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CLUB: Part of the fabric of the club

Staff pay tribute to dear friend Dave Wilkes

23 June 2023


CLUB: Part of the fabric of the club

Staff pay tribute to dear friend Dave Wilkes

23 June 2023

It’s testament to one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet that club staff have stepped forward to pay tribute today to their friend and colleague Dave Wilkes, who we sadly lost this week.

One of the main things to say about Dave-the-person was that he was just there. Whatever your issue, whatever your dilemma, if he heard about it you could guarantee that there’d be a knock on the door and a genuine concern and willingness to offer help and advice.

If he had a little bit of time on his hands he’d also have a story to tell, and it tended to be funny.

His laugh – let’s call it for what it was, it was a ridiculous laugh – was infectious and part of the soundtrack to our working day.

As for Dave-the-coach, his record in spotting and nurturing talent is arguably second to none. His legacy is there for all to see and stands up to any test. Players have quite literally built careers based on the work they did with the man we all came to know as ‘part of the furniture.’

Chairman Andrew Jenkins: “This is so difficult for us all. It came as a complete shock to me, as it has to everyone at the club. David joined the club after Clive Middlemas had met him at an EFL summer coaching course. Clive spoke to me and told me that he would be an excellent coach for the youth system and that he might even play a few games for us. David lived up to those words and many of those young players who were coached by him, whether they made professional status or not, will have benefitted through his influence on them. He actually put Matt Jansen’s dad through his coaching course and I know that had a direct influence on young Matty signing for us. Over all the years I’ve known him David has been a valuable member of staff and will be sadly missed also for his humour, of which he had an abundance.”

Manager Paul Simpson: “Dave was part of the fabric of the football club and he’s left a huge hole. He was a quiet fella who just got on with his job and was always there to offer support in the good and the bad days. His experience of doing every role on the football side was a help, as he knew what we were all going through. He will be sorely missed and love and best wishes go out to his family. As a club we need to be there to support them through this - he was a big part of our family and they are too.”

CUOSC director Billy Atkinson: “All of us at CUOSC were devasted to hear the news. David has been a wonderful servant to the club, first as a player, then a coach even for a short time as joint manager with John Halpin, and later and over a long time with the club’s academy. David was always cheerful and totally committed to CUFC and will be greatly missed by his colleagues at the club, and by the many fans that he came into contact with over the many years he has been here. All of our thoughts are with all of David’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

Assistant manager Gav Skelton: “I’ve known Dave since I was 9. He was my school of excellence coach, youth team manager, first team coach at Carlisle United and at Gretna, and most recently he has been my work colleague for the last six years. Obviously that means he watched me grow up and he had a massive influence on me, especially as a young footballer. He was always someone I could talk to and share a laugh with on numerous occasions around the club, no matter how many times I’d heard the same story. He will be sadly missed.”

Director John Nixon: “The first thing to say is that Dave was always there. Whenever you walked into the offices you could guarantee a cheery welcome and a smile, and he would be happy to talk about all manner of football issues, always with a valued opinion. He had this uncanny, great skill for spotting football talent in young players, and for identifying those who had a real chance of making it through all of the age groups and on towards a professional contract. I don’t think that’s a talent you can teach, it’s just something very special, and Dave had it. Just a month ago I was with him at our academy session and he pointed out a couple of under-14 lads who he had identified as having real potential, and he talked me through his reasoning as we watched them play. I have to say, it all made sense as the session unfolded. Through all the years I worked with him he never lost his enthusiasm, and that rubbed off on those who worked with him. Away from football he was always great company, with so many stories to share, some funny and some with real meaning. His sense of humour meant that we had many laughs along the way, and he loved to talk about his own achievements in the game, as a player and as a coach. This is such a loss, we will all miss him dearly.”

Director Steven Pattison: “It’s very difficult, he was liked by everyone and it’s come as such a shock. He was a funny and humorous man who was of immense importance to so many of those who came through our centre of excellence and youth system for over 30 years. He was always there for everybody and it’s impossible to measure how much he is going to be missed by so many.”

