RIP Eugene - the character who crossed football's divides

Last updated : 18 September 2009 By Chris Parry

eugene-pic-1But it's all down to banter and when there's bad news true supporters always unite. Unfortunately, this is one of those days when differences are put aside and fans from a number of clubs are getting together to celebrate the life of Arsenal supporter Eugene Conway, who recently lost his battle against cancer.

Having followed both Arsenal and England around the world for almost four decades, Eugene (pictured above in the red shirt) moved to the States earlier in the year, where he was married.

During the Summer, Eugene was diagnosed with terminal cancer and his wife, Cheryl, gave up work to care for him. A charity in the US helped fund a course of treatments, which it was hoped would prolong his life. Unfortunately, the treatment did not work and Eugene passed away peacefully on Monday.

Before his death, news of Eugene's condition had spread among fans across the country, and a benefit night had been organised by friends, with help from Arsenal fans' group 'RedAction' and with the support of many pubs in the local vicinity of Arsenal, who offered to advertise the event. John Williamson, a close friend of Eugene's, said:

"When Cheryl told us the sad news, she wanted everyone to know how grateful she and Eugene were for their prayers and thoughts, and added that Eugene would want everyone to have a drink and remember him in his happy days. The idea to hold a benefit night was to raise money to provide support to both Eugene and Cheryl and the charity. The event will be held as planned but with a particular emphasis on celebrating Eugene's life. It will be an opportunity for everyone who knew Eugene to show and share their appreciation of him. It would be good if we could raise some money at the same time to help pay for the funeral costs and to give something back to the Charity."

Williamson explained: "Eugene was probably one of the most well known fans at Arsenal. He started going in the 60s, and until a few years ago had travelled home and away with Arsenal since the early 70s, not missing a European away match since 1972 (this was a personal joke of Eugene's, as his first European away game was actually in 1978 but as Arsenal hadn't played in Europe since 1972, he would use that as the marker!). However, it's not just because Eugene attended so many games that made him recognisable, it's because of the way he always had time for other people, whoever they were, and he would always go out of his way to try and help in any way he could."

Another of Eugene's friends, Tony Jenks, said, "I couldn't agree more, I met Eugene at the Champions League away game in Donetsk and by the following summer he was booking me up on pre-season trips! The fact that a number of fans from other clubs, including Chelsea, Crewe, Derby, Leeds and Sunderland, have pledged their support for the event speaks volumes about the regard in which Eugene is held by those he met throughout the years."

The event to celebrate Eugene's life will take place at The Rocket, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB on 17 October 2009. There will be a '70s/'80s disco (Eugene's favourite music), an auction and a raffle. Prizes donated so far include signed Arsenal shirts; five frames of snooker with Jimmy White; a signed Ronnie Wood Guitar; a signed Sterling Moss helmet; and a signed Alex Higgins snooker cue. A number of ex-Arsenal players have been invited to attend, along with a number of celebrity fans.

Tickets for the event are unfortunately restricted to 350 so if you would like to attend you are advised to purchase your tickets as soon as possible. For further information, including ticket purchases, offers of support for the event or for details of how to make a donation to the 'Eugene Conway Benefit Fund' please contact either John Williamson on 07904-966413 or Tony Jenks on 07939-038452.

Good luck with the fund-raiser, and RIP Eugene.