PETER Blackman was only 11 years old when a young Jimmy Hill was evacuated to his Chichester family home during the war.
Following the death of the well-known former footballer, manager and TV presenter, Mr Blackman has shared his fond memories of their time together.
“We were extremely lucky, he was a wonderful lad and his behaviour was perfect all of the time,” Mr Blackman, 87, said of Mr Hill, who were both 11 when the latter came to live at 25 Turnbull Road in September 1939.
“As well as being very clever and a fine sportsman, he was as good a lad as you would find anywhere.”
Mr Blackman’s parents, Dick and Edith, housed young schoolboy Jimmy Hill until Easter 1940. Leaving his home in Balham, South London, Mr Hill’s Henry Thonton School shared the buildings of Chichester High School, where Mr Blackman studied.
“Jim’s home was in Balham. I tried to convince him that it was better to live in the country than in London,” Mr Blackman said.
“Our arguments over this became a joke.”
He fondly remembers cycle rides they took around the city.
He said: “I distinctly remember that one day, coming home from school later than me, he was peppered with snow. But as he wheeled his racing bike around to our shed, I saw his rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes.
“It was obvious that he was thinking ‘hurray, snow, this will be fun!’
“Years later, when he introduced Match of the Day, there was the same twinkle in his eyes. ‘This will be fun!’”
He recalls a boy who was ‘well built for his age’ and who, come the end of the week had rations of food left when his were all gone.
He said Mr Hill helped get him his first job at a shop in the Hornet, where he was paid in foreign stamps.
After returning home in 1940, the pair exchanged Christmas cards for two years before losing touch.
But 30 years later Mr Blackman wrote to Mr Hill to ask if he was the same Jimmy Hill who was manager of Coventry City FC, and received a friendly letter confirming that he was.
And when Mr Hill returned to Chichester in the late 1990s to open a housing development, Mr Blackman was invited along to a lunch party where the pair ‘were able to chat about old times and our families’.