TRIBUTES have been paid to a stalwart of the Southend Manor Football Club, who passed away last month from a heart attack, aged 65.

John Welbourn was associated with the club for about 40 years, starting out as a player before moving into management and eventually a spell as director of the club, before leaving in 1995.

He helped the club progress from a junior side into the Essex Senior League and will long be remembered as one of Southend Manor’s most influential and revered members.

Stuart Leslie, 49, played with John as a youngster in the senior side and will always remember his contribution to Stuart’s own development.

He said: “He was a lovely bloke, but a very hard player to play against.

“He was a feisty character, but he looked after us youngsters when we moved into the senior side and off the pitch he was a lot quieter.

“For my 40th I organised a football match and he very kindly came to manage the Southend Manor side.”

John, who left Southend for Kent in 1995, ran the Fresh and Fruity greengrocers, in Woodgrange Drive, during his time in the town, before moving into construction and laying the first brick of the club’s clubhouse in Southchurch Park.

He led the club to a double in 1988, winning Division One of the Essex Senior League and the Essex Intermediate Cup. The final was played at Roots Hall.

Bob Westley, former chairman of the club, worked with John during the Nineties and followed him as chairman of the club, until he left his post in 2012.

Bob, 71, of Southbourne Grove, Westcliff, said any manager knew they were in trouble if they saw John walking round the pitch when their team was playing.

Bob added: “He was a good bloke and I wish I had known him through the glory days of the late Eighties.”

The funeral will be held at Southend Crematorium next Thursday, February 13, at 11.20am.

A wake will be held following the ceremony at the Rochford Hundred Golf Club.

No flowers have been requested, but donations to the Mesothelioma UK charity are welcomed.