Pembrokeshire Sport lost one of its best known former administrators this week with the sad passing away of Des Shanklin, who had served Welsh Football at the highest level but never lost his innate ability to treat everyone from top internationals to aspiring young footballers in our county with total respect.

Des had been unable to attend matches for a while because of illness but he retained his life-long interest until the end and the tributes paid to him on social media show what an effect he had on those he touched in the sport.

Early start with The Boro committee

Des had first started out supporting Pembroke Borough as a teenager and before he was 20 he was a member of their committee and was soon selecting the team alongside Alfie Llewelyn and Billy Thomas.

A short time later he ran the Boro’s  youth team that included top players like Ray Asparassa, Ricky Hill, Keith Leonard and Barry Stubbs, who all went on to make names for themselves in the Welsh League at London Road.

When Des took over the running of the second team he was often helped by great club characters like Frank Donovan, Billy Reed, Johnny Lunt, Len Roberts and Mal Morris, who would help him out if the first team didn’t have a game – and it wasn’t long before he became assistant manager to Alfie Llewellyn of the first team.

Great days at London Road

During his lengthy spell as manager after he took over from Alfie there were some great moments for Des at The Boro as he signed the likes of Barry Jones, Dixie Hale and Malcolm Kennedy and oversaw the development of Graham Jenkins and Gerald Hicks when they were capped for Wales, as well as other terrific local stars of the calibre of Steve Callan, Pat McQuillan, Mark Powell, Mike Lewis, Mark Ashman and Neil Morris, to name but a few.

Recognition at the top Welsh level of administration

But at this time Des was also beginning to rise through the ranks of the Welsh FA hierarchy after being elected on to the committee in 1978 from 18 candidates, as well as the Welsh League Management Committee in the same year.

This led him on to eventually becoming Treasurer, chairman and president of Welsh Football, a role he held at the time when Wales celebrated its 125th anniversary and he led a dinner attended by all the top officials from around the world.

Hugely respected by Welsh players and clubs

He also travelled extensively with the Welsh team and was proud of his photographs with the likes of Ryan Giggs, the Charles brothers, and many more – and such was the esteem in which he was held could be gauged from the fact that when Chris Coleman came to talk at a function held by Haverfordwest County AFC the then-Welsh manager made a detour en route to call in on Des at his home in Orange Gardens, Pembroke.

It was also interesting when travelling to away matches with David Hughes and Haverfordwest County opposing managers, chairmen and committee men would often come over, specifically to ask how Des Shanklin was.

Proud to be Bluebirds’ president

Over the last almost 20 years Des has also been president of Haverfordwest County: a role he was very proud of and sat in the hospitality suite named in his honour.

Club chairman David Hughes told us,

“Des Shanklin was a wonderful ambassador for our club and the ‘Des Shanklin Suite’ will remain in his name as our tribute to a gentleman of sport who made everyone at the club, from the top player to the youngest supporter feel important.

“He was a lovely man and we shall miss him so much.”

On a personal note I was proud to call Des a friend and when my wife Marilyn and I visited him in hospital recently we shared a lovely walk down Memory Lane about football and our shared time in Pembroke which evoked a few chuckles.

We both have wonderful memories of Des Shanklin and our thoughts at this time goes to his wife Nicky and the family at the loss of such a lovely gentleman.