Friend pays homage to local legend Jeff

Jeff Astle, 1942-2002
Jeff Astle, 1942-2002

On Saturday April 11, one of Eastwood’s best known footballers will be honoured by West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns Ground in a tribute match against Leicester City.

It all began in 1942. Jeff Astle was born in a Co-op house on Nottingham Road, opposite S Perry Confectioners. He was the youngest of five children and attended Devonshire Drive School from age five until 11.

The headmaster, Mr Spricklehouse, an avid football fan, and a Notts County scout, spotted exceptional talent in Jeff’s ability, getting him onto the ground staff at an early age.

Tony Hately, Dick Edwards and many others would meet up in the local Jack Hardy’s betting shop to discus tactics on how to be on a winner.

Local lads from ‘the buildings’ and Eastwood area met on Sunday afternoons on Mansfield Road Rec for a ‘kick-about.’

From 2pm onwards most would be topped up with Shippo’s ale to deaden the pain of a misplaced kick. Any sort of boots would do -pit boots, farm boots, Wellington boots etc.

Often the boot would fly off, through the air during the game, which lasted up to three hours, and you could finish up with 20-a-side.

Unfortunately, Jeff was not allowed to play, owing to his Notts County commitments.

Jeff was one of four well-known footballers from the Eastwood area.

Tony Woodcock made his name with Notts Forest and England, before moving to Germany.

Alan and Steve Buckley were coached from a very early age by dad Tom, playing for Notts and Derby in turn, Alan later taking up management at Grimsby Town.

During the 90s, I would meet up with Jeff at Uttoxeter Races - meetings he very rarely missed.

He never altered in the 50 years I knew him.

He always asked about Eastwood and certain people in the community and he’d married a local girl, Laraine, but his football ability took him right to the top of the

ladder and playing for England.

I think Eastwood should become part of The Jeff Astle Foundation, in honour of Jeff’s skills and the entertainment he brought to football supporters in the town.

Eastwood is represented at the match by Mayor Ken Woodhead, along with Chapter and Verse members Brian Fretwell and David Page.