Club ambassador John Halpin: “I first met Dave in 1990. Clive Middlemass brought him to the club as our first ever Community Officer, and although he played several times for the club he was instrumental in setting up the community side. He was a real character, had a magnificent laid-back approach, and was always smiling and had a story to make us laugh. When I finished my playing days Dave was so helpful to me with my coaching qualifications. He was an excellent coach and loved working with young players, bringing them on, and his record of producing young talent to play in our first team is second to none. We worked very closely together during the Jimmy Glass season, and I learned so much off him. Although it was a difficult period at the club Dave always worked with enthusiasm and could see the funny side in any situation. We will all miss him greatly.”

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens: “It’s hard to come to terms with this. Dave loved Carlisle United and put his heart and soul into the club over many, many years. Many young and developing players will have worked with him and benefitted from his knowledge and selfless approach. Wilkesy was an old fashioned ‘club man’. He was part of the fabric of the club and made it a brighter place when he was around. We spent many hours together and he was one of kind. He is someone I miss already and will always remember with great fondness.”

Kit man Colin Nixon: “I first met Dave in 2009 when I joined Carlisle United as an employee. I will always treasure meeting him and for what he stood for, not only in football terms, but also in life. He was a ‘true Yorkshireman’, down to earth, canny with his wallet, a man of substance, and he had an infectious laugh with a warm smile. But, more than that, he had the heart of a lion. He was a talented footballer and a man of vision on and off the field, and he passed on his knowledge to many youngsters and professionals to further their careers. We should all thank him for that. We will miss Dave greatly, but I draw comfort on the fact I met ‘Wilkesy’ and was a part of his life. You left us too early Dave, rest in peace. My thoughts are very much with his friends and family at this very sad time.”

Director Suzanne Kidd: “Dave has been a colleague and friend since I started working at the club. He has been a constant source of warmth and support, always with a positive outlook and a contagious laugh. Dave was there for everyone in many different ways, and always made time for people. He was such a big character around the club, stories from his playing and coaching days always kept us entertained. He will be a huge miss to us all.”

Secretary Sarah McKnight: “Dave was a genuinely lovely bloke. He loved telling stories about his time playing in Hong Kong, and there was never a biscuit left in the place when he was about 😊. Dave was a constant at the club, and he was the first youth team manager I worked with back in 1994. Apart from leaving to join an agency for a couple of years we have worked together ever since. He will leave a huge hole in the club with his wealth of experience, and will be sorely missed by everyone who has worked with him. RIP Dave.”

Head of youth Mark Birch: “Dave was Dave, as daft as that sounds – he was unique. He drove you mad because he wanted to have a bit of fun when you were trying to work, but when he was working he wanted you to be serious. The biggest thing to say about him professionally is that he has had a hugely positive impact on so many young players over many, many years. The number of kids who have come through our academy while he has been part of it is second to none for this club. He deserves a lot of credit for that and we can all be proud of what he achieved. Personally I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me. We all have good times and bad times, and when I’ve hit a low point Dave has been the one who has always been there, always on the phone and always nipping round to my house on his bike to make sure I’m ok. I think he’ll be missed by everybody. For me he’s a person I’ll miss more than I can put into words because he’s just a genuinely decent guy.”

Academy manager Simon Friel: "Dave was a great friend and colleague who had a passion for football and seeing young players develop. He had a great impact on many people he met, both within the football industry and outside of it. He always had people’s best interests at heart and would cheer up our day with his great sense of humour. Dave was a caring and supportive person and always had time for anyone. I will miss him greatly but his influence and impact on both players and staff will no doubt live on through them."

Media officer Andy Hall: “My first morning of being full-time at the club was spent with Dave. For the record – it’s the only time he ever made me a cup of coffee! He took it upon himself to show me round the place, even though I kept reminding him I’d been working part-time anyway for close to six years. It was what he did. He wanted people to feel welcome. He had some great stories, loved to listen as well as talk, had a lightning quick sense of humour and could hear a packet of biscuits being opened from over two miles away. All of that aside, and what we will miss most, is that he could tell if someone was feeling down, a bit low, or perhaps under pressure, and he always, without fail, took steps to help. That’s the sign of a decent person, and that’s how I will remember him.”


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