Frank Delling - more tributes to a footballing legend and all-round 'Mr Nice Guy'

PUBLISHED: 08:48 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:35 26 July 2019

Frank Delling's 77th birthday football match at Budleigh Salterton. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exsp 1523-19-14AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on Photo Orders

Frank Delling's 77th birthday football match at Budleigh Salterton. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exsp 1523-19-14AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on Photo Orders


Following in from the sad news of the passing of local football legend - and a true gentleman - in Frank Delling, we have received a wonderful tribute from Blackpool, Lancashire, writes Steve Birley.

After we reported about the minute of applause ahead of the Exmouth Town and Exeter City XI pre-season game, Town president John Dibsdall received a communication from Simon Bull who now lives in Blackpool and was associated with Town as physio back in 1990.

John says: "Simon was club physio when I when I first became vice chairman in 1990. He saw the report on Franks passing and was quick to send me the following: "The Exmouth Town youth team of which Frank was manager were due to play Friernhay away with no transport.

"To get there, Frank got eight players with him driving in his VW Beetle.

"They also played a friendly at CTCRM against the Sergeant's Mess team, which they won. They then went across to the mess for food and Frank got all the youth players very inebriated with his firm Wessex Cleaning picking up the tab!

"Apparently George Kent [another very genuine and true football gentleman] was the manager of the mess side!"

John concludes: "Simon ended his message with; "It's a sadder world without a great old character."

and another tribute...

Frank Delling was much more than footballing legend in Exmouth ¬- he was a warm character who everyone seemed to know or, at least, have heard of, writes Callum Lawton.

I was saddened to hear of his passing. If ever there was one man who defined the word 'immortal', you would put good money on it being Frank.

While I'd be hitting the snooze button at 8am, he'd be braving the cold, choppy water of Exmouth's seafront for his regular morning swim.

Despite his advanced years, and apparent frail appearance, Frank was a footballing titan of his generation, and fit as a fiddle to boot.

All too often would he scream at his teammates to carry on running during a relaxed game of five-a-side amongst friends in Ottery.

All too often would he leave a foot in during a 50/50 tackle for the ball, resulting in a dead leg or nasty bruise for the unlucky challenger.

All too often would he jab an opponent in the ribs during a touchline tussle.

But these were the subtle, often invisible moves, of a footballing genius who often defied his aging body to keep up with his younger opponents.

I'm sure no-one would hold him to account for his actions, instead putting it down to an accident.

But this man knew what he was doing, and he was damn good at making sure you knew about it too.

One of my favourite stories he told me en-route to a match was the time he was kicked in the leg by an opponent player in the tunnel before kick-off.

"He told me there would be much more of that to come if I marked him too closely," Frank said.

"So during the match, when the ref wasn't looking, I turned around and kicked him right in the nads. He went down like a sack of spuds.

"I said 'And that's what you'll get if you stay too close to me'."

Aside from his sneaky, sometimes unsportsmanlike style of play, Frank possessed a genuine calmness on the ball, and an almost vintage swagger.

Three moves ahead of everyone, he would have no problem in faking a stepover or pass under pressure, before calmly clipping a ball back to the keeper or taking an opponent on with gusto.

Playing regularly in his eighties, his approach demontrated how much ability he must have had in his younger years - and how much he yearned to hold on to his young legs.

He always made himself free to play, often partaking in two to three games a week.

Frank was football mad, and that commitment to the game undoubtedly stayed with him until his last day.

Anyone who hadn't played with Frank before would probably have sniggered when he rocked up to the game wearing an archaic faded jersey and brand new football boots.

They would have probably fought amongst themselves at a chance to mark the 'grandad', so easy they thought the job would be.

But this old man had the drive and enthusiasm as any fresh-faced youngster playing his first match, and often he would come out on top.

He was a surprise package, a loveable character on and off the pitch, and a respected figure in the local sports scene.

He will be missed by all.

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