Chichester mourns one of its FA Cup heroes

Roy Gilfillan
Roy Gilfillan

Roy Gilfillan, player-coach at Chichester City FC during probably its most successful era, has died at the age of 89.

His father Jock was a professional footballer with Heart of Midlothian and Pompey. Jock played more than 350 games for Pompey, appearing in two of their FA Cup finals.

“We called him chicken wings because when in possession, he spread his arms wide and shoved his backside into defenders, who could not reach the ball without bringing him down.

Nigel Hillier

Advised by his father against taking up football professionally, Roy played at a senior level in both the Hampshire and Sussex County Leagues.

His first senior appearance was with Newport (Isle of Wight) where he became a prolific centre-forward. He still remains their all-time top scorer with 221 goals in 196 games over five seasons from 1951.

In 1958 his job brought him to Chichester and he was appointed player-coach at Chichester City. Under his stewardship the club enjoyed probably their most successful period, winning the Sussex County League in 1959-60, 60-61 and finished second in 61-62.

They also reached the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first and only time, losing to Bristol City after an entertaining cup run.

oy was captain, coach and centre-forward for the Chichester City Football Club side that reached the first round proper of both the FA Cup and the FA Amateur Cup in 1960.

The fact Chichester lost 11-0 at Bristol City in the former and 5-0 at Woking in the latter cannot detract from their achievements – for they were also County League champions in that memorable season.

Their exploits made them local heroes and the cup fever that gripped the city attracted a crowd of 2,000 crammed into the Oaklands Park ground for the fourth qualifying round match against Western League leaders Dorchester, which Chichester won 4-2 to earn their tie at at Bristol. They were drawn at home but opted to play at Bristol’s Ashton Gate ground in front of 12,500 spectators.

Chichester were overwhelmed, but they played with courage and determination as former England centre-forward John Atyeo underpinned their demise with five goals.

Roy, who worked for the Inland Revenue, arrived at Chichester from Newport, Isle of Wight, where he had been a semi-professional. Therefore, he was ineligible to play in the Amateur Cup.

Even though well into his 30s, he had an immediate effect, scoring regularly, and with his man-management skills, welding Chichester into a formidable unit.

Inside-forward Nigel Hillier recalled Roy with respect and affection. “We called him chicken wings,” he said, “because when in possession, he spread his arms wide and shoved his backside into defenders, who could not reach the ball without bringing him down.

“He laid on so many openings for myself and Mick Blythman and we were unstoppable in Sussex that season.”

Roy is the first of the 11 players (no subs in those days) to pass away and enjoyed being part of their 50th-anniversary reunion in Chichester in 2010.

Later in life Roy joined Fishbourne Bowling Club. Always competitive, he won seven trophies through the 1990s and was club captain for two seasons. He was later elected a life member of the club.

His pedigree as a footballer was superb, for he was the son of Jock Gilfillan, a goalkeeper who moved from Hearts in Scotland to Pompey when Roy was a toddler and played more than 300 times for them.

Jock appeared in the 1929 and 1934 FA Cup finals, suffering defeat against Bolton (2-0) and Manchester City (2-1) respectively.

MIKE LEWIS & TONY MUSTARD

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