Our President, Tommy Jover
It is with the deepest regret that we report the death of our much-loved President, Tommy Jover. Sadly, his health had failed in recent months and he passed away last Monday, aged 91. We extend our sincere condolences to his wife, Vicky, in her sad bereavement.
Tommy Jover was a true Hamlet legend. Back in the years following the Second World War, there was no more popular player around in amateur football than our very own flying left-winger. The scorer of 236 first team goals for the club, plus around 100 more during the war years, Tommy's exploits in the Dulwich Hamlet number 11 shirt are still recalled with great affection. He remained loyal to the club, not only throughout his playing career, but also ever since and in total he had been actively involved with the club for almost 72 years - a quite remarkable record of long service for which the club will always be grateful. He had been our President since 1985.
A boyhood hero of so many of our older supporters, Tommy was blessed with a phenomenal burst of speed - he was actually one of the best sprinters in the country - and his uncanny habit of popping up in unexpected places on the field, at just the right time, brought him many goals and the club many victories.
Yet Tommy played little football at school. An only child, he was born in London on 27th July 1917 and attended St. Mary's Church of England School in Balham. His father, who was of Spanish descent, was talented in an altogether different field - as a circus entertainer! A very good acrobat, he was part of an act called 'The Mirthful Jovers' who performed regularly at such places as the old Holborn Empire. One wonders what Tommy may have achieved if he had taken to the stage!
Leaving school at the age of 15, Tommy joined a firm of shipping and forwarding agents, which involved clearing goods through the customs when they came into the country. Although he moved to another firm in 1950, he stayed in the same line of work and was promoted to a directorship before he retired in 1982.
Tommy's first real introduction to the game of football came in South London Boys Brigade matches and he represented his battalion at the age of 16. His first and only junior club was 'Emmacees' for whom he scored a lot of goals in the Premier Division of the Balham League.
A successful trial for Dulwich Hamlet led to his election as a member of the club in November 1936. A few weeks later, with a number of regulars injured, he made his debut in the first team and scored twice in a high-scoring victory at Ilford. Today that would probably have cemented his place in the side but Dulwich had so many good players around then that Tommy was only given a few more games towards the end of the season after the FA Amateur Cup had been won.
The following season, however, he gained a regular place in the first team at outside-left and he finished that 1937/38 season as top scorer with 27 goals in 36 games. Injuries interrupted his 1938/39 season and cost him a place in our London Senior Cup winning team, but he still managed to score 13 goals in just 14 matches.
Some of his best years should have been from 1939 to 1945, but these were spent in the RAF. However, the air force, even in wartime, was clever enough to keep him and a squad of other footballers together. Stationed at Henlow in Buckinghamshire, he had the good fortune to play with such stars as Jack Crayston and Laurie Scott of Arsenal, together with a young Preston North End and Scotland halfback who went on to manage Liverpool - one Bill Shankly. It was only when Tommy was demobbed after the war and read his papers that he discovered it said on them: "Not to be posted unless needed".
Although required to play for his RAF station if they had a game, Tommy always tried to get away at weekends and play for Dulwich. In this way he played several matches, either friendlies, South Eastern Combination games or the odd cup-tie. As already mentioned, Tommy scored around 100 goals for the club during those war years.
A superb sprinter, Tommy only took up athletics through a chance introduction to the Herne Hill Harriers when he needed to get fit after an operation for appendicitis. During the war he represented the RAF at White City meetings and following demobilisation after five and a half years service he became 100 yards champion of Surrey and reached the AAA 100 yards final won by McDonald Bailey. In 1946 he achieved an athletics ambition when he was chosen for the English relay team in the European Championships at Oslo.
In all probability, he would have represented his country at football too. But, when invited to play for the England Amateur team on a tour abroad, Tommy's boss would not give him time off work so he had to decline the offer. What a shame that his boss was not interested in sport. For once in his life the mild-mannered Tommy was rather angry!
Although he never played for England, he gained numerous other representative honours during his career, playing at various times for the Isthmian League, FA XIs, London, Surrey and the AFA.
Returning to regular football with Dulwich after the war, Tommy remained a menace to opposing defences for several years and his goal tally mounted. In 1945/46, he netted 36 times - still a post-war record for the club for the most goals scored in one season.
He finally retired in the summer of 1956 after 20 years of loyal and devoted playing service. Excluding the war years, he made 385 first team appearances for the club and scored 236 goals - a quite outstanding record. He was effective to the last, making a first team comeback in an FA Amateur Cup quarter-final at the tender age of 38! Called into the side at the last moment when Bill Bond dropped out through injury, he netted twice in a 3-0 replay win over West Auckland Town in front of a 13,500 crowd at Champion Hill. The 'mercurial' Tommy could not weave his magic in the semi-final, however, as we lost 1-3 to Corinthian-Casuals before 27,000 spectators at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground.
Other highlights of his career were playing at Highbury in the 1950 London Senior Cup Final when he scored one of our goals in a 3-1 win over Hounslow Town, and helping us win the Isthmian League championship in season 1948/49.
Fortunately, Tommy's services were not lost to the club when he hung up his boots. He was immediately elected to the club's committee on which he served faithfully for many years. In 1965 he became the club's Honorary Assistant Secretary, which involved making all the arrangements for first team matches, and he held that position for five years. In 1970, he took over from Arthur Aitken as Honorary Secretary and he carried out that busy task for another five years before standing down in 1975.
He maintained his very close association with the Hamlet and, when approached, would happily give others the benefit of his vast knowledge of the game. In 1985 he was unanimously elected as Club President, a role in which he served with great charm and dignity for the past 23 years.
Despite his advancing years, until quite recently, Tommy remained very sprightly, played golf regularly and rarely missed one of our Saturday home matches. He particularly enjoyed meeting up with his former playing colleagues when we had one of our 'Vice-Presidents' days.
As a player, Tommy's ability and model sportsmanship won him the admiration of the officials, players and supporters of the many clubs we played. Off the field, his polite and cheerful manner won him so many friends that his name and that of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club have long been synonymous. He will be greatly missed.
As a mark of respect, a minute's silence in Tommy's memory was held before the kick-off of Sunday's FA Cup Tie with Broxbourne Borough.