Mark Godfrey

18 for 18, part 18: Obituaries

Mark Godfrey
18 for 18, part 18: Obituaries

In the final part of our look back at football in 2018, GERRY JOHNSTON remembers 10 of the game’s most well known names who we sadly lost this year.

CYRILLE REGIS

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Former England international Cyrille Regis passed away on January 14th. He is understood to have suffered a heart attack at just 59 years old.

He was born in French Guiana in 1958 but moved to England with his family in the early 1960s. His career began in non-league football with Molesley and Hayes whilst working as an electrician before being snapped up by West Bromwich Albion in 1977. Regis netted 81 league goals for the Baggies before moving to Coventry City in 1984.

Whilst at Coventry he helped the Sky Blues win the FA Cup in 1987 and almost moved to Ajax as Marco van Basten's replacement but Coventry played hardball and the move never materialised.

Regis left Coventry in 1991 for another Midlands club, Aston Villa. He had a decent first season at Villa Park with 11 goals but could only manage one in 1992/93 and spent the remainder of his career moving down the divisions with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wycombe Wanderers and Chester City before retiring in 1996.

Regis was eligible to play for both France and England but ended up playing for the Three Lions at under-21, B and senior level. He was the third black player to play for England and went on to win five caps between 1982 and 1987.

He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2008 Birthday Honours list and also has a place in Coventry City's Hall of Fame. After his death, he received a Merit Award from the PFA who regarded him as a pioneer for black footballers in a time when the English game was plagued by racism both on and off the pitch.


JIMMY ARMFIELD

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The Blackpool legend and football pundit passed away on January 22nd at the age of 82. Armfield had survived cancer over a decade ago but it returned and he was unable to beat the illness for a second time.

Armfield was one of a decreasing breed of players who spent their entire playing career with one club. He made his Blackpool debut in 1954 and remained with the club until he retired in 1971. In total, he made 627 appearances for the Tangerines but never won a trophy although he was in the team that finished runners-up in the First Division in 1955/56.

Armfield was regarded as one of the best right backs of his time and won 43 caps for England. He was in the 1966 World Cup winning squad but served as back up to George Cohen who had earned the starting spot when Armfield had been out injured.

Shortly after retirement, he took over as Bolton Wanderers manager. He led them to the Third Division title and promotion to the Second Division. He then took over at Leeds United after Brian Clough's short-lived spell and led the Yorkshire side all the way to the European Cup final against Bayern Munich. The German club won 2-0 on the night but the referee came under fire as he wrongly disallowed a Leeds goal and also waved away two convincing penalty appeals from Leeds.

In 1978, Armfield left Leeds and went into the media. He worked for the Daily Express for 12 years and also as a match summariser for BBC Radio where he spent over 30 years. As well as the media work he also had a role at the Football Association which meant playing a role in the appointments of both Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle as England managers.

Armfield received a number of honours across his career with a place in the Blackpool Hall of Fame and the National Football Hall of Fame. He was awarded a CBE in 2010 and was also awarded the Outstanding Contribution at the Football League Awards in 2008 and a PFA Merit Award in the same year.


LIAM MILLER

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The football world was left stunned when former Ireland international Liam Miller passed away from pancreatic cancer four days shy of his 37th birthday.

The Cork native moved to Celtic as a teenager but struggled to break into the first team due to a number of injuries. He had a year on loan in Denmark with AGF but it took until 2003/04 for Miller to really make an impression in Glasgow.

When Miller broke into the team, he did so in style. He was superb in midfield under Martin O'Neill who had plans to build the team around him, but his form caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson who snapped him up on a pre-contract agreement for Manchester United.

Miller moved to Old Trafford in the summer of 2004 but it didn't really work out for him and he ended up on loan at Leeds United before signing for Sunderland in 2006. Miller helped Sunderland win the Championship in 2006/07.

After a few seasons with the Black Cats, Miller lost his place and went on loan to QPR in 2009. He moved back to Scotland with Hibernian for a time before spells in Australia with Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City. Miller moved home to Cork City in 2015 before finishing his playing career in the USA with the Wilmington Hammerheads.

He took up a coaching job with MLS side Real Salt Lake's reserve team, the Real Monarchs. His time there was cut short though when he was diagnosed with cancer in November 2017. Miller moved back to Cork after his diagnosis but sadly passed away on February 9th.

Miller represented Ireland at various levels before winning 21 senior caps. Some of his former Celtic, Manchester United and Ireland teammates joined forces in September to play a charity match. The game was played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, a GAA stadium in Cork. Over 1.5million euros was raised for his family.


