‘Pip’ Burrows, a stalwart of local sport, passes away – but his legacy lives on and will never be forgotten
by Frank Baldwin
One of the true stalwarts of both football and cricket in the Sevenoaks area passed away on Tuesday.
Phillip ‘Pip’ Burrows managed St Lawrence (Stone Street) FC getting on for nearly 50 years. During that time his teams have won an impressive list of trophies in cup competitions and several league championships.
Last season St Lawrence finally won the one trophy that had so far eluded Pip – the Sevenoaks & District Football premier league champions cup.
It is standing in the sitting room of his Sevenoaks home, but the other trophy that made him even prouder is the one that stands beside it. It is the Sevenoaks & District Football League fair play trophy which his ‘Saints’ have won three times in the last four seasons.
As well as being a football manager – and occasional player, particularly when one of the teams were short – Pip was also a qualified football referee and a minor counties cricket umpire.
Cricket was another sport he loved and as a pupil at Sevenoaks School was in the same year as eventual Kent and England players Paul Downton (who Pip also persuaded to play football for St Lawrence) and Chris Tavare.
He joked that with such talent already ahead of him in the batting line up he was better off becoming an umpire. In later life he still found time to don the whites to play for St Lawrence cricket club whose ground is right next door to the football pitch in Stone Street. In 2020 he umpired a first team match at Sevenoaks School which marked 50 years of him umpiring there.
Pip’s association with local football started when, not long after he left school, he managed a team that played on a former pitch located within the Otford chalk pit in the early 70s. Many of the players were former Sevenoaks School mates and they formed the nucleus of the squad that Pip eventually united with St Lawrence in the mid 70s.
In those days the St Lawrence changing room was a small old wooden cow shed with a mud floor in the corner of the ground. It had a sink with one cold tap and no electricity which made trying to get dressed after a match on a cold dark winter’s evening a voyage of discovery. Eventually, and not before time, the football club started sharing the cricket club’s changing room. There is nothing left of the old cow shed, but if you search in the bushes you’ll find remnants of the old sink.
Despite these conditions Pip still managed to attract talented players to the club and the teams he started to put together soon became a force to be reckoned with. Visiting clubs who thought they could turn up and ‘turn over’ this small village club were in for a shock. In the 70s and 80s Pip’s teams won a host of trophies. Nick Cobb, one of Pip’s ‘signings’ from his Sevenoaks School days, once scored more than 80 goals in one season in all competitions. An incredible feat.
While some village clubs were forced to close because of lack of interest and players, St Lawrence, under Pip’s management, went on to form a reserve side which is still playing in the Sevenoaks & District League.
The amount of organisation and admin work Pip carried out – particularly phoning all the players in the days before email etc and even marking out the pitch himself – was quite extraordinary.
However, what many of the players are not aware of is the other work Pip did behind the scenes, not only generating income for the club through things like shirt sponsorship but also giving up his time to serve on the Sevenoaks & District Football League committee where, according to other members, Pip did a tremendous job representing the interests of St Lawrence and its players.
In the early days of his management St Lawrence team meetings were held at the former Rose & Crown pub in Stone Street and ‘training’ – this word is used in the loosest sense – was held in the car park. When the pub was turned into the Snail Restaurant, the club moved down the road into The Padwell Arms which was the scene of many a victory celebration. Sadly, this also closed down and so over the years other team HQs were set up by Pip in The Bucks Head, The Five Bells in Seal, and the former Golding Hop in Plaxtol.
A few years ago, Pip was diagnosed with cancer. Despite this battle, and with the help of Jonny Herbert who stepped into the first team manager’s role, Pip remained the driving force behind St Lawrence FC.
Even when his treatment left him very weak Pip would still turn up on match days. Right up until the end Pip could be found watching his teams play while sitting in his car.
Pip’s achievements with St Lawrence will always remain on record but there is an unseen legacy which cannot be overlooked.
I was lucky enough to be part of the early days of Pip’s management when he brought amazing success to the club. He created what can only be described as a ‘community feel’ within St Lawrence that still exists today. The people I started playing with more than 40 years ago still remain good friends to this day and we have Pip to thank for this and the fond memories we all have.
The pandemic means St Lawrence players, supporters and his other connections in local sport, cannot give Phillip ‘Pip’ Burrows the send-off he truly deserves, but plans are already being discussed to organise a get together in his honour when covid conditions allow in order that his amazing contribution to local sport can be celebrated.
* This tribute has only touched the surface of Pip’s contribution to local sport. If anyone has their own memories, please comment below or send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to his story.