It is with great sadness that the club learned tonight of the death of much-loved groundsman Peter Norton and we wish to pass on the sympathies of all of us to his family and many friends.
Peter, 80, was an ever-present fixture at Stonebridge Road in recent years and hugely popular amongst staff and fans alike. Having only celebrated his landmark birthday in October, when he was presented with the gift of a TV and a cake by the club, Peter suffered a fall a few weeks back and was being cared for in hospital since.
A right-half for Empire Paper Mills FC in his days playing on a pitch, he found national fame off it during the lead-up to our 2008 FA Trophy final when he reached No.15 in the iTunes dance chart with his ‘Beat The Weather’ single – a feat he accepted with his usual humility and good grace.
In that time and since, Peter worked diligently on the pitch at the club he loved. His customary good humour in his work was perhaps never better exemplified than this incident eight years ago: “In 2007 our game against Halifax had to be called off because there was an absolute deluge,” Peter recalled a few years later. “It was coming off the terraces like a waterfall. Some disgruntled Halifax supporters turned up and started singing ‘Where’s your groundsman gone?’. Well I’d gone home. Absolutely drenched.”
Vice chairman Peter Varney told FleetOnline, “I cannot put into words how much this news has affected all of us who work for the club. I visited Peter in hospital twice in the last week and could see how ill he was. The club has lost a true legend, a man with a tremendous work ethic and a passionate supporter of the club. Stonebridge Road will never be quite the same. On a personal level I will miss his humour and the chats which accompanied his delivery of the local newspapers. He was so proud of the team’s performances this year. There will be a minute’s silence at the home match versus Truro City in respect for a true gentleman.”
General manager Dave Archer said, “We have lost a Fleet legend tonight; it’s a very sad day for everyone connected with our club.”
Fans’ tributes were already pouring in via the internet with comments remembering Peter as a “a true gentlemen”, “an absolutely fantastic guy” and “a great servant to the club who gave years of excellent service”.
Gutted to hear about the news of Peter Norton passing away… A true legend @EUFCofficial…. Always had a top pitch !!
— Craig Stone (@stone_craig) December 30, 2015
@EUFCofficial In the days when the club were not quite so well off…he gave of his time and expertise for free. He was a gem of a man.
— Roly Edwards (@RolyEdwards) December 30, 2015
RIP Peter Norton. Groundsman extraordinaire for #eufc. Hard working and lovely chap. Will forever be 'Beating the Weather' up on high now.
— Tina Button (@KentishBursar) December 30, 2015