Legendary Christchurch United captain Ken France passes away

Christchurch United Football Club is saddened by the passing of one its great legends, Ken France.

Ken was the first Christchurch United captain to lift the Chatham Cup and the National League trophy in the early 1970s, but sadly passed away this week at the age of 78.

Ken was an established player with Christchurch Technical in the late 1960s after moving out from England in the early 1960s, and was part of the original Christchurch United squad under coach Gwyn Evans in the inaugural National League in 1970.

He took over the captain’s armband from inaugural captain Phil Frost the following year and ended up playing 77 National League matches and 16 Chatham Cup matches for Christchurch United.

Former team-mate Ian Park recently described Ken as a “real leader of men”.

“He was the kind player who would run through a brick wall for the team and expect everyone to follow him,” said Park who took over the captain’s armband from Ken when he retired after winning the 1974 Chatham Cup final.

His team mates also remember him as a man with a great sense of humour setting the tone in the dressing room with a mixture of great banter and a professional attitude to his sport.

Ken was at the heart of the defence and lead Christchurch United to their first Chatham Cup win in 1972. Thousands of fans poured into Christchurch airport to see Ken carrying the trophy off the plane.

Ian Park said his team-mate as a classic centre-back. “He was there to defend and not to play pretty through balls. And boy, could he defend.”

In 1973 Ken took Christchurch United to their first National League title and signed off with a second Chatham Cup in 1974, as well as finishing runner-up in the National League that year.

The former Bolton Wanderers defender played six matches for New Zealand between 1967 and 1973, including five A-internationals, in the days when international matches were few and far between.

He is survived by his wife Marian, children Ian and Gail, and three grandchildren.