RIP Balchy: East Sussex football community mourns Paul
Former local footballer and runner Paul Balch has died.
The 50-year-old had been battling brain cancer and tributes have flooded in from people who knew him and played football with him.
Paul, who was a firefighter, played for Sidley United for many years, winning the County League and John O'Hara Cup double in 2000-01. He also played for Bexhill Town (as they were then called) and Langney Sports (the former name for Eastbourne Borough), Lewes and Hailsham Town, among other clubs.
An extremely fit player, he was also a very decent runner and clocked some terrific times in the Hastings Half Marathon. He was very likeable and popular and there is sadness across the local sporting community following his passing.
Hastings United paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "All at Hastings United are deeply saddened by the news of Paul Balch passing, who lost his fight with brain cancer. Our thoughts are with his Sharon, Grace, Imogen, Max and all of his family and friends at this sad time. A very inspirational man. Rest in Peace.
Hailsham Town chairman Stuart Fairway said: "RIP Paul Balch: Very sad to hear this news. Paul, who played in midfield for us, was an excellent player who I well remember from when I first started going to the club in the mid-90s. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and former clubs."
Sidley tweeted: "We are immensely saddened to hear of the passing of Paul. A Sidley great over the years if ever there was one, terrific ability and skill on the pitch and a top class man off it. I will never forget his goal from the halfway line against Arundel. RIP Paul."
Hollington Utd manager Scott Price said: "RIP Balchy, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet." Price told us: "I played with Paul at Bexhill Town. I remember him as a senior player while I was merely a 15-year-old making my debut and he was the one who took it upon himself to make sure I was okay.
"He was also the first player to congratulate me afterwards after the game. That was 30 years ago and to this day it’s as clear as yesterday. But that was just Balchy's way, he genuinely was the nicest guy you’d ever meet. The town has certainly lost a special person."
Neil Phillips wrote: "I heard the sad news yesterday about my old team mate Balchy. I first met Paul 30 odd years ago while I was a young upstart making my way into the Bexhill Town first team.
"Paul made me feel like one of the lads from day one... I know it’s a cliche, but he really was one of the nicest men you could ever meet. After Bexhill , we seemed to go to the same teams (Stamco, Langney) but sadly not at the same time. But every time we bumped into each he always had that beaming smile on his face. He really was a top top man and he’ll be sorely missed."
Ross Standen, formerly at Lewes FC and now at Whitehawk, said: "Gutted to hear this, even though I haven’t seen him since playing days finished... was a great player and more so a great man when I played at Lewes with him. Thoughts go out to his family & friends."
Other tributes paid included this from Steve Smithers: "What a gentleman, he will be sadly missed. And I'm proud to have known him and called him a friend. My heart goes out to his family."
Trevor Ramsden said: "Such a great sportsman and person. R.I.P. Paul."
Shane Ridgers said: "People often the words “one of the nicest people I know” which isn’t always true but that statement is without question what Paul was .Football, fire service, golf - however people knew him. Rest easy Balchy."
Duncan Kneller added: "Sorry to hear this news. What a great player he was back in the day."
Last summer there was a fundraising drive to bring in funds to pay for Paul's brain cancer treatment - and for brain tumour charities and St Michael's Hospice. It set out to raise £5,000 and briught in an amazing £27,000.
Did you know Paul or play football with him? Email your memories and tributes to [email protected]