DAVIDE ASTORI

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A huge darkness loomed over Italian football on the morning of March 4th when news broke that Fiorentina captain Davide Astori had passed away. The Viola had been staying in a hotel in Udine, ahead of a meeting with Udinese, but on the morning of the game Astori failed to arrive at breakfast and was soon found in his room having died after a cardiac arrest.

Astori's career began with AC Milan but he never made a senior appearance for the club. He was twice loaned out - to Pizzighetone and Cremonese - before leaving in 2008 when Cagliari signed him. The deal was co-ownership at first but in 2011 Cagliari signed the player outright.

He took a little time to settle in Sardinia but when he did, he soon emerged as one of the league’s most respected defenders. He made his Italy debut in 2011 and would go on to make 14 appearances for the Azzurri, scoring one goal. He was a member of the squad that finished third in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Astori was often linked with a move away from Cagliari but he showed a great deal of loyalty by remaining at the club until 2014 when he agreed a loan move to Roma. That lasted one season before he moved on loan to Fiorentina for a season before signing permanently in 2016.

Astori would remain with the Viola until he died, aged 31 years old. The club and many of his former teammates were left stunned at the passing of their popular captain. Both Cagliari and Fiorentina retired his number 13 shirt and Fiorentina now use a special captain’s armband as a tribute to the memory of their former player.


RAY WILKINS

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English football lost one of its greats on April 4th when Ray Wilkins passed away. Wilkins had suffered a cardiac arrest a week earlier and had been placed in an induced coma but sadly he never came back around.

Wilkins had a storied career which saw him play in four different countries for some of the game’s biggest clubs. He began at Chelsea and it didn't take him long to make an impact which led to him becoming captain at just 18 years old in 1975.

Chelsea weren't quite as good back then and Wilkins failed to lift any silverware before leaving for Manchester United in 1979 when the Blues were relegated. He managed to win an FA Cup and a Charity Shield with United before leaving England for AC Milan in 1984.

Three years in Italy was followed by a short stop in Paris with PSG before he landed in Glasgow with Rangers in 1987. Wilkins helped the Gers to two league titles and a League Cup before moving back to England to begin his love affair with Queens Park Rangers in 1989.

Wilkins remained with QPR until 1994 when he had a short spell with Crystal Palace before returning to Loftus Road as player-manager. When he left in 1996 he continued his playing career for a season that saw him play for Wycombe Wanderers, Hibernian, Millwall and Leyton Orient before retiring in 1997.

Wilkins was a regular in the England team between 1976 and 1986 and ended up playing 84 times for his country. In 10 of those international appearances, he led the Three Lions out as captain.

After his playing career ended he became a coach and also worked in the media as a television pundit. He had spells as manager of Fulham and the Jordan national team but he spent more time as an assistant manager. He coached at Watford, Fulham, Aston Villa, Millwall and England under-21's but he was best known for his time with Chelsea where he was on the coaching staff for one Premier League win, three FA Cups and one Community Shield.


RAY WILSON

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Legends don't get much bigger in English football than World Cup winners and on May 15th, Ray Wilson, the left back in 1966, passed away after a battle with Alzheimer's.

Wilson had made his debut in 1952 for Huddersfield Town and he would make over 260 league appearances for the club. It was with the Terriers that he would receive his first England cap in 1960. He would go on to play for England 63 times which included two World Cups - 1962 and 1966.

In 1964, Wilson left Huddersfield and signed for Everton. Injury ruled him out of most of his first season but he went to the 1966 World Cup on the back of helping his team win the FA Cup. Winning an FA Cup is a superb achievement but it was easily eclipsed a few months later when he became a world champion.

He kept his place in the England team until 1968 and a year later he left Everton after over 100 league matches. He had a season at Oldham Athletic before a short stint with Bradford City that included 10 games as a manager before finishing with football completely in 1971.

After retirement, he followed an unusual path by becoming an undertaker in Huddersfield. Wilson received an MBE in 2000 and in 2008 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2004, believed to be as a result of the heavy footballs from his playing days, and eventually passed from the disease this year.


NEALE COOPER

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Scottish football has been dominated by Celtic in recent times. Back in the 1990s, it was Rangers who were top dogs, but it wasn’t always like that. In the 1980s Aberdeen was one of Scotland’s big hitters and under Alex Ferguson, they had a great run of success.

One of the players from that team was Neale Cooper. Tattie’, as he became known, was a midfielder and during his time with the Dons won two league titles, four Scottish Cups, a League Cup and most famously the European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup.

