DEREK Nuttall, chairman at Northwich Victoria when the team played at Wembley for the first time, died last Wednesday at the age of 89.
He was an official at his favourite club for half a century, and had been playing a hands-on role in its day-to-day running in recent weeks.
“My dad spent a lifetime supporting and working for the Vics,” said Chris Nuttall, one of his two sons.
“He was continuing to work tirelessly in his last few days trying to secure their future, along with other dedicated fans.
“The best tribute to him would be the club’s survival, which he had fought for over many years.
“I hope the town of Northwich, and Vics fans everywhere, can show a level of support to keep them going.
“That could be as simple as going to a game and cheering them on when Saturday comes.”
Northwich host Newcastle in a league fixture at Wincham Park, home of their landlords Witton Albion, this weekend, kick off 3pm.
The club plans to mark the occasion by celebrating Nuttall’s contribution to their history.
He watched his first match, aged eight, at their former Drill Field home back in 1935.
Since then he has been board member, chairman, secretary and then president over a spell spanning five different decades.
“I think it’s easier to stick around when it’s for a team you love,” he told the Guardian during an interview in 2010 shortly after announcing his retirement from the role of secretary.
“Northwich is a great club with so much history; I’m just proud to have played at least a small part in that.”
He joined the board of directors at Vics in 1966.
During a seven-year stint as chairman, which started when he succeeded John Thornley, Vics twice played in an FA Trophy final at the national stadium.
They lost 2-1 against Telford in 1983, but brought back the silverware the following season after beating Bangor in a replay played at Stoke after the teams had tied 1-1 in London.
Nuttall described it as a moment he cherished most.
“I was fortunate to have known Derek and his wife Joan for more than 50 years and with my own wife, Wyn, spent many happy hours in their company on and off scores of football fields,” said Mike Talbot-Butler, a former Northwich Guardian sports editor.
“If ever there was a one-club-man it was he, and I dread to think what might have happened to the Vics in the time since he joined the board, until almost the present day, without his foresight, leadership and example.
“We veered off in different directions several seasons ago, with the advent of 1874 Northwich, because we felt the old club was being taken down the wrong path.
“Yet Derek remained loyal to the end and never wavered in his belief that to keep Northwich Victoria going was paramount.”
Before their matches kicked off at the weekend, supporters at both 1874 Northwich and Witton Albion held a minute’s silence.
The same happened at Lincoln, where Vics were the visitors.
“Football is so often partisan, and it’s easy to forget that everyone in non-league shares a common passion and bond,” said Witton chairman Mark Harris.
“Derek did so much for Northwich Victoria during his long association with them, and will be very much missed.
“He was a true club man who should never be forgotten.”
The club have announced their former chairman’s funeral will take place on Monday, from 12.45pm, at St Helen’s Parish Church on Church Road.
They have invited mourners to wear green and white, Vics’ traditional colours.
“I’d like to thank supporters, players and managers past and present – as well as the rest of the football world – for the outpouring of kind words and condolences on social media following my dad’s death,” added Chris Nuttall.
“It’s been a great comfort to us.”