by Alex Vella
Going through manual work and at the same time being engaged in serious conversation like giving an interview is not so common. Concentration on one might well be missing on the other. This is not the case with a very familiar person at the club, Ray Spiteri.
When I met him recently ‘Budgy’, as he is perhaps exclusively known by our members, was his typical self, never for a moment stopping from his work at the club while at the same time speaking to me about his long-standing ties with Neptunes as someone who does all the odd jobs one can imagine.
You name it and he does it. Such is his versatility that his work ranges from all types of maintenance duties to seeing to the players’ apparel and the coaches’ equipment while also doing pitch-related work and that on the clubhouse.
The man is truly the heart and soul of the club. A connection of half a century with Neptunes, something which is still ongoing, cannot but reflect his true affection and dedication to the club.
He started these ties in 1963 when he was nine years old. At the time his father, Toni, took over duties as bartender helped by his wife Evelyn and father-in-law Pawlu as well as other members of his extended family. Ray always lurked around.
‘My first inclination to do manual work was when the late Jimmy Platts and ‘Totty’ Degiorgio asked me to help out with pitch equipment and related duties. That was the spark I needed,’ Ray said while still going through his usual round of evening routine duties at the club.
‘Such work developed on dedicated lines, the result of one having one’s duties at heart. This is now part of my life, as much as my wife Maryanne and daughter Enica are.
‘I got so much used to giving service to Neptunes that I can’t think of doing anything else after my normal working hours. I am at the club everyday all the year round. Sometimes I even forgo my family’s social obligations to ensure that club duties are done properly,’ he said, probably to his wife’s chagrin!
‘My wide-ranging manual work when I am at my full-time workplace has helped me do all maintenance chores at the club. It is part and parcel of what I do here, but always in a relaxed frame of mind.’
When asked what he liked doing best for Neptunes he immediately retorted, ‘Looking after the players’ needs during training and matches is what I relish most. I am always at their side during all junior and senior matches. I have come to know all players in the last half a century and also befriended their parents,’ he said with a sense of satisfaction.
Referring to routine duties at the club, Budgy said that these are spread over a never-ending yearly cycle.
‘January and February are reserved mostly for maintenance work followed by looking after the players’ needs in their preparation for the winter league. Summer days are very hectic since all the teams are playing and I also have to be present for all matches played at the club and elsewhere,’ he said.
As for unusual duties he said that he would always be readily available. ‘Preparing for special functions related to the club’s activities is also within my range of work. I do that most willingly.’
‘The club membership has grown over the past few decades but I find co-operation from almost everyone. I admit that some untoward behaviour by the youngsters is not uncommon. I can take it in my stride, though,’ he replied when asked if there’s anything that bothers him.
The man’s connections with the players are very close. ‘I am as excited as they are before an important match. For me being with the players on the pool deck is a pleasant experience.’
When asked about his future at the club, he immediately replied, ‘After 50 years it is natural that my future lies with Neptunes. I grew up here and this is the place where I will close the chapter,’ he said.
‘I have had endearing experiences with all presidents starting from Angelo Debono and extending to the current top official, Matthew Bonello. I also include the committee members during all these years since 1963 which rewarded us with 15 league and 18 cup honours that comprise seven doubles.
‘I am indebted to all these people for the experiences I’ve had at the club and thank them for their co-operation,’ Budgy concluded.