Tributes paid to ‘one-in-a-million’ football legend Frank Delling – who carried on playing the game he loved into his 80s

Exmouth’s football community is mourning the loss of a ‘one-in-a-million’ true character of a game he carried on playing well into his 80s.  

Tributes have been paid to Frank Delling, who was renowned for his huge contribution to the sport in the town for many decades.

Frank, aged 84, had bravely battled cancer for several years and never let it stop him enjoying the game he loved.

His life was celebrated with a minute’s applause before a match between Exmouth Town FC and an Exeter City XI at Southern Road last Wednesday.

“He was a big fan of Exeter City, Manchester United and all local football,” said Town president John Dibsdall.

“He was very competitive as a player and many of his opponents still bear the scars; he celebrated his 80th birthday with a veterans game at St James’ Park.

“I think the occasion finally got the better of him as all the opposition were still on their feet at the end of the game and the referee was able to keep his cards in his pocket.

“Unlike when he played Walking Football at Exmouth Community College and was sent off at the age of 82!

Exmouth football legend Frank Delling

Football legend Frank Delling (right) is pictured with Mike Radford and Les Smith at Old Trafford when Exeter City played Manchester United in the FA Cup.

“When Exmouth Town hosted a youthful Exeter City side last Wednesday, Frank’s very good friend and indeed a friend of both clubs, George Kent, gave a donation to Town from Frank’s family for which the club are grateful.

“They will now consider how best to use the money to provide a fitting memorial in Frank’s name.

“Many of Frank’s friends in football were present at the game and joined in the minute’s applause that rang around the ground.

“He was ‘one-in-a-million’ and had bravely fought cancer for many years, refusing to let it get the better of him and had continued to play and live his life to the full. He will be missed.”

Frank Delling Exmouth

Frank (front row, second from the left) is pictured with the Exmouth Ammies.

Born in Burnthouse Lane, Exeter, Frank was one of the true characters of local football representing and being involved in many clubs in the area.

Going to school in Exeter, Frank excelled in all sports and represented the county at football and table tennis. He completed his National Service in the RAF, being stationed in Cyprus and North Devon and was part of the catering division.

He worked for Neal’s Dry Cleaning before starting his own business, Wessex Cleaning, and opened a shop in Rolle Street that ran for 17 years. He then became involved in the newsagency business in Exeter.

Frank played for many football clubs including St Thomas, Budleigh Salterton, Exwick and Littleham.

His most successful season came while playing for Newton Poppleford, when they went through the season undefeated – winning five cups in the process.

In later years, he was a great help to many clubs, among others Exmouth Amateurs, and also ran a Saturday morning soccer school for children at Exmouth Town.

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