From the battlefield to Pride Park: High Peak war veteran’s love affair with Derby County

Avid Rams fan Derek Eley, pictured celebrating his 100th birthday. He will soon turn 102.
Avid Rams fan Derek Eley, pictured celebrating his 100th birthday. He will soon turn 102.

While serving his country in France, Derek Eley wrote to the chairman of the Football Association asking for tickets to see his beloved Rams play in the 1946 FA Cup final.

He was that much of a fan.

The FA gave him a ticket at Wembley and seeing the Rams win the famous trophy remains Derek’s favourite Derby County memory.

That’s saying something, as the now 101-year-old, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, has been to almost every home match since the end of the Second World War.

Derek turns 102 on November 18 and his closest friends say they can’t believe how energetic he is to this day while watching and talking about the Rams.

He’s also known for selling poppies every year at his local Morrisons store ahead of Remembrance Day.

Close friend Edmund Bradbury said: “Derek is a character, there’s no doubt about that and is one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet.

“He loves Derby County with a passion and has only missed homes games when he has been ill but the energy he has supporting them is incredible.

“Believe it or not he still lives on his own but has a carer come in to look after him every day.

“He is the chairman of the local Royal British Legion and still to this day sells poppies at the Morrisons supermarket. Everyone comes over to him wishing him well.”

Derek was called up to fight during the Second World War in 1939, leaving his job and becoming a colour sergeant. He was also honoured with a British Empire Medal for his level of service.

The former colour sergeant is so popular that he even has a street named after him - Eley Way - in his home town.

Edmund said he had known Derek for decades and would often talk to him in the pub about all things in life - but mainly Derby County.

“We can talk for ages about all things Derby County,” he said. “He has so many memories of going to the Baseball Ground and Pride Park Stadium.

“He was upset when Frank Lampard left because he had done so well to get Derby to the play-off final.”

Centenarians often put their longevity down to a particular factor or factors - but not Derek.

Speaking when celebrating his 100th birthday in 2017, he said: “There is no secret to old age, just luck and kindness. If you are kind and nice to people, most people will be nice back to you and that’s how I live my life.”

Derek played a leading role when Chapel-en-le-Frith held its Remembrance Day commemorations on Sunday.