the floor – it was no contest!

Tony Gannon, who was reffing the game, said to Smiler after, “If it wasn’t a friendly game, I would have sent you off!”

When Smiler was playing, there was no such thing as a ‘friendly’.

With his barrel chest, opposition forwards would no doubt think, “That centre half’s slow”.

But he had deceptive pace and immaculate timing when challenging for a ball.

He was very protective of the young players on his side - I always felt that bit safer when he was playing.

Pictured above is Smiler in action during the Boxing Day charity match in 1984.

If I recall, it was a game of Current v Old Players.

I remember playing in that game alongside Smiler and another former legend, Ernie Calder, was playing for the Old Players.

It should not be forgotten that Smiler was also a very fine cricketer and played many games for Wotton CC. He was a fine batsman and a very reliable wicket keeper.

He was a very popular chap and touched the lives of so many people.