Dave Knight

Dave Knight

1955 - 2019

The reason I knew Dave was that we watched Leyton Orient together. But that barely scratches the surface. With Dave you were never just a spectator. You were involved. Dave was involved in Leyton Orient, part of it. He tried to make it better, brought his values to it, saw it as a community thing.

I first got to know him when I was a teenager, through the Orientear, the fanzine he set up in 1986 and which is still going strong today. And for me it was an absolute eye-opener, something that made me think more deeply about the club and about football and ask questions: why shouldn't fans have more of a say in the game? Why shouldn't our voices be heard? Why should we tolerate racism – and he was particularly courageous about that in the early days.

In recent years, his involvement in the Leyton Orient Fans' Trust and the fight to save the club from ruin three seasons ago was hugely valuable. He brought all his campaigning experience and wisdom to bear on that, leading marches and speaking passionately at meetings, and I'm just glad he got to see the club saved, turned around and promoted back to the Football League as champions this year.

But Dave saw football as a social thing, and he cultivated a wonderful social scene around the magazine, which still thrives today. The number of people I know, the number of friends I've made, directly or indirectly, through Dave probably runs into three figures.

And watching Orient with Dave was such fun. An away trip with him wouldn't just be a trip to the football. You'd get a musical mystery tour if you were in his car as he whirled us through his hugely varied, and mostly excellent, music taste; an away trip with him would be a mystery tour in other ways too – his wayward sense of direction was legendary, and you'd never be wholly sure whether you were going the right way round the M25 or on the right side of the Pennines. You'd get a good few drinks, a possible meet - or in our younger days, a football match with - opposing fans.

Even if we'd been thrashed, were cold and tired and a long way from home, the sense of enjoyment was always there. One of my fondest memories of Dave was back in the 90s, during one of our trips to Glasgow, when we had to stop the minibus and pull over to the side of the road because everyone was laughing so much. I can't even remember what the gag was, but Dave's infectious laughter was at the centre of it. And that's the thing. Though he was serious about the things that matter, he didn't take himself too seriously, wasn't pompous or egotistical.

Though football is primarily the reason I knew him, he threw himself into all his interests so they overlapped. I went on demos with Dave, went to gigs and clubs with him, ran a marathon with him. And he brought all of himself to each of his interests; the passion for social justice that he brought to his trade union campaigning was applied to how he watched Orient,. In turn, his campaigning tenacity was reflected in the stamina and dedication he showed as a serial marathon runner.

I'm not embarrassed to say he was a bit of a role model. A compassionate friend in bad times, a solid one in times of struggle (politically and in our trivial obsession at Brisbane Road), and great convivial company at times of celebration. He must have come to more of mine and my family's birthday dos than practically anyone else. He was also one of the first friends to pop round when our kids were born.

It's already been hard wandering into the supporters' club after a game or a pub near an away ground and Dave not being there, but his spirit lives on, not least in the kind of friendly club that Leyton Orient is. It's not exaggerating to say he's partly responsible for that. His legacy is all around us, in the many stories we'll continue to tell about him, and in his strong sense of principle and his unfailing good humour. Thanks for everything, mate.