ALEC REITH, 1935-2020

Posted by Mickey Cooper on 11 November 2020

Erith and Belvedere FC are sorry to learn of the death of Alec Reith, who was one of the club’s most durable and popular goalkeepers.  Alec, who died on 26 October aged 85, made 184 appearances for the Deres between 1956 and 1964.


Alec signed from Callenders and debuted in a 1-0 home win v Wembley on 25 August 1956, replacing Dick Bartholomew.  His first game was Roy Newstead’s last of 198. At the time he was one of seven Deres players on National Service, making it difficult to get away for games: on one occasion in January the RAF refused to release him from his Hampshire base before 11am on a matchday, so Deres president George Balsom sent a car and driver to pick him up to get him to an Amateur Cup tie v Sutton United on time – sadly Deres lost 2-1.  At Yiewsley in April 1957 the opposition centre-half, Snelgrove, was a fellow “erk” with REME – the conversation back in camp after Yiewsley’s 5-0 win must have been interesting.  In October 1957 Alec brought another REME colleague, Bill Chandley, along for a couple of games – Bill was a Manchester City reserve player who moved to United a few months later in the wake of the Munich air crash.


Alec’s National Service ended in December 1957, and he finished the season having only missed two games, one following a dislocated thumb and split hand sustained against Horsham.  He was ever-present in 1958-59, including his 100th appearance v Dorking on 28 February, and indeed didn’t miss another game until 19 December 1959.  A couple of months later, however, he resigned from the club to join Herne Bay following a Kent Amateur Cup tie against them in February 1960. 


Alec had spells at Maidstone and Tooting & Mitcham: at Maidstone he played alongside a young inside forward named David Sadler, who signed for Manchester United aged 17 in 1963 and went on to make 335 appearances and win the European Cup with them.  Sadler invited Alec to Old Trafford and introduced him to the team with the words “This is the man who taught me how to play!” 


Alec returned to Park View in summer 1963 and regained his place sooner than he might have expected when George Alcock broke a finger in the second game of the season.  Alec missed only one game in the remainder of the campaign and was named Player of the Year for 1963-64 as Deres finished 4th in their first season in Athenian League division 1.  He played the first four games of the following season – his final appearance a 2-0 defeat at Tilbury on 2 September 1964 – before returning to Callenders. 


Alec made the news again 22 years later: in summer 1986 his French sheepdog won Best of Breed at Cruft’s!  In later years he was an active member of Barnehurst bowls club.


His funeral will be held at Eltham crematorium (West Chapel) on Wednesday 18 November at 1pm.

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