A true supporter for over 30 years - and so much more
It is with great sadness that we report that Ian Hands passed away on Wednesday, aged 68.
Ian was part of the fabric of Crawley Town for more than 30 years, a true supporter who followed the club home and away as well as contributing in many ways off the field as well.
Ian was known to a generation of Reds’ fans in two roles. He opened the club’s first programme shop at Town Mead in the late 1980s and at the same time he took over from Dennis Lovell as our
programme editor, a job he continued until the club’s move to the Broadfield Stadium in 1997.
At the club’s new ground, he ran the Club Shop until Reds were promoted into the Football League and in the last few years he would hold court in his programme hut near Redz Bar, welcoming home
and away fans before heading off to watch the team from his seat in the West Stand.
Bruce Talbot, the club’s media manager, said: “I first met Ian in the mid-1980s when I started reporting on the club for the Crawley Observer. He had a programme hut at the back of the terrace at Town Mead and I’d be one of many visitors Ian would entertain with his stories and gossip before the game.
“He soon became programme editor, a role he performed for over ten years. He took great pride in his work and won several awards during our non-league days.
“By then he’d retired from his job with the Met Police and could devote more time to his passion for programme collecting. He would often give me a call and I’d nip over to his house in Tilgate, which was an absolute treasure trove, and I’d end up spending 2-3 hours there looking at programmes and talking football with him.
“Ian was very highly respected among fellow programme dealers. He was one of the best in the country. As well as the Reds, his other passion was Chelsea. He had every Chelsea home programme since the war and he loved going to antique and collectable fairs looking for bargains.
“In the last few years he ran his programme shop here at the stadium. He always put a few old issues from the club we were playing to entice the away fans in and have a natter.
“Everyone who knew Ian had time for him because he had time for them. He would chat to anyone about football, players, teams and programmes. He loved non-league football and when he wasn’t watching Crawley he would go to a game and inevitably, wherever he went, there would be two or three people who he knew to have a gossip with.
“He was delighted when the club reached the Football League and he loved ticking off new grounds. I used to take him to a lot of games with John Barnett and the time would fly by. Ian loved a laugh, even if it was sometimes at his expense!
"But he never forgot the roots of Crawley Town were in non-league.
“He was known to so many of our supporters who will share the shock at this news felt by everyone at the club who knew him.”
Our condolences to Ian’s family.
If you have any memories or tributes to Ian please email them to email@example.com we will include them on the website.
TRIBUTE TO IAN BY REDS' SUPPORTER MICK FOX
I was shocked to hear of the sudden death of Ian on Tuesday night. I had been away for a week but had seen Ian not long before and we had our usual moan about the terrible season we had just endured! Through our mutual love of all things old and made of paper (Ian with sporting programmes and ephemera, and me with military and social history), we had in the past shared many a session talking about our latest sale or purchase as well as the highs and lows of Crawley Town.
I have known Ian pretty much since he arrived on the scene at Crawley in the 1970s, as a displaced Wealdstone fan looking for his local fix of non-league football. Ian was at the time in the police force, but early retirement some years later meant he could immerse himself completely in his passion for sporting collectables as well as live non-league football. Ian was also a follower of Chelsea, but I always got the impression this was the Chelsea of days gone by as, like me, I think he saw more to interest him in the lower leagues and in non-league football.
Mention of Wealdstone reminds me that just last year I had a collection of old press photos for sale and Ian happened to be glancing through these and found one of a London bus with Harrow and Wealdstone - Ian's home town - as the destination. Ian exclaimed: “That's the bus I always used to catch!" He then looked more closely and found that he and a friend were in the picture sitting on the top deck!”
This went into Ian's personal collection.
Ian had been a decent player himself and I remember he played as goalkeeper in a Town Mead Wanderers friendly match arranged for us on the old Town Meadow pitch by Bruce Winfield in the late 1970s. Ian was also very friendly with another club stalwart, Stan Markham, and was a regular visitor to Stan in his last days. Ian's other main sporting passion was lawn bowls which Ian still played to a very good standard, and I am sure there will be many friends and acquaintances among the local clubs, shocked to hear of Ian's sudden death.
Ian spent one or two days a week working for St Catherine's Hospice as a volunteer, using his experience to identify and price the many items brought in as donations. When Ian came across something outside of his area of expertise he would sometimes contact me, and it was because of this that I met up with him for the last time a week or so ago to give him my views on the value of some stamps and postcards. But generally Ian was pretty knowledgeable about old paper; in fact he was one of the leading dealers in sporting programmes and ephemera in the country and is going to be missed by a large number of friends and contacts in this field.
Many of these friends and contacts would visit Ian at the club shop hut on matchdays, and it will be a strange feeling to walk past there to Redz bar and not see him entertaining them with a wide array of programmes from their particular club.
On my frequent visits to Ian's house to buy/sell or view, a large part of our time was talking all things Crawley Town and football in general, but Ian would always mention his latest trip with his beloved grandchildren and my sympathies go out to his sons Darren, Steve and Michael, daughter Lorraine, his nine grandchildren and the rest of his family.