CHELMSFORD City Football Club have announced the death of their President, Don Walker, in Broomfield Hospital this afternoon.
Unanimously regarded as the most popular and celebrated figure in the club’s history, having served in almost every role for the Clarets, Don will be sorely missed and the condolences of everyone at City are passed to the great man’s family and friends.
Don suffered a fall on Wednesday which led to an overnight stay at Broomfield Hospital, where he passed away on Thursday afternoon with his family around him. Funeral details are yet to be confirmed, though tributes are invited to accompany his commemorative paving brick immediately outside the Clubhouse entrance at Melbourne Park and plans are afoot to stage Don’s wake at the venue.
He made 16 appearances in Chelmsford colours in the mid 1940s and later managed the first team between September 1979 and May 1980.
His career was summed-up appropriately in the book ‘Wheel ‘Em In: The Official History’ as follows: “If anyone deserves the title of Mr Chelmsford City, then Don Walker does. There isn’t a job at the club that he hasn’t undertaken at some time or another, be it coach, trainer, caretaker manager or manager. He had to pick-up the pieces following John Newman’s departure, and with the club at its lowest ebb it wasn’t an easy job. With what little money was available to him, the best he could do was keep the club’s head above water and he stood aside to let Colin Harper take over after one season.”
“As a player, Don joined City in March 1947 from Wolverhampton Wanderers, before moving on to Hastings United in the summer of 1948. He ventured into the Kent League in the fifties with Snowdown Colliery Welfare and Tonbridge Wells United, finally seeing out his playing days with Maldon Town and Hoffmans. It was Billy Frith who invited him back to City in October 1963 as coach to the Reserves following a brief spell as manager at Athenian League club, Brentwood.”
Don’s return to City in a non-playing capacity followed the death of groundsman Jimmy Broad as he was married to Broad’s step daughter, Mabel. He eventually accepted the poisoned chalice of managership immediately after arguably the club’s worst performance, a 2-0 defeat at a roped-off pitch in the F.A. Cup First Qualifying Round at Parson Drove United of the Peterborough League. Don had, however, also witnessed some of the club’s glory days, being involved in open-top bus ceremonies through the County Town with championship silverware in the mid sixties and early seventies.
Club stalwart Chris Evans said: "His loyal service saw him rewarded with a testimonial at New Writtle Street in November 1993 when a strong Ipswich Town side from the Premier League came down to play. He was saddened when the Clarets were forced out of that famous old ground in the late nineties, but it was fitting that he was able to see City’s return to Chelmsford in glorious fashion at Melbourne and he has since seen some extremely talented sides take to the field. True to fashion for this football-loving, dedicated character, Don left us at 3:00pm – just in time for kick-off."
Tributes to Don:-
“This is a very sad day for all and I send my deepest sympathies to Don’s family and friends.” Jeff King
“Don was a very knowledgeable, proud and exceptionally likeable man. What he gave to the club over the years was immeasurable, as was the pleasure he gave to everyone who met him. My fondest memories were sharing a bottle of wine on the long journeys from the likes of Hednesford and Tiverton. A true gentleman who will be surely missed.” Peter Stroud
“Almost every piece of merchandise I’ve ever owned seems to feature some reference to, or picture of, the great Don Walker. We’ve seen some dark days at the club in recent decades but always took strength by asking ourselves “Would Don give up in this position?” Words cannot do justice to the significance of Don in Chelmsford City history - he is one of the major reasons we still exist today.” Chris Evans
“Don embodied everything that was great about the club, from his never-ending capacity to support whichever team wore the claret on the pitch, to his stirling resolve to make the club a true force off it. He’ll be sorely missed.” Caroline Barker
“Don has been the stability for all my City-supporting life. He has been the rock of our club. Bless you, Don, and thanks for the memories.” Jon Read
“I always remember him keeping the younger players in check during Gary Bellamy’s days. R.I.P.” Ian Cousins
“Let’s not mourn, but celebrate the life of a good man and a great City legend. God bless you, Don. R.I.P.” Gary Sherrard
“A true gentleman who was a great ambassador for C.C.F.C. I feel very honoured to have known him.” Steve Dorrington
“Don lived for City. City was his life.” Bill Evans
“Many hearts will miss you. R.I.P. Don.” Daryl Brewster
“It is a very sad day in the history of the club. A true servant of the City in so many ways, Don will be sorely missed.” Eamonn Evans
“As a Clarets fan since the late Sixties, I’ve seen Don working for the club in many guises over the years. A true clubman who will be sorely missed.” Rob Luton
“A true City legend who will never be forgotten. R.I.P.” Will O’Donnell
“Often the word legend is over-used, but not in Don’s case. The man symbolised everything which is great about City. A true gentleman who loved the game and will be greatly missed by those who knew him. Gone, but never to be forgotten. R.I.P. Don.” Jason Maher
“Don will be missed by me and my daughter, Kayley. He always asked after her when I saw him and he was a true City legend who will never be forgotten. He is in a better place now. R.I.P. Don” Clare Pearson
“A true Chelmsford legend. My thoughts are with Don’s family.” Adrian Neale
“Mr Chelmsford City and a real legend. R.I.P. Don” Stephen Selby
“Legend is a word used too often, but Don was one. He was respected by everyone at the club. It’s a sad day for Chelmsford City. R.I.P. Don.” Sean Westlake
“A City legend.” Mark Wallis
“God bless Don. Up the City.” Luke Davies
“Don deserves a fitting memorial at Melbourne Park.” Ian Hart
“Gone but never forgotten. Thanks for everything. A true legend and gentleman.” Paul King
“Very sad news indeed. R.I.P. Don.” Mark Jiggins
“Don was a well known face who will be surely missed.” John Butcher
“This is a sad day.” Bobby Brewster
“I hope the club organises some sort of plaque or memorial, which Don really deserves.” Andy Bullen
“Rest in peace, Don.” Ashley Cunningham
“Whenever I saw Don he always gave me a cheeky nod, wink and grin and I thought “Mr Chelmsford City’s here as always!” He was the face of City and will be missed by all true Clarets. A large chunk of C.C.F.C. history was lost today.” Rob Millard