Very difficult and traumatising subject this, but when I first saw the press that Eddie Heath’s name had surfaced in relation to the recent child abuse scandal enveloping English football dating back to the 1970’s and 80’s I can’t say I was surprised.
I knew of Eddie Heath through a couple of mates that played in his youth set up at both Millwall and Charlton in the late 70’s and early 80’s before he died suddenly at the club’s training ground in Eltham in December 1983. It was well known amongst local youth football at the time that he would prey on vulnerable young players mostly those who came to games and practice without their parents. I read today that he would befriend single Mum’s so that he would gain their trust of having their sons in his care.
Certainly he had an unsavory reputation and a lot of boys would give him a wide berth, particularly in a changing room, but it was a different time then and as my mate said to me today we were all naive to stuff like that in those days, especially teenage boys, but in hindsight what we are understanding now, it was obvious.
Heath was headhunted, or whatever it was called then, around 1980 by Charlton from Millwall and he was all over his players that they moved with him. Just six did, including my mate. Heath was also the manager of the all conquering local football side Riverside at that time. My brother, 3 years younger, was also at Riverside then and Heath was well known. Mostly for his coaching abilities, but the whispers were there if you listened loud enough.
I remember when he died. It was big news locally and an unexpected shock at the time. His funeral was well attended with loads of pros in attendance as well as then Addicks’ manager Lennie Lawrence and club owner Mark Huyler.
Today Charlton issued a statement, and I hope for once this current regime treat this piece of our history with the respect it deserves understanding how distressing this must be for many ex-players. So far we have only heard from players who either didn’t make it, or had lesser known careers in the game. Certainly there were players around the youth game in those days who had much more fame in the 80’s and 90’s.
Sadly our club’s name will now be mentioned in a negative light, albeit from over 30 years ago, but how an internal investigation will pan out when no one at the club now has any idea of what happened in those days I don’t know. Lennie Lawrence had been at the club in 1983 less than a year. Steve Gritt was in the first team, and it was way before Keith Peacock came back into the fold.
Whatever, I just hope these disgusting individuals like Heath are brought to book, even if posthumously.