It’s crazy to think now that Aberdeen could beat Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on their way to a European trophy but they made it happen in 1983 and Cooper was a key part of it. He made over 200 league appearances for the Dons before moving south to Aston Villa in 1986.

The next five years of his career saw him struggle with injury as he failed to make much impact during spells with Villa, Rangers, Reading and Aberdeen again. In 1991 he signed for Dunfermline and finally settled, playing over 100 games for the Pars.

In 1996 he moved to Ross County as player-manager. He played his last game in 1998 but remained as manager until 2002. In that time he took the club up twice before a poor run saw him leave in 2002. He later managed at Hartlepool United, Gillingham and Peterhead before returning for a second spell at Hartlepool which was his last job in football.

On 28th May, Cooper was found collapsed in the stairwell of a block of flats in Aberdeen and died later that day. A celebration of his life took place at Pittodrie and a stand was also named after him at Hartlepool’s Victoria Park.


ALAN GILZEAN

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Dundee, Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland were sent into mourning on July 8th when their former player Alan Gilzean passed away at 79 years old. 

Gilzean began his career with Dundee in 1957 and averaged just under a goal a game during the seven years he was at the club. He was a key player for the team that became champions of Scotland in 1961/62 and reached the last four of the European Cup a year later where they were defeated by eventual winners, AC Milan. 

In 1964, Gilzean made the move to north London with Spurs and he would remain there for a decade. During his time with the club, he won an FA Cup, two League Cups and the 1972 UEFA Cup. 

After over 340 league matches and 90 goals for Spurs, he made a brief move to South Africa but it only lasted three months and he retired from playing soon after. He had a stint as manager of Stevenage in the mid-70s but walked away from football after a year. 

Gilzean won 22 caps and scored 12 goals along the way for Scotland which helped him earn a place in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. He is also in Dundee’s and Spurs' Hall of Fames. 


PAUL MADELEY

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Leeds United lost one of their all-time greats when Paul Madeley passed away on July 23rd. Madeley was unique in that he didn't really have a set position but could play pretty much anywhere, and in his time at Leeds, he did. 

He is famous for having played in every outfield position for Leeds and in the days before squad numbers he wore every number from 2-12 during a 17-year career that saw him remain with his hometown club throughout. 

Madeley made over 700 appearances in all competitions and was absolutely vital to Don Revie's great Leeds team of the 1960s and 70s. He won a Second Division title, two First Division titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, a Charity Shield and two Fairs Cups during his time at Elland Road.

Not only was Madeley important to Leeds but he also had a solid international career. Once again he was employed in a number of different positions in his 24 games for England although he mostly played in defence. His last England appearance came in 1977, three years before his Leeds finale in 1980. 

After his playing career came to an end he never went into coaching and instead opened a sports shop in Leeds along with working for his family’s DIY business. He wasn't in the best of health in his later years and suffered from a benign brain tumour, a heart attack and Parkinson’s Disease. 


VICHAI SRIVADDHANAPRABHA

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Football suffered one of it's worst days on October 27th when after a live match at Leicester City's King Power Stadium, the club’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was involved in a helicopter crash. 

The BT Sport pundits were still on air and had watched the helicopter prepare for take off before going for an advertisement break, during which they witnessed the tragedy unfold. Vichai died as a result of the crash alongside the pilot and three other passengers. 

Sometimes when a tragedy occurs, people queue up to pay respects, even though they didn't particularly like or respect the person. This occasion felt very different and the love between Vichai and the people of Leicester was obviously extremely genuine. 

Vichai made his fortune, believed to be in the billions, through his company King Power which operated duty-free shops. In 2010, he purchased Leicester City which set off a chain of events that seem more unrealistic than the daftest of Hollywood stories. 

Leicester was a Championship club at the time of the takeover, but under Vichai's ownership, they managed to get promoted to the top flight. In 2015, they looked to be on their way back down but produced one of the great survival stories to comfortably avoid relegation. 

That summer, Claudio Ranieri was appointed as manager, a move that was generally viewed as bizarre and certainly not the masterstroke it turned out to be. Under Ranieri's stewardship, Leicester somehow managed to get up a head of steam and win the Premier League. It's still difficult to believe it happened; but it did and it was Vichai that made it happen. 

As well as bringing success to the local football club, Vichai made a big impact in the community and is believed to have made numerous charitable donations to local hospitals. Vichai is the man that made a city dream and for as long as Leicester exists, his memory will always be honoured. 


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