In Memoriam: Mark “Arnie” Arnold

The club was saddened to hear of that our former manager and player Mark Arnold passed away on Friday at the age of 64.

Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack a few weeks ago and wasn’t strong enough to undergo the bypass surgery he needed. He died at home on Friday.

No one who knew Mark called him by his first name. He was always ‘Arnie’ and during the 1980s was very much the heartbeat of the football club.

Arnie was a promising schools and youth footballer, a midfielder with an eye for goal and a good range of passing. Good enough, in fact, to be on Brighton’s books before they released him. “Their loss!” he always used to say. But he had a soft spot for the Seagulls and was a season-ticket holder at the Amex in recent years, although he was a Tottenham fan as well. I never worked out which club he supported more but this picture supplied by Mark’s niece Nadine probably gives the game away.

Mark’s dad Colin ran a fencing business in East Grinstead for many years. Arnold Fencing was based where Sainsbury’s is now and not only was the back office the hub of the business it became the hub of the football club too.

When he wasn’t selling fence panels and posts he would hold court in there with any number of daily visitors – his players, committee members, prospective signings and, for many years, our long-serving secretary George Tizzard who used to live a few hundred yards away and would pop in on an almost daily basis to tell Arnie about the latest booking and to buy a Wasps’ lottery card which Arnie sold on the counter to help raise funds, often to people who’d only come in to buy a bit of post and rail.

I didn’t see Arnie play for Grinstead, but many people told me that he was a cultured presence in our midfield in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The standard of the Sussex County League 30-40 years ago was very good, certainly the equivalent of the level we play at these days. There was only one sub as well so you had to be decent to get in the team, even in the second division which is where we found ourselves when Arnie took over as manager in 1984.

There was no budget for players, but we had a decent youth team and Arnie built a good side around youngsters like Steve Norris with a sprinkling of experience and slowly our fortunes started to improve and in we eventually won promotion back to Division One. There wasn’t much money around and when we did start paying players a lot of the time it was from Arnie’s own pocket. He was always generous to friends and strangers.

But playing and managing wasn’t the extent to his involvement. He also had a spell as chairman and he was involved in all aspects of the club, from running the bar to running the line for the reserves. The epitome of a club man and a real football connoisseur.

I first got to know him in 1984 when some mates and I used to hire the old ball court on a Friday night to play five-a-side and he would come to open up. Eager to get into journalism, I asked Arnie who wrote the match reports in the East Grinstead Courier because I didn’t think they were very good! In turns out the author was Arnie, but he didn’t take offence. In fact, within a few weeks I was writing the reports and editing the programme (another job he did), photocopying it in his office on Saturday mornings between delivering fence panels around the town. A few years later I was sports editor of the Courier and speaking to Arnie on a sort-of professional basis and a lifelong friendship began. As well as his passion for football, Arnie was a keen golfer who at one stage played off a single-figure handicap. I remember being with him when he got his first hole in one. I was always surprised it took him that long, he was a good golfer.

When he retired from football management golf became his passion and he was a key member of the ‘Hook & Hack’ society with a lot of former Grinstead players, who played all over the world together.

When Sainsbury’s moved in and the fencing business closed Arnie became a driver based at Gatwick, and eventually moved to Brighton. A lot of his old Grinstead friends didn’t seem him much in recent years but whenever I saw him, more often than not at the Amex, he always asked how the Wasps were getting on. The club was a big part of his life.

Arnie was part of the fabric of the club for many years and will be sadly missed by so many of his contemporaries. I’m sure all of his contemporaries have a funny story about him. We send our condolences to his partner Lea, sisters Nikki and Karen and the rest of the family.

RIP Arnie.

Bruce Talbot (Committee Member)

Posted in Club.