Nelson Suburbs have honoured long-time administrator, coach and former player Ian Coles for his contribution to the club for almost half a century.
Though the club is only 61 years old, Coles has been at the centre of the club’s growth and he’s been granted Life Membership in recognition of his service.
In its tribute to Coles, the club said:
“Ian grew up in Golden Bay before attending Nelson College and finding his way to Nelson Suburbs.
“A Nelson representative from as young as 15 years old. Steve Bignall recalls him as a very young goalkeeper in the Nelson Suburbs team in Central League 2 in the very early 80s who went on to play for Nelson United in the National League and in many other prominent sides in his career, even deciding he was a striker for a time.
“Ian played matches for Suburbs across at least five decades, meaning he is one of the longest-serving players, even if this did involve numerous ‘retirements’ in more recent years, always coming back to help whoever needed a Voltaren-fueled keeper.
“Ian became club president in the late 1990s, at a time when the club was in a dire financial situation.
“Ian’s late mother, Betty, came in as treasurer, and together they rescued the club. These were difficult times and Ian put his hand into his own pocket on more than one occasion to ensure that the club survived.
“An active committee member for many years, including a massive help to Gary Hinks with the MPL team — especially as part of the net boys who drank coffee and gossiped on the mornings of home matches for over a decade.
“Ian coached the infamous Suburbs Wildcats which included his two sons Alex and Nathan, from 10th grade (1998) to Youth Football (2006) and then carried on with some of the players into Div 2 team, which ended up being the starting point of the Seals.
“A founding Seal himself, he continued to make numerous appearances from 2005 until around 2018, including a Div 1 game or two well into his 50s.
“He has told most people but he also saved three penalties in a 2009 shootout to win the Glen Stephens Trophy for the 2 Div Team, which was joint Div 1 and Div 2 Cup at that time and a massive win for club.
“Ian stepped up and coached the Div 1 team in 2016 when a mass exodus of players that didn’t make the MPL squad meant there was no feeder team, something that meant his own playing aspirations went on hold, but like always the club came first and he navigated another difficult time here as a MPL side without a feeder was a very bad situation.
“He has done whatever job has needed to be done around the club over almost 50 years, and is one of the most well-respected football people around the district (despite several professional fouls in his playing days).
“Ian has always been a Suburbs man, and has been a real figurehead of our club and has also been a vital link between the club in its current form and many of the great players from bygone eras.
“But overall, he is just a champion bloke, someone that a lot of people want to share a beer with, and is part of four generations of the Coles family that have been involved in a club which is just 61 years old, and that is pretty special.
“Of course, on behalf of everyone from Nelson Suburbs we thank his family, including wife Sandra and sons Alex and Nathan, for sharing this special man with us.”