Badge of Honour: a chat with Les Easterbrook
K’s stalwart, the man with the badges, a friendly face by the turnstile and a source of K’s photos and memorabilia online: Les Easterbrook has been red-and-white-hooped for more than 40 years. Taimour Lay spent twenty minutes with him earlier in the season and tried to snaffle a bargain. Les (and his badges) will be at the Potters Bar home game on Wednesday night. Also check out his “Kingstonian Pictures” Facebook page.
Les, it feels like you’ve always been around K’s. When was your first game?
My first K’s game was October 1976 against Enfield and the joy was it was in the town centre, you could get the 65 bus, it stopped outside, so a 12 year old could get to Kingstonian on his own. There was a club shop, crowds were decent, the football seemed good in those days.
So this was the mid-70s when, as I understand it, K’s were notoriously bad. We were good in the 60s, 90s and er… will be come 2020? That’s the 30-year pattern.
There was hardly any football on television so watching live football was great, whatever the standard!
What kind of crowds were we getting at Richmond Road at that time?
They were never officially recorded. 200 or 300 I’d have thought. The 60s we were getting 2,000 plus so it had declined a lot.
Did people sing behind the goal?
People went behind the goal but you could only go behind one goal really at Richmond Road. The other end was the clubhouse and it was quite restricted. The crowd seemed an older crowd but they were probably younger than we are now!
And what was the score in your first ever game?
Draw. 0-0 or 1-1. I kept coming back! I went to school in Richmond, I was born in Kingston, but I also went to Brentford, so it was the 65 either way. I’ve always kept going over the years, even when we’ve suffered, always gone away, didn’t do so many in the Conference. The only time I really stopped going and took a break was the end of the Leatherhead season.
Yes, can’t blame you… so what are your highlights as a K’s fan?
The FA Cup games, Brighton, Leyton Orient, the Brentford game of course.
Oh, that wicked Pitcher deflection! I still dream about it. It was a period where everything worked for us. Apart from going bust...
And Sammy Winston! Who was great at every club except us. I was blown away by the two Wembley games when we had 10,000 there.
What did Kingsmeadow mean to you? Were you sad to leave or was Richmond Road the real spiritual home?
It still meant a lot. No one should have to go to three grounds in their lifetime. Clubs move a lot now but I didn’t want a third move, and especially a move into the unknown. Leatherhead was too far, one awful bus route. I’d rather we’d gone to Hampton.
And what do you make of life in Tolworth?
It’s still not home but it’s nearer and better. This could be a home.
Is it Kingston?
The postcode lottery. It’s KT6. But then Leatherhead was KT as well, wasn’t it! I’d rather we’d gone to the Athletics Stadium and built a hub for sport which was going to be at Chessington. That would be nice to do in Kingston. But it’s fine here. There’s cover and you can make a bit of noise.
What’s been your low as a K’s fan?
Losing both grounds in my lifetime. And any relegation. We’ve never had a big hammering from our rivals.
OK, let’s talk badges! All these years I’ve seen you by the turnstiles wheeling and dealing. Tonight you’ve got them set up on a bin.
It’s a beautiful brown recycling bin!
The Borough of Kingston’s finest.
Actually, it says Sutton on it!
Better complain to Jon Tolley. So how did it all start?
As I started coming to games, I’ve got four older brothers, three into football, so I always bought a scarf, a badge, a programme, and it’s just carried on from there. And as you end up filling your house full of programmes, you realise badges are probably a better option. With K’s getting to Wembley and Table One [ a defunct fan group, arguable precursor to the PKK] producing a lot of badges, there were a lot about. I buy them and swap them. And I sell at programme fairs.
If you went on Antiques Roadshow, what would be your most likely badge to make a killing?
I’ve got an Arsenal 1930s honorary stewards badge which at its peak would’ve been £150 or £200. I don’t know what it’s got to now. The market comes and goes. The right day at an auction things can go for a fortune.
What’s a K’s badge you’d like to get your hands on?
There’s a couple I’d like to get from back in the day. I don’t know the full history of the first ever one. The 30s was the heyday after winning the Amateur Cup. And badges were very fashionable. Men wore them on the lapels of their suits and women put them on their hats. They’re cheap, they don’t take up much space.
How many have you got?
Thousands. 2000 Arsenal, 1000 Celtic, 300 Brentford, 60-70 K’s...
If K’s had a museum...
But you’ve got to be secure these days! People will steal anything.
And what’s your most valuable K’s badge?
Oh, I don’t know. £20 probably.
How about those Wombles-K’s half and half badges?
Well, they’re half-worthless at least!
Great answer. Thanks for your time, Les.