Former double promotion winning manager Steve Tilson spoke to us to remember and pay tribute to his close friend Alf Bilby who sadly passed away on Monday.
I first came across Alf when he was putting on Soccer Schools in Benfleet and I used to go up there and do some presentations. That was when I was playing so that’s how long ago that was.
From there I built up a really good relationship with him.
When I went into management at Southend with Brushy [Paul Brush] he would come into training every day with us and also be in the dugout every matchday. He loved it.
And not only did he love it, we loved it because he was great company to have around.
He was very witty, he made the players laugh, they all got on really well with him, he was great for morale and he had that aura about him.
He had bags of enthusiasm and if there was anything he could do for anyone he would be the first to help them out. Anything they needed, Alf would do his best.
I don’t know anyone that’s got a bad word against him. He just got on with everyone.
For anyone growing up in the area that played football, they’d probably have crossed paths with Alf through his Soccer Schools.
Not only that, every Saturday morning he would do a couple of hours at a school in Thundersley, only charging the kids a pound!
It’s about six or seven pounds and more to go anywhere now, but for two hours Alf was charging them £1, and that was just to cover the costs. None of that was going in his pocket.
He wasn’t interested in the money, he just wanted to see kids enjoy themselves, boys and girls. He wanted to provide some enjoyment and confidence for them to go on.
For myself and Brushy, the kit man Steve Parmenter - who would take him to watch games on a Saturday before lockdown, Lee Turner our goalkeeping coach, we were all very close to him.
He was 88 years old and I’d like to think he had an enjoyable life but his passing still came as a shock to everyone that knew him.
He was a true gentleman and will be sadly missed by us all.
Everyone at Southend United echoes the comments by Steve and passes on its condolences to Alf's family and friends at this sad time.