Ian Priest 3rd left, front row at Wormley FC.
All at Cheshunt Football Club were saddened to hear of the recent passing of former Manager and player, Ian Priest.
After serving in the Army, Ian played for the now defunct Waltham Cross side, Highfield, and Wormley Rovers before becoming Wormley’s Manager in 1984. In the summer of 1986, he was persuaded to join newly-appointed Manager Dave Bidwell as his Assistant at Theobalds Lane.
It was a chaotic time at Cheshunt with no players or coaching staff and only two members – Fred Beer and Roger Carter – remaining following the previous season’s showdown with ground owners, Abbey Homes. With no playing budget, Bidwell and Priest tried to assemble a side using their local knowledge, contacts and good will, bringing in former stalwarts Dave Cooper and Steve Naylor and giving debuts to youngsters Steve Harvey and Mark Timpson amongst many new faces. However, the Isthmian second division was far to strong for this makeshift side they were about to experience the worst season in the Clubs history.
Bottom of the league and out of all Cups, Dave Bidwell resigned due to work commitments. Priest was appointed Manager and immediately recorded the Ambers first win, a 4-2 at home to Royston on November 11th – a Club record for the first win. Sadly it was only a blip and the defeats continued, with Cheshunt’s next win not coming until February. Priest battled with simply retaining his squad and was reported to the FA by Hoddesdon Town for ‘poaching their players’. With an average attendance of only 49, the low point of the season came at Wolverton Town where, having to play himself at right-back, Priests side went down 1-9.
Relegation to the Spartan League was inevitable but Priest had the backing of the Committee as, regardless of the problems he faced, Priest always put out sides that tried to play good, positive football. Now bolstered by former players Chris and Tony Wilson on the Committee, Cheshunt prepared for the 1987-88 season with some optimism. Priest brought in new signings Tony Kelly (who would go onto play for Stoke City), Andy Prutton, Dave Steppings, Steve Harvey and brought back former striker Andy Cook but they got off to a poor start, not winning until their fifth game. With the discovery that Abbey Homes had sold the lease of the ground to the site manager and that he was now keeping all income other than the gate receipts, the committee had to radically review their figures. Things were so tight, they decided not to take part in the FA Cup, just to save the entry fee of £50! Faced with cuts to an already tiny budget, Priest resigned in January 1988 along with his Assistant, Bill Major.
He went onto manage Welwyn Garden City and his old side Wormley Rovers before joining Andy Prutton as his number two at Hertford Town in the early 2000’s. He retired to his native Tynemouth and fought a long battle with cancer before passing away on November 2nd 2023, aged 74.
Our thoughts and condolences are with Ian’s family & friends at this time.