Steve Sutherland pays tribute to an 'unsung hero' Charlton Former Players Association Chairman Bernard Wickham who passed away recently after an illness
I know that many of you will be very sad to hear the news that Bernard Wickham (far left) passed away this morning. Bernard was a great friend, not just to me personally but also to Charlton Athletic FC. He was a lifelong ‘Addick’ who loved the Club and who was liked and respected by everyone who came into contact with him.
When Peter Varney and I launched the ‘North Stand Patrons’ Scheme to raise funds for the building of the new North Stand, Bernard was one of the first to sign up for a long-term season ticket and of course he was the driving force behind the establishment of a thriving CAFC Former Players Association.
Bernard was an extremely kind and generous man with a huge sense of fun and each match day he would have as his guest at least one Club legend. In fact, Bernard was responsible for originally introducing me to my absolute Charlton hero - Eddie Firmani, who was a great personal friend of Bernard's, as indeed many of the Club legends were. In fact, one of my most treasured Charlton possessions is a photograph of me interviewing Eddie Firmani which Bernard presented to me with the title ‘When Eddie Firmani met a Charlton Legend!’ This was typical of the humour and the style of the man.
His support of my role as Chairman of the Club’s Centenary Committee was invaluable and it was he who was solely responsible for ensuring that so many great names of Charlton’s past were in attendance at the unveiling of the Sam Bartram Statue on the Club’s 100th birthday in June, 2005.
I have many happy memories of Bernard and in particular of the fantastic times we had on our annual CAFC Veterans' Tours but one in particular stands out for me, our Llanera-sponsored trip to Hong Kong to take part in the famous 'Hong Kong 7's' veterans tournament. Bernard took care of everything and everyone on that tour and we had a great time. I've attached a photo of Bernard at the Hong Kong 7's with me, Garry Nelson's wife Tracey, Ex England star Peter Beardsley and Bernard's son Tim, who, along with his Mum Christine and the rest of his family, my thoughts are with today.
Within minutes of being in Bernard’s company everyone had a smile on their faces; he was always laughing and seeing the fun in situations. Bernard was a very special man and we will all miss him. Somehow match days at The Valley will never be the same again.
( Ed. Bernard helped bring pleasure to many Addicks through helping to coordinate players for Fan and Player evenings too numerous to mention, but including CAS Trusts' BTTV20 celebration last year - without his help and persistence the event would just not have happened the way it did. Thank you Bernard, you will be missed. Our thoughts are with your family and friends)
(Bernard 5.12.12 BTTV 20 event and CAS Trust Launch, 2nd from left, doing what he did so well)