Melton sporting community mourn popular former cricketer and footballer

Thorpe Arnold and Egerton Park players held a minute's silence for Nick Gillett before their derby match on Saturday EMN-180515-092058001
Thorpe Arnold and Egerton Park players held a minute's silence for Nick Gillett before their derby match on Saturday EMN-180515-092058001
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A funeral service for a popular former Melton sportsman is expected to be packed to the rafters next week.

Nick Gillett, who was 58, passed away surrounded by his family at Leicester Royal Infirmary on May 5 following a short illness.

Nick Gillett (extreme right of back row) with Thorpe Arnold CC team-mates in 1990, from left, front row - Graham Spawton, Alan Newton, Graham Butler, Robert Le Coyte, Ian Buxton; back row - Kevin Cliffe, Richard Smith, Ian Hickman, Mark Carnel, Tony Throop EMN-180516-143758001

Nick Gillett (extreme right of back row) with Thorpe Arnold CC team-mates in 1990, from left, front row - Graham Spawton, Alan Newton, Graham Butler, Robert Le Coyte, Ian Buxton; back row - Kevin Cliffe, Richard Smith, Ian Hickman, Mark Carnel, Tony Throop EMN-180516-143758001

Many will know him from his local football career with clubs such as Melton Town, Melton Methodist, Pedigree Petfoods and Sileby Town.

The most successful phase of his footballing career came during his time at Holwell Works FC, now called Holwell Sports, when he played left back in a fantastic side that won the Leicestershire Senior League title in the 1987-88 season.

Unfortunately, a dislocated shoulder brought a premature end to his football career after being picked to represent the county.

Generations of Melton cricketers got to play with and against Nick as he turned out for Thorpe Arnold Cricket Club, captaining the side with his father, former club president Pete Gillett, cheering him on from beyond the boundary rope.

Nick Gillett (extreme right on front row) with his Melton Town FC team-mates in the early 1990s, from left, back row - Trevor Harbin, Steve Wright, Mark Hughes, Howard Egglestone, Chris Newton, Mick Fendall, Nick Newman, Roy Hughes; front row - Jamie Spawton, Phil Newton, Adie Grove, Mick Cox, Chris Radford EMN-180516-143746001

Nick Gillett (extreme right on front row) with his Melton Town FC team-mates in the early 1990s, from left, back row - Trevor Harbin, Steve Wright, Mark Hughes, Howard Egglestone, Chris Newton, Mick Fendall, Nick Newman, Roy Hughes; front row - Jamie Spawton, Phil Newton, Adie Grove, Mick Cox, Chris Radford EMN-180516-143746001

Cricket at Thorpe became a family affair when son Jake followed in his footsteps - something which Nick was extremely proud of - and when wife Caroline and daughter Rebecca were roped into providing the refreshments, as well as mum Dorene and sister Amanda supporting the club’s social events.

It was Nick’s work behind the scenes that he will be best remembered for as he spent hours helping to prepare the pitches for Thorpe and then taking on responsibility for Egerton Park.

His dedication to sport in the area has meant that his family has been overwhelmed by messages from players Nick played with and against, including players from as far away as Australia from when Nick kindly provided hospitality to a number of overseas players touring in the summer.

Nick married Caroline at St Mary’s Church in Melton and the couple would have celebrated their 34th anniversary in August.

Thorpe Arnold skipper Nick Gillett, who has died aged 58, is shown greeting a touring Western Australia Under 21 team in the 1990s EMN-180516-171231001

Thorpe Arnold skipper Nick Gillett, who has died aged 58, is shown greeting a touring Western Australia Under 21 team in the 1990s EMN-180516-171231001

She said: “There has been a massive reaction from people in Melton since he passed away quite suddenly.

“We have had lots of cards and people have been posting their memories of Nick on Facebook.

“He was a very sociable man and whenever we were out in town he would also see someone he knew.”

Nick was born in Melton and attended the town’s Brownlow, Sarson and King Edward VII Schools, where he enjoyed playing football for his school teams.

He initally worked as a gas engineer for 22 years with British Gas before becoming a plumber based at Oakham School.

Nick got involved in helping maintain the school’s playing fields and learned a lot from head groundsman Keith Exton, who eventually left to work at Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s test match stadium.

That led to him working on the cricket fields at his old club Thorpe Arnold and the town’s Egerton Park CC in recent years.

The clubs played each other on Saturday and the players held a minute’s silence to remember him. As a mark of respect, both clubs have now named a man of the match award in his honour.

Caroline added: “Nick loved playing cricket. He stopped playing when our son, Jake, began playing for the county and then for Sileby Town.

“Nick and Jake also supported Leicester City and he loved it when they won the Premier League.”

Aside from son Jake (27), Nick also leaves daughter Rebecca (31) and 15-month-old grandson Jack.

A funeral service will be at 2pm at St Mary’s on Thursday May 24, followed by cremation at Grantham. Only family flowers are requested with donations to be made to Ward 16 at Leicester Royal Infirmary and the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA).