The football community joined friends and family at a packed St Mary Magdalene Church in Waltham last Thursday to celebrate the life of Ken ‘Sep’ Bestwick who died earlier this month, aged 82.
Sep grew up in Asfordby Valley and began his first forays into football at Melton Boys’ School and then junior club level with Asfordby.
As the son of a former Derby County player, football was in the genes and he quickly graduated into senior football.
The talented young outside-left represented the Leicestershire youth side where he was spotted by Leicester City scouts and put on the Foxes schoolboy books.
A promising career beckoned when Aston Villa came calling, and young Bestwick spent a season playing on the wing for Villa’s reserves.
National Service and a spell in the Army intervened. The Army were quick to spot the prowess of the 21-year-old, comparing him to Sep Smith, Leicester City great of the 1930s and 1940s, and giving him a nickname which would stick for life.
Villa agreed to keep his place open, but a broken ankle picked up during an Armed Forces match hampered his chances, and he returned to Leics Senior League football for Holwell Works and then Midlands Woodworkers.
After marrying Mary, the couple moved to Waltham in 1959 where Sep’s lasting legacy to football began.
Knowing a footballer of pedigree was in their midst, the villagers were quick to spot a golden chance to strengthen Waltham United.
After initially rebuffing offers, owing to work commitments as an electrician, Sep agreed to join the club, sparking an association which would span more than four decades.
He played on until he was 40, but his attention turned to coaching and football administration, while his two sons Martin and Neil followed his footsteps into the team.
Martin said: “Football was in his blood and it was his driving force to keep the club going.”
Having established a committee of like-minded souls around him, including Alan Luntley, Tim Ryan and Joe Spencer, plans were drawn up for a new home on former allotments.
The Goadby Road facility was opened in 1986 by England cricketer Chris Broad and continues to serve the community.
It became Sep’s pride and joy, buying a tractor to tend the pitch which he cultivated into the envy of local grassroots football.
A golden period of success followed as the club reached the County Cup final in the 1990/91 season.
Waltham won the league knockout cup and finished league runners-up in the following campaign, and in 1992/93 they went one better and were crowned league champions.
Sep, meanwhile, was presented with a secretary’s award for 25 years’ service by the Melton and District Football League.
But while adept at administration and organisation, Sep was most at home when getting his hands dirty, marking out his beloved pitch and putting the nets up.
His labours of love would allow generations of young footballers to enjoy the game.
Sep’s daughter Jane said: “We’ve had lots of messages from young guys to say they felt privileged to know him and thank him for giving them the opportunity to play.”
Neil added: “He put his heart and soul into that facility; it was Sep’s pitch.
“He was a one-off - people like him don’t come along very often.”