Hawks director Trevor Brock receives FA Gold medal in honour of his 57 years service to non-league football administration
Trevor Brock’s footballing life began in 1964 when he joined Horndean FC Under-10s as a defender. Aged 11, he got his big break in the sport, one that has led to a remarkable, record-breaking career spanning 57 years and counting.
But Brock wasn’t destined to make a name for himself on the pitch; instead, it would be as an administrator, one of the non-league game’s countless unsung heroes, that he would devote large chunks of his life to.
At the weekend, prior to the FA Cup tie at Westleigh Park, the Havant & Waterlooville secretary and director received a Football Association Gold medal in recognition of his near 60-year dedication to the sport.
Brock is believed to be the only person in English football history to have acted as a secretary for clubs from the very lowest level of the adult game - in his case the Portsmouth & District League in the 1960s - to the National League, the top tier of non-league football in this country.
And it’s all thanks to Gladys Berry, who was Horndean secretary when Brock was handed his big chance - becoming assistant secretary and press officer. Not many 11-year-olds have ever taken up those positions. Can you imagine anyone that young wanting those roles today?
Brock stayed with Horndean for 21 years, overseeing their progress into the Hampshire League.
‘I was never a great player of any sort in my football teams, I preferred tennis and athletics - and I always had more of an interest in the admin side of things,’ said Brock.
‘I mowed the pitch, I put the goals up, I must have done every job you can do at a football club in my 21 years at Horndean.’
‘It was the epitome of a village club. It was a really enjoyable club to be part of.
‘I just had a love for the admin side. Even during my (Loughborough) university days I couldn’t wait to get back to Horndean.
‘Horndean had a very strong side. The Hampshire League was very strong, you had Portsmouth A, Southampton A.
‘It’s very different to what it is now, the Hampshire League was top of the tree for local non-league players. It was probably the same as the Southern League Premier is now.’
Ray Jones - like Brock, a current Hawks director - and his dad George approached him in the mid 1980s to join Havant Town as their secretary.
Brock rose up the non-league pyramid when Havant won the Wessex League in 1990/91, progressing to the Southern League.
Seven years later, he was heavily involved in the creation of Havant & Waterlooville - though he insists it was NOT a merger of two clubs, rather a change of name for one.
Both Horndean and Havant Town had been founder members of the Wessex League in 1986. But Brock found a difference of opinions at the latter with regards ambitions of playing higher.
‘People like Derek (Pope, ex-Havant Town manager and current Hawks chairman) wanted to progress into the Southern League, others wanted to continue in the local leagues - to play with their mates.
‘But we needed to bring in players from further afield to get us into the Southern League, there weren’t the players in the Portsmouth area at the time.
‘Waterlooville were in the Southern League at the time, they were the senior club without a doubt.’
Two became one at the end of the 1997/98 season where Waterlooville had finished 10th in the Southern League South Division - two places above Havant Town.
‘For a period of time both clubs struggled attendance-wise,’ said Brock. ‘Waterlooville were down to around 110 and they owed a lot of money. We weren’t in any great danger but we didn’t have a great deal of support.
‘Havant & Waterlooville came about by a change of name from Havant Town, there was never a merger, never a takeover. A change of name is all that happened..
‘It went extraordinarily well in the early days, we hit the ground running, won the Southern League South (in 1998/99).
‘It’s been successful - we’re getting 10 times the crowds now since the thing first happened.
‘There was a lot of work to be done with the FA to ensure it was all done properly.
‘Billy Gilbert was appointed (H & W) manager rather than Dick Seamark because the FA said we had to honour all the contracts and Billy was under contract at Waterlooville.
‘The first season we had a squad of about 36 players!’
Asked for his stand-out memories from 57 years in football, it is no surprise that Brock returns to Hawks’ 2007/08 FA Cup run. But it is the third round ties against Swansea, rather than the subsequent trip to Anfield, which stand out.
‘Swansea, without a doubt,’ he remarked. ‘If you ask most people they will say Liverpool because it was a great occasion, but the Swansea games are the ones I look back on fondly. They were 20 games unbeaten, top of League 1.
‘At the Liberty we were 1-0 down, we had Brett Poate sent off, we got battered, but we got a late equaliser. At home we were 3-0 up in 20 minutes, it was just wonderland. Swansea fought back (to 3-2) but then Tom Jordan, who we were in dispute with at the time, sealed it.
‘The replay should have been on Sky, but Luton Town were about to go bust so Sky did them a favour by showing their game (third round replay v Liverpool). We lost out on a lot of money there, but our game was shown in Wales and I think we made £48,000 from the BBC which wasn’t to be sniffed at.
‘The official attendance was 4,500 but we could have sold the place out two or three times over. We took 6,000 to Liverpool, we could have taken 20,000 no problem at all.
‘The workload in those 10 days was incredible.
‘We were treated tremendously in the city (Liverpool), people couldn’t do enough for us, it was just a fabulous occasion.’
In terms of his Horndean memories, Brock remembers the 1987/88 Under-18s who reached the second round of the FA Youth Cup and hoovered up local trophies under ‘phenomenal’ manager Trevor King.
In 2018/19, after back-to-back promotions, Hawks found themselves dining at the top table of non-league football in the National League - completing Brock’s journey from the Portsmouth & District League.
It was a short-lived experience, relegated at the end of that season, but one Brock is desperate to try again.
‘It was such a big step up, I don’t think we realised just how big. You were playing clubs like Leyton Orient, it was a big gulf. You had to be full-time in that league, that was the lesson we learned.
‘We knew that unless we went full-time relegation was likely.
‘We want to get back to that level and if we do we’ll be in a better place to not just survive.’
Just being secretary of the Hawks would be enough work for a lot of people, but Brock’s devotion to the game extends to sitting on disciplinary panels.
He acts as an independent member of the Hampshire FA disciplinary panel as well as the FA's National Serious Cases panel. In addition, he was recently appointed to the Judicial panel of the FA as an independent member dealing with cases from the professional game.
Brock previously served as a board member of the National League Under-19 Alliance for 12 years and was a former secretary of the Wessex League.
And there’s more! For seven years he and Seamark ran the Havant & Waterlooville women’s team, who rose through the county divisions to reach the third tier of the female game. In 2009/10, Hawks stunned Cardiff City - a team full of Welsh internationals - with a 2-1 away win in the third round of the FA Women’s Cup.
In round four, drawn away to the famous Doncaster Belles, Hawks took the lead through Charley Wilson before eventually losing 6-1, the last three goals coming in the closing stages.
More recently, Brock has been responsible for setting up the Hawks Community Foundation as a registered charity.
It is impossible to add up just how many games Brock has seen in his footballing life, just how many hours, days, weeks, months - years? - his administration duties have taken up. He is, therefore, eternally grateful to wife Christine. ‘You don’t manage 57 years in football if you don’t have a very supportive partner,’ he said. ‘And my wife hates